Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ:NKTR) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announced a research collaboration that includes a Phase 1/2 clinical study to evaluate NKTR-214, a CD122-biased cytokine designed to preferentially stimulate production of CD8-positive T cells, which are tumor killing cells found naturally in the body.  CD122, which is also known as the Interleukin-2 receptor beta sub-unit, is a key signaling receptor that is known to increase proliferation of these effector T cells.1

“We are certain that cytokines are an essential pillar of immunotherapy, along with checkpoint inhibitors, adoptive T cell therapy and cancer vaccines,” said Patrick Hwu, M.D., Division Head of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson.  “Through clinical studies, we will explore this new cytokine’s potential to preferentially activate an established target, the IL-2 receptor beta or CD122, in order to stimulate tumor cell killing within the tumor microenvironment.  Collaborations with industry allow MD Anderson to pursue new treatment regimens that could dramatically improve patient treatment in the future.”

The agreement covers a Phase 1/2 study to evaluate NKTR-214 in a variety of tumor types as a monotherapy and in combination with other therapies, including PD-1 pathway inhibitors.  Nektar and MD Anderson expect to initiate the first dose-escalation clinical study later this year.  The two organizations will also conduct translational research to identify predictive biomarkers that can be used in the future development of NKTR-214.

“Nektar is pleased to collaborate with MD Anderson, a recognized leader in immuno-oncology, for clinical development of our lead immunotherapy candidate, NKTR-214,” said Ivan Gergel, M.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Nektar.  “We believe NKTR-214 has great potential in different tumor types, both as a single agent and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors and other inhibiting agents.  This new alliance with MD Anderson will significantly advance the development of NKTR-214 and help us to potentially offer a new and important therapeutic option for cancer patients.”

In preclinical studies, NKTR-214 demonstrated a mean ratio of 450:1 within the tumor micro-environment of CD8-positive effector T-cells, which promote tumor killing, compared with CD4-positive regulatory T-cells, which are a type of cell that can suppress tumor killing.2 Furthermore, although NKTR-214 is a cytokine, it is designed to be dosed on an antibody-like schedule similar to the dosing schedules for PD-1 and CTLA-4 agents. (Original Source)

Shares of Nektar Therapeutics closed yesterday at $11.48 . NKTR has a 1-year high of $17.53 and a 1-year low of $9.51. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $11.25 and its 200-day moving average is $13.31.

On the ratings front, Nektar Therapeutics has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on March 18, Brean Murray Carret analyst Jonathan Aschoff reiterated a Buy rating on NKTR, with a price target of $17, which implies an upside of 48.1% from current levels. Separately, on the same day, Roth Capital’s Debjit Chattopadhyay reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $19.

According to, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Jonathan Aschoff and Debjit Chattopadhyay have a total average return of 8.8% and 31.7% respectively. Aschoff has a success rate of 55.0% and is ranked #350 out of 3610 analysts, while Chattopadhyay has a success rate of 69.9% and is ranked #22.

The street is mostly Bullish on NKTR stock. Out of 5 analysts who cover the stock, 5 suggest a Buy rating . The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $16.25, which represents a potential upside of 41.6% from where the stock is currently trading.

Nektar Therapeutics Inc is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company. The Company develops a pipeline of drug candidates that utilizes its PEGylation and polymer conjugate technology platforms that are designed to developmolecular entities.