SEATTLE ( TheStreet) -- Cell Therapeutics (CTIC) CEO Jim Bianco threw another chainsaw into his reckless juggling act Thursday. Investors should avert their eyes, unless they enjoy the sight of inevitable severed limbs.
In Bianco latest act of daring-do, Cell Therapeutics is shelling out $15 million to Singapore's S*Bio to license the myelofibrosis drug pacritinib. That doesn't seem like a lot of money for a drug supposedly ready to enter phase III trials, except pacritinib, formerly known as SB1518, was thrown away by Onyx Pharmaceuticals (ONXX) last year.
Why did Onyx license pacritinib from S*Bio and then give the drug back? Perhaps it was the phase II data in myelofibrosis presented last year, which showed lackluster efficacy (worse than similar drugs from Incyte (NVS) and YM BioSciences (YMI)) and alarming rates of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
After that performance most people thought pacritinib was dead, but never under-estimate Bianco's appetite for acquiring junky cancer drugs. Bianco needs a pipeline so Cell Therapeutics can continue to sell stock, raise money and finance his lavish lifestyle. It doesn't really matter if the drugs bought by Cell Therapeutics work or not because helping cancer patients has never been the company's chief concern.Once you understand Cell Therapeutics' strategy, Thursday's announcement about the pacritinib deal makes perfect sense. Similarly, Cell Therapeutics licensed the leukemia drug tosedostat from Chroma Pharma last year and continues the charade of "developing" Opaxio and brostallicin for various cancer indications. Meantime, there was no mention by Bianco Thursday about when the company planned to resubmit its lymphoma drug pixantrone for approval with the FDA. Recall, Cell Therapeutics yanked the pixantrone filing in late January because the company was just too darn busy to prepare for an advisory panel meeting. Pixantrone, also known as Pixuvri, is supposed to be approved in Europe, except it's not yet. European regulators recommended the drug's approval two months ago but have yet to follow through and actually issue a formal decision. Despite assurances that Pixuvri will be approved soon, Cell Therapeutics has said almost nothing about how it plans to sell the drug in Europe. You'd think Bianco would be eager to discuss plans to sell a drug and finally start generating real revenue. But then, selling a drug costs money; selling a lackluster drug like Pixuvri in Europe will be a burden and largely unsuccessful. Which again, brings us back to pacritinib -- not as much a new drug opportunity as a way to divert investors' attention from the company's next dilutive financing. Yes, Cell Therapeutics must sell more stock soon because the company only has enough cash to keep paying Bianco's salary through the end of the current quarter, according to regulatory filings. Summer yachting season is starting and Bianco needs to get paid. --Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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