Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Atara Biotherapeutics Stock Is Bolting Higher Today

By George Budwell - Dec 29, 2017 at 3:28PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Atara took a major step forward today in its bid to be the first to market with an off-the-shelf T-cell therapy.

What happened

Shares of the clinical-stage cancer immunotherapy company Atara Biotherapeutics (ATRA -8.56%) are up by more than 25% today on sky-high volume in response to the Food and Drug Administration green-lighting two late-stage trials for its off-the-shelf T-cell therapy candidate, tabelecleucel. The two studies will broadly assess tabelecleucel as a potential treatment for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders in patients who fail to respond to Roche's rituximab.  

Human cancer cell

Image Source: Getty Images.

So what

Off-the-shelf T-cell therapies are the next logical step in the evolution of these game-changing cancer treatments. At present, patients have to visit specialized clinics equipped to first harvest, and subsequently modify, their own T cells prior to treatment. That presents a number of logistical problems for patients and clinicians alike, especially for patients who are extremely sick. Atara's product candidate, tabelecleucel, by contrast, is designed to be shipped to a doctor's office and used in an outpatient manner, making it far more convenient for patients. 

Now what

While the first to market with such a therapy would undoubtedly hold a key advantage, investors should probably temper their expectations -- at least in the near term. Atara, after all, is only now starting to enroll patients in these trials, and the first trial isn't scheduled to produce a top-line data readout until mid-2019.

In other words, Atara will likely need to tap the public markets one or more times in the next year to both fund these trials and prepare for a regulatory filing. That doesn't mean Atara's shares aren't an attractive buy in the wake of this positive news, but there's also no pressing reason to buy this risky biotech stock just yet. Given the hefty dose of risk involved here, Atara is arguably best-suited as a top watch-list candidate at this stage of its life cycle.  

George Budwell has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc. Stock Quote
Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc.
$5.34 (-8.56%) $0.50
Roche Holding AG Stock Quote
Roche Holding AG
$42.28 (0.67%) $0.28

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/15/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.