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TheStreet Open House

Rodman Rambles: The Biotech Dreck

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I sat through investor presentations by Cell Therapeutics (CTIC), Rexahn Pharmaceuticals (RNN), Oculus Innovative Sciences (OCLS) and Hemispherx Biopharma (HEB) all before lunch Tuesday. Surely, torture like that is deserving of a workers' compensation claim.

The forum for this circus of biotech ineptitude was the Rodman & Renshaw Annual Global Investment Conference. Rodman makes a good living as the go-to banker for the bottom of biotech barrel (heck, someone has to do it), so the firm's investor confab presents a unique opportunity to gawk at companies which most of Wall Street has written off.

Cell Therapeutics' CEO Jim Bianco told assembled investors that he's not begging for his company's survival, a reference to the headline of my column Monday which discussed the company's looming bankruptcy unless shareholders approve a plan Thursday to increase authorized shares by 400 million to 1.2 billion.

Bianco spent no time at all during his 20-minute presentation discussing the company's financial woes. (No surprise there.) During a brief Q&A session, Bianco did say the company was working harder to get Italian shareholders who control about 40% of the company's shares to vote in Thursday's shareholder meeting.

If Cell Therapeutics cannot get a quorum, the company won't be able to add authorized shares, and therefore will not be able to sell stock to raise much-needed cash. If that happens, Bianco said the company may sell preferred shares, take on more debt or look to sell assets in order to raise money. Of course, those alternative transactions depend on finding a willing counterparty -- certainly not a sure bet.

Bianco also commented on the company's decision to appeal the FDA's rejection of its lymphoma drug pixantrone. "It's the American thing to do," he said.

The FDA's cancer drug division savaged pixantrone in its review in March, which was followed by a unanimous 9-0 vote against the drug by the FDA's outside advisory panel and then a formal rejection of the drug by the agency.

Calling Cell Therapeutics' appeal of this resoundingly negative decision a Hail Mary would be too optimistic. FDA should rule on the pixantrone appeal before the end of the year. The answer, once again, is very likely to be no.

Cell Therapeutics shares dropped two cents, closing Tuesday at 37 cents a share, despite Bianco's attempt to cheer investors with news of the pixantrone appeal.


Rexahn CEO Chang Ahn didn't show up at the Rodman conference. Instead, he sent President Rick Soni, whose halting performance didn't instill much confidence in the company's future.

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