Shares of Athersys (ATHX -1.80%) were jumping 11.2% as of 3:30 p.m. EST on Monday. The solid gain came after the company and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston announced the enrollment of the first patient in a phase 2 clinical study evaluating the company's MultiStem cell therapy as a potential early treatment for traumatic injuries.
The enrollment of one patient in a phase 2 study doesn't always cause a biotech stock to jump. But there are some reasons that investors were especially excited about Athersys' announcement.
The company doesn't have any approved products on the market yet, so the enrollment of the first patient in the phase 2 study for MultiStem represents a major milestone toward changing that status.
The potential market for MultiStem is tremendous if the experimental cell therapy is successful. Trauma is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people under age 45, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the No. 3 cause of death for Americans overall and a major cause of severe disability. MultiStem holds the potential to address immune responses that can cause serious complications related to traumatic injuries.
Athersys is also evaluating MultiStem in other studies, including a phase 2/3 study targeting patients with COVID-19 induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and a late-stage study targeting ischemic stroke. In addition, the company is pursuing partnerships for the cell therapy related to commercialization in Europe and other regions.