Nkar­ta drops a can­cer pro­gram, putting au­toim­mune front and cen­ter. Will it pay off?

Nkar­ta hit the brakes on one of its lead pro­grams Thurs­day af­ter­noon, de­pri­or­i­tiz­ing a CAR-NK ther­a­py de­signed to treat an ag­gres­sive form of leukemia af­ter it turned in dis­ap­point­ing Phase 1 da­ta. A pre­cip­i­tous stock drop en­sued, with shares $NK­TX falling 22% Fri­day morn­ing.

But the in­vestor re­ac­tion dif­fered marked­ly from an­a­lysts, who large­ly re­mained op­ti­mistic about Nkar­ta’s plans. That’s be­cause it’s turn­ing most of its at­ten­tion to an area that’s gar­nered a lot of buzz re­cent­ly: cell ther­a­py in au­toim­mune dis­eases.

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