Desperate for cash, Northwest Biotherapeutics (NWBO) has again sought out British investor Neil Woodford to write a big check.
On Wednesday, Woodford deposited $30 million into Northwest Bio's kitty, raising his total financing commitment to the beleaguered therapeutic cancer vaccine company to $95 million since November 2014. The latest equity investment came two days after Northwest Bio ranted in public about a short-selling conspiracy aimed at driving down its stock price.
Including open market purchases, Woodford, the managing partner of Woodford Investment Management, now owns 28% of Northwest Bio, the company said.
Northwest Bio is certainly happy to have Woodford on board because without his money, the company would likely be facing bankrupty proceedings by now. The company ended the June quarter with $19 million after burning $45 million in cash in the first six months of the year, according to its regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
At this rate of spending, Woodford's latest financing only provides Northwest Bio with enough money to reach into the early part of 2016.
Northwest Bio's spokesman Les Goldman did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Woodford appears to be the only institutional investor supporting Northwest Bio and its claims of "encouraging interim clinical data" from its DCVax-L and DCVax-Direct cancer immunotherapy clinical programs. No other actively managed investment fund holds a large stake in Northwest Bio, according to Bloomberg data.
The absence of specialized biotech and healthcare investment funds from the company's shareholder roster--Baker Brothers, T. Rowe Price, Jennison, Perceptive Life Sciences, Orbimed, Fidelity--is especially striking given the relative ease at which other cancer immunotherapy companies like Juno Therapeutics (JUNO) , Kite Pharma (KITE) , Incite (INCY - Get Report) and Five Prime Therapeutics (FPRX - Get Report) , among others, have raised money from Wall Street.
Big Pharma has shown no interest to date in partnering with Northwest Bio. Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY - Get Report) , Merck (MRK - Get Report) , Roche (RHHBY) , Novartis (NVS - Get Report) and AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report) have all been active in designing new clinical trials which combine their homegrown cancer immunotherapies with outside compounds developed by smaller companies. Northwest Bio has no such combination clinical trials underway with any partner.
Northwest Bio remains isolated because its two experimental therapies are based on outdated, dendritic cell-based cancer vaccine technology that has produced many more clinical failures than successes. [Dendreon's Provenge is the only approved dendritic cell-based cancer vaccine, but it's commercial failure led to the company's bankruptcy.]
DCVax-L and DCVax-Direct might be broadly categorized as cancer immunotherapies just like Opdivo and Keytruda, but only in the way that a Ford Pinto and a Bugatti Veyron are both automobiles.
Given a choice, which would you rather own?
The pace at which new cancer drugs are being discovered, run through clinical trials and approved is accelerating, yet Northwest Bio is stuck in neutral.
The phase III study of DCVax-L in brain tumor patients started in 2005. A decade later, the company is still trying to complete enrollment of 348 patients. An interim efficacy analysis of the study was announced in December 2013 but results were never disclosed. Later, Northwest Bio claimed the interim efficacy analysis was never conducted.
Last year, Northwest Bio made drastic changes to the design and statistics supporting the DCVax-L study. Two months ago, new patient screening into the study was halted. The company has still not provided any reason for the screening halt or said when screening would re-start.
In March 2014, Northwest Bio said German regulators had approved a "hospital exemption" plan granting brain tumor patients access to DCVax-L under a compassionate use program. Northwest Bio could even generate revenue through reimbursement from German hospitals under the plan, the company said at the time.
In October 2014, Northwest Bio said a single German brain tumor patient had undergone surgery to begin the process of DCVax-L treatment. The status of this patient has not been updated by the company since October 2014 and it's not clear if the patient ever received DCVax-L.
Nineteen months after announcing the German hospital exemption program, Northwest Bio has not generated any revenue from it, according to the company's SEC filings.
Credibility, like cash, is a question mark at Northwest Bio.