BACKGROUND: Cellectis is a genome editing firm specializing in immuno-oncology therapies, a type of cancer treatment that uses the human body's own cells to combat the disease. The company's UCART19 is a so-called antigen receptor which binds to white blood cells to help generate an immune response against leukemia and lymphoma. Cellectis aims to position its "universal" CART product line as an off-the-shelf treatment capable of meeting the demands of large patient populations, and on October 28, the company announced that trial production runs of UCART19 were successfully performed under FDA manufacturing standards.
AHEAD OF EXPECTATIONS: Oppenheimer analyst Christopher Marai said Monday he expects "landmark" first-in-human data on UCART19 at this year's annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, where Cellectis has scheduled multiple presentations from December 6 to 8. The abstracts for the ASH meeting will be released at 9 am ET on November 5, and Marai's checks suggest the abstracts will include data showing positive treatment effects of UCART19 in pediatric leukemia patients. If in-human results are indeed presented, the analyst views the event as a "substantial" catalyst for Cellectis, demonstrating proof-of-concept of its disruptive treatment while also derisking much of the company's portfolio. The data could also be relevant to Kite Pharma (KITE) , Juno (JUNO) , and Novartis (NVS - Get Report) , according to Marai, who explained that 90% of the 3,000-4,000 pediatric acute lymphoid leukemia patients diagnosed yearly lack the immune system strength to support certain treatments from those firms. The analyst reiterated an Outperform rating and $65 price target on Cellectis ahead of November's abstract.
WHAT'S NOTABLE: Small immuno-oncology players have sparked interest from major biopharmaceutical firms, with Juno surging as much as 39% on June 29 when it announced a ten-year collaboration with Celgen CELG. Piper Jaffray commented that the news should help lift investor confidence on CAR-T firms, saying Cellectis is among those best positioned in the rapidly advancing field. Notably, the Juno-Celgene collaboration followed a Bloomberg report opining that Pfizer (PFE - Get Report) , Merck (MRK - Get Report) , Roche (RHHBY) , and AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report) are circling the space as they look for standout signs of effective and novel treatments.
PRICE ACTION: Shares of Cellectis have spiked nearly 18% to $31.14 intraday after trading somewhat flat over the past 30 days.
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Reporting by John Graff.