Shares of the clinical-stage biotech bluebird bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) rose by as much as 23.9% in pre-market trading today. The catalyst? The company reported that its CAR-T candidate, bb2121, produced "unprecedented responses" in patients with advanced forms of the deadly blood cancer known as multiple myeloma in a small, early-stage dose-escalation study.
Bluebird is co-developing bb2121 with Celgene Corp. (NASDAQ: CELG) as part of their broader gene therapy in oncology partnership. As a result, Celgene's shares are also up by 3.7% in pre-market in response to the duo's presentation at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting over the weekend, where these data were originally unveiled.
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The jaw-dropping part of the presentation that's driving bluebird and Celgene's shares higher this morning is that a surreal 94% (17/18) of patients in the study exhibited objective responses to the experimental cell-based therapy. Moreover, the two companies reported that at least seven patients were complete responders at the last cut-off date.
In addition to bb2121's promising efficacy profile, the therapy's safety data were among the cleanest ever reported for a CAR-T therapy thus far. So while this study was indeed small, bluebird and Celgene may have a game changer on their hands for advanced multiple myeloma.
Not surprisingly, bluebird and Celgene plan on rapidly advancing bb2121 into a larger, pivotal-stage trial as soon as possible. These results, after all, are essentially a first for a multiple myeloma treatment of any kind. These two companies could therefore become the third group to bring a CAR-T therapy to market all within a few months' time. And if this line holds, bluebird is probably going to be a highly sought after buyout candidate in 2018, based on the immense demand for these novel cell therapies right now.
George Budwell has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bluebird Bio and Celgene. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.