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Here's What Might Be Pushing Up Shares of Athersys, Inc. Today

By Cory Renauer - Updated Mar 31, 2017 at 11:22AM

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An investment bank analyst predicts off-the-hook gains from Athersys' "off-the-shelf" stem cell treatments.

What happened

Shares of Athersys, Inc. (ATHX -5.54%), a clinical-stage biotech developing "off-the-shelf" stem cell products, jumped Monday morning. Despite a lack of significant news, the small-cap stock was up 12.1% as of 10:48 a.m. EDT following a positive note from a William Blair analyst.

So what 

Katherine Xu from the Chicago investment bank began covering Athersys yesterday, suggesting the company is worth $11 per share. That's a whopping 485% higher than the stock's closing price yesterday.

Stock chart sloping higher.

Image source: Getty images.

The analyst has some high hopes for the company's MultiStem cell therapy and its potential as an "off-the-shelf" tissue repair solution for patients that recently suffered a stroke. In a mid-stage study, a significantly higher percentage of stroke patients treated with MultiStem experienced "excellent outcomes" versus the placebo control group.

Now what

Following today's spike, Athersys' market cap of about $182 million has nearly recovered from recent losses and is just a bit lower than its value this time last year. The stock price, on the other hand, is still about 25.6% lower than it was at the end of last March. The company beefed up its cash reserves with a dilutive share offering that netted the company $20.9 million, which it added to $14.8 million in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet at the end of December.

Although Athersys received a $15 million license fee for MultiStem from its Japanese partner, Healios, the company will probably need more cash than usual going forward. It burned through $15.3 million last year and is currently preparing for a larger registrational trial that could support marketing applications for MultiStem as a post-stroke treatment.

Although success for MultiStem as a post-stroke therapy would certainly send the stock soaring, a lot can happen between here and the finish line. The company's unique approach means it will be traveling through uncharted terrain, which usually results in regulatory speed bumps. Investors should therefore remain braced for a bumpy ride.

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