Think about it, if Roche was really interested in NeuVax, it could have bought Apthera, the original owner of the vaccine, for $7 million. That's the price Galena paid to acquire the tiny, private company last year.
For Roche, $7 million is not even a rounding error on a rounding error on a rounding error on the company's balance sheet. Roche's involvement in this phase II combination study is scientific charity, not serious R&D due diligence. I'm sure someone inside Roche performed the same analysis I just did and reached a similar conclusion.
Second, Galena bulls often ask: Why would Galena buy Apthera if NeuVax wasn't legitimate?
Galena bought Apthera for a lousy $7 million because the company was desperate to stay in business following the collapse of its original mission to develop drugs based on RNA interference, or RNAi. Biotech companies don't fold voluntarily and return money to shareholders when their business plans flop, so RXi Pharmaceuticals ditched RNAi, bought Apthera and changed its name to Galena Biopharma.
An RNAi company was now transformed into a cancer immunotherapy company… like magic!
Apthera had been a ghost company for years -- unwanted by anyone in the bio-pharma industry. Some of the initial phase II NeuVax data in breast cancer was first presented and published in 2005. In 2009, Apthera landed the SPA with the FDA for the phase III study (it took 21 months to negotiate) but the company had no money to actually start the study.
Experimental therapies with blockbuster potential don't sit on a shelf for years by accident. They're noticed and bought. NeuVax is not one of these exciting, lucrative therapies. It sat unloved because the data generated from the phase II study don't justify further development.
I'm sure the management team inside RXi/Galena knows this, but they're certainly not going to divulge NeuVax's dirty little secret because they need retail investors continue buying the stock.
With three more years at least before NeuVax fails, Galena management has a lot more stock to sell and millions of dollars in paychecks to cash.
--Written by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.
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