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Changes in Enthusiasm

The fortunes of Nektar Therapeutics mirror that of the wider biotech industry, the Wall Street Journal writes.

In 2018, Nektar entered into a more than $1 billion agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb to test whether Nektar's drug bempegaldesleukin, a modified version of interleukin-2, could increase the effectiveness of Bristol-Myers' Opdivo, a checkpoint inhibitor, the Journal says. It adds that the companies were so confident, they skipped from a phase I trial to a phase III trial — but that study failed.

According to the Journal, the companies stopped their trials and ended their deal, and Nektar's valuation fell by two thirds. It now, the Journal says, is selling its research facility in India and subleasing part of its office space in San Francisco.

Other biotech firms, it says, are also adopting similar cost-cutting strategies. For instance, it notes that Bluebird Bio is both cutting its spending and workforce while Solid Biosciences is cutting its workforce.

"The company's ups and, now, downs are an example of how investor enthusiasm for biotechnology has soured in recent months, spurred in part by a series of setbacks such as Nektar's cancer-drug failure," the Journal says.

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