What happened

Shares of Cara Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CARA), a clinical-stage biotech developing novel pain-management drugs, soared 56.5% during the first half of 2018, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Two big announcements drove the stock higher: an important new partnership with a leading dialysis service provider and a positive pivotal trial result for the company's lead candidate.

So what 

Cara's value is almost entirely tied to the future of its only clinical-stage drug candidate, Korsuva, which is an opioid that stops pain and itch signals from reaching the brain but isn't active in the brain itself. In May, the company entered a partnership with one of America's largest providers of dialysis services. This could be a huge deal, because Korsuva could become the first drug specifically approved to reduce the ceaseless itching that makes life miserable for a large portion of patients with chronic kidney disease who visit dialysis centers regularly.

Person drawing an upward sloping arrow with their finger.

Image source: Getty Images.

Toward the end of the first half, Cara Therapeutics pleased investors again with positive results from a post-operative pain study with an intravenous version of the company's lead candidate. Intravenous CR845 hit its primary pain intensity goal, plus it led to a surprising reduction in post-operative nausea and vomiting.

Now what

Cara recently started dosing kidney disease patients with an oral version of Korsuva, and investors will want to look for interim results that will be released once the first 240 patients complete 12 weeks of treatment and observation. 

This January, Cara began a pivotal study with injectable Korsuva, which will also follow hundreds of patients for a period of 12 weeks. In a mid-stage trial, the candidate helped more than twice as many patients improve their worst itch scores. If it puts on a repeat performance this stock could climb even further.