SOURCE: Activate Immunotherapy

August 15, 2016 09:00 ET

NovaRx Raises Capital, Changes Name to Activate Immunotherapy and Expands Management Team

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - Aug 15, 2016) - NovaRx, a cancer immunotherapy company with an innovative treatment that has been tested in late stage clinical trials in over 500 patients, today announced that it has closed the first tranche of a multi-million dollar financing and expanded its management team to rapidly advance its programs and strengthen its proprietary position. In conjunction with these events, NovaRx is changing its name to Activate Immunotherapy ("Activate" or the "Company") to better differentiate and describe its technology and vision. 

The Company's immunotherapy, Lucanix, utilizes a novel approach for activating the body's immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Lucanix has been developed as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the largest cancer indication in the world, and it has promising Phase 3 and Phase 2 data. In Lucanix's Phase 2 trial, the company demonstrated a significant improvement in survival for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. NovaRx completed a 532 patient Phase 3 study in early 2013. While the Phase 3 study narrowly missed the statistical endpoint for approval, survival benefits were shown if non United States clinical sites were excluded, particularly with patients who started Lucanix treatment within 12 weeks of chemotherapy and/or patients with prior chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Management believes protocol violations at a number of sites in Eastern Europe and elsewhere affected the outcome and that newly designed and administered clinical studies have the potential for a statistically significant demonstration of overall survival, either as a single agent or in combination with other therapeutics. 

The Company's platform technology can be applied to all solid tumor cancers and is not limited to Lucanix for NSCLC. Activate has preclinical data in six other solid tumor indications.

Concurrent with Activate's capital raise, the Company has expanded its senior management team. Justin Murdock, the principal investor in NovaRx/Activate since 2009, will remain CEO, and Habib Fakhrai, Ph.D., the scientific founder of NovaRx, will retain the position of Chief Scientific Officer. Todd M. Binder has joined as Activate's Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Binder is an experienced life science investor with significant operations and finance expertise, especially in the immunotherapy sector. He was an early investor in and served as acting CFO of ZetaRx, which later became part of Juno Therapeutics. He was also an investor in X-body, which was acquired by Juno. Finally, he was an early private investor in Juno as well. Stella M. Sung, Ph.D. has joined as Activate's Chief Business Officer (CBO) and is responsible for all business development and licensing efforts and strategic planning. Dr. Sung has been a life science venture capitalist for almost twenty years, serving as a General Partner in several funds and a lead investor and Board member in early stage companies. She has also been a senior executive (CEO, CBO) at both public and private life science companies and has considerable experience in structuring and negotiating transactions and in the oncology area.

"We have the potential to extend and improve the lives of patients in an important disease area. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined," said Justin Murdock, CEO. "Our original investment thesis in 2009 was to use innovative immunotherapy to treat patients whose disease has not responded to current drugs. This capital raise, along with Todd and Stella joining the management team, enables us to continue our original mission."

In contrast to other cancer immunotherapies, Activate's cell therapy is allogeneic and suitable for rapid, cost effective scale up and commercialization. Moreover, Activate Immunotherapy's therapy remarkably had only one Serious Adverse Event ("SAE") in over 500 patients, versus the much more significant side effect profiles of antibodies designed to inhibit immunosuppression.

Stella Sung, Ph.D., Activate's Chief Business Officer, stated, "Todd and I have been colleagues for almost 15 years, and I am pleased to be working with him, Justin and Habib on this potentially transformative therapy. We all believe that Activate's engineered cell lines can induce strong immune responses that could lead to increased survival without debilitating side effects. We look forward to testing Lucanix in models involving PD-L1 and other immune checkpoint proteins."

Todd Binder, COO, added, "We are entering a cancer immunotherapy revolution where companies have enormous potential for creating lasting shareholder value while saving lives. Activate Immunotherapy can be a leading company in this new war on cancer."

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