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Here's Why bluebird bio Inc. Is Surging Again Today

What happened

Shares of bluebird bio Inc. (NASDAQ: BLUE), a clinical-stage biotech developing cell-based therapies, are on the move for the second day in a row. Yesterday, the stock jumped in response to a presentation unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Hematological Society, but the pop mostly fizzled by the end of the day.

After taking a moment to digest the data, a handful of Wall Street banks have upgraded their price targets for the stock, driving it 8.4% higher as of 2:45 p.m. EDT on Thursday. 

So what 

Even though analysts at Wedbush and BTIG both upped their price targets for bluebird bio, investors should be encouraged by the fact that they can't agree on what the company's main value driver will be over the next several quarters.

Image source: Getty Images.

Wedbush analyst David Nierengarten is pleased with early data that suggests last year's revisions to LentiGlobin trial protocols were just what the doctor ordered. Patients treated under the modified protocol have demonstrated increased concentrations of functional hemoglobin, increasing the odds it could eventually become a one-time cure for lifelong diseases that frequently require painful blood transfusions.

Over at BTIG, Dana Leone upgraded the stock in response to signals from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning bluebird bio's latest CAR-T therapy for advanced stage multiple myeloma patients. The Celgene-partnered program dosed its first patient in September, but Leone thinks it could be ready to begin a pivotal trial before the end of next year.

Now what

Suggesting an experimental cancer therapy might begin a pivotal trial about one year after the first dose was given to humans would have sounded insane just a few years ago. Recently, the FDA has been willing to approve new cancer therapies based on response data that can be generated in weeks, as opposed to survival data that often require years of observation. 

Earlier this year, bluebird bio's precursor to bb21217, named bb2121, delivered a 100% response rate among 15 multiple myeloma patients. This would be exciting for a group of newly diagnosed patients. When you consider all 15 had already undergone stem cell transplant procedures, plus a median of seven lines of therapy before receiving bb2121, these results are nothing short of amazing.

While it's hard to say which bluebird bio program is the most valuable at the moment, odds are good that its Lenti-D candidate for the treatment of childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy will be the first to earn an approval. The candidate breezed through its pivotal trial, and investors should keep their eyes on regulatory submissions before the end of the year.

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Cory Renauer owns shares of Celgene. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bluebird Bio and Celgene. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.