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Why Athersys Inc. Shares Jumped

By Sean Williams – Jan 9, 2014 at 1:59PM

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Athersys shares motored higher after being granted a handful of new patents in Japan.

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Athersys (ATHX 5.16%), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on regenerative medicine, advanced as much as 10% after announcing that it had been granted three new patents for its stem cell and regenerative technologies in Japan.

So what: According to the company's press release, Athersys received a patent covering "non-embryonic, multipotent stem cells, such as MultiStem, and applies to all therapeutic applications;" a patent covering "the use of such stem cell therapies for the treatment of immune dysfunctions, such as graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), and inflammatory diseases and autoimmune disorders (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)" and a final patent covering the treatment of brain injuries such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury with multipotent stem cells.

Now what: Obviously, being granted three patents protects Athersys' proprietary technology from competition and enhances the intellectual property value of the company. It's also a sign of changing times in Japan where recent regulatory changes have now allowed for a favorable view toward stem-cell-based therapies. Based on these patents, the next most logical step would be for Athersys to find a collaborative partner or two to help split its development costs. Historically, stem-cell research is very costly and few, if any, companies have been able to deliver for shareholders. With that being said, and Athersys' share price having doubled in just the past four weeks, I'd suggest that sticking to the sidelines and waiting for encouraging trial data might be your best course of action.

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