In salvage effort, Sellas cherry picks some positive mid-stage cancer vaccine data

Eight months after Sellas $SLS reverse merged its way onto Nasdaq through what was left of Galena following the pivotal implosion of NeuVax, the microcap biotech has cherry picked its way through some Phase IIb data to highlight evidence of the cancer vaccine’s possible potential.

Angelos Stergiou

Through a spokesperson, Sellas’ CEO Angelos Stergiou refused to tell me what the p value of the primary endpoint in its study was, preferring to highlight a clinical benefit for NeuVax in prolonging disease-free survival when combined with Herceptin in treating a group of breast cancer patients with triple-negative breast cancer. 

The biotech’s badly battered stock bounced 160% higher on their release.

Sellas grabbed Galena after the biotech’s shares were eviscerated in June, 2016, dropping 78% after the company announced that it had stopped a Phase III study of its lead cancer vaccine after the monitoring committee flagged it for failing to help breast cancer victims. NeuVax is part of a wave of cancer vaccines that flopped badly in key studies.

Stergiou said in a statement that the biotech planned to advance the cancer vaccine through a “partnership or other strategic collaboration,” and he offered this quote about the results via email:

It’s important to keep in mind that this is an exploratory trial intended to find the right population to pursue in a definitive trial.  As such, we aren’t as sensitive to alpha spend which could curtail a definitive trial.  We do believe that the curves will continue to separate as we believe that the booster-maintained immunologic memory helps protect these patients from late recurrences. What is important to note, and also stated by the Data Safety Monitoring Board, is that we identified the TNBC population and, as per DSMB, it is not necessary to continue the study due to the TNBC data and to continue following patients for safety but allowing patients to continue their treatment.

The old Galena had been in and out of trouble ahead of the Sellas takeover. Aside from the NeuVax setback in 2016, the DoJ also stepped in to investigate its promotional practices for the opioid Abstral. Back in 2011 the company changed its name from RXi to Galena, splitting operations.

As for Sellas, it once struck a high-profile licensing deal with Fosun in 2013, but the deal collapsed with both sides accusing the other of failing to make good. Fosun said Sellas never delivered the cash it promised. Later Sellas moved from Zurich to New York to get into cancer drug development.

Sellas has a market cap of about $20 million. Its shares have steadily lost value over the years, at one point requiring a 1 for 20 reverse split to get out of penny stock territory.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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