Shares of Nkarta Inc. (NKTX) have lost more than 170% of their value since reaching a 52-week-high of $79.16 in December, and now trade around $28.

Nkarta is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing engineered natural killer (NK) cell therapies to treat cancer. The company went public on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on July 10, 2020, offering its shares at a price of $18 each.

Natural killer cells are a type of lymphocyte (a white blood cell) and a component of the innate immune system that play a critical role in restricting the spread of tumors and microbial infections.

By engineering the chimeric antigen receptor natural killer cells (CAR-NK cells), the company is aiming to enhance the persistence and tumor targeting characteristic of NK cells.

In a bid to accelerate the development of potentially groundbreaking genome engineered NK cell therapies, Nkarta inked a global collaboration with CRISPR Therapeutics (CRSP), a biopharmaceutical company developing transformative gene-based medicines for serious diseases, in May of this year.

The company’s lead compound in the pipeline is NKX101, an investigational NK cell cancer immunotherapy engineered to express a chimeric activating receptor (CAR) targeting NKG2D. NKG2D, a key activating receptor found on naturally occurring NK cells, induces a cell-killing immune response through the detection of stress ligands that are widely and specifically expressed on cancer cells.

A phase I study to determine the safety and tolerability of NKX101 in patients with relapsed/refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or higher risk myelodysplastic syndromes, initiated last September is underway.

Nkarta aims to present initial clinical data from the ongoing clinical trial of NKX101 by year end 2021.

Up next is NKX019, an investigational, off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy that uses NK cells derived from the peripheral blood of healthy donors and engineered with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) targeting the CD19 antigen and a membrane-bound form of IL15. CD19 antigen is a B cell marker and validated target for B cell cancer therapies.

A phase I clinical trial of NKX019 for the treatment of relapsed/refractory B cell malignancies is expected to be initiated in the second half of 2021.

In addition, the company is also planning to develop two CAR NK cell product candidates, under the collaboration with CRISPR Therapeutics.

Cash position:

Nkarta’s cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash, and short-term investments totaled $299.7 million as of March 31, 2021.

NKTX has thus far hit a low of $22.46 and a high of $79.16.

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