What happened

Shares of Rigel Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:RIGL) closed up 17% on Thursday as investors further digested the company's update on Wednesday.

So what

The business update, as the company called it, had a bit of everything.

Rigel disclosed preliminary third-quarter sales of $11.7 million for Tavalisse, its treatment for a blood disorder called chronic immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). That sales number represented a 15% increase over the second quarter. Rigel estimates that the U.S. ITP market is about $1 billion, so it has plenty of potential for further growth.

Doctor talking to a patient in an exam room

Image source: Getty Images.

On the pipeline front, Rigel noted that it completed a phase 1 study for R835, which inhibits a protein involved in the inflammatory response. The study was in healthy subjects but included a lipopolysaccharide challenge that induced an immune response -- measured with biomarkers -- in subjects given placebo, which was dampened in subjects given R835. Rigel is still contemplating which disease to test R835 in first.

Rigel also disclosed a new pipeline drug candidate, R552, which targets a protein involved in neurodegenerative and immune-mediated diseases. The company is testing R552 in a phase 1 study and is working on a follow-on candidate that will work in the central nervous system for neurodegenerative diseases.

Now what

The pipeline updates are nice, but the near-term value for Rigel is clearly tied to Tavalisse. A 15% quarter-over-quarter increase is substantial, but it's working off a low base. Rigel is pretty cheap for a biotech. With a market cap under $350 million, there isn't too much growth priced in.

In addition to growing sales in the U.S., Tavalisse is likely to gain approval in Europe after a positive preliminary vote by EU regulators. A final vote is expected next month, which could set up a rollout in Europe through its partner Grifols starting in 2020.