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Amid Multi-Million Financing and Expanding Exec Management, SoCal's NovaRx Changes Company Name

8/15/2016 7:53:10 AM

Amid Multi-Million Financing and Expanding Exec Management, SoCal's NovaRx Changes Name August 15, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Coupled with a multi-million dollar financing round, cancer company NovaRx has expanded its management team and is changing the name of the company to Activate Immunotherapy.

The new name was chosen to “better differentiate and describe its technology and vision,” particularly due to its lead lung cancer immunotherapy, Lucanix, which activates the body’s immune response to cancer cells. Lucanix has been developed as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. In 2013, the drug completed a Phase III trial, but missed its statistical endpoint. However, the company said the drug showed promising survival benefits, if the U.S. clinical sites were removed from study results. 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.

In addition to Lucanix, Activate has preclinical data in six other solid tumor indications. The company's platform technology can be applied to all solid tumor cancers and is not limited to Lucanix for NSCLC, Activate said in a statement. Activate's cell therapy is allogeneic and suitable for rapid, cost effective scale up and commercialization, the company said.
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"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," Justin Murdock, chief executive officer of Activate said in a statement.

The new vision for Activate comes a few months after it fended off being acquired by San Francisco-based Viporo, Inc. In 2015, Viporo signed a non-binding letter of intent to acquire NovaRx, but the letter expired and no action was taken. In May, Viporo said the two companies could not agree to terms.

Although NovaRx, or Activate, announced “the first tranche of a multi-million dollar financing,” the company did not provide any details regarding how much was raised, nor how the funds will be used.

The company did say that “concurrent with” the new financing, it was expanding its senior management team. New hires include Todd Binder, the new chief operating officer for Activate. Binder has worked with other immunotherapy companies over the course of his life sciences career, including serving as chief financial officer of ZetaRx, which later became part of Juno Therapeutics (JUNO). In addition to Binder, venture capitalist Stella Sung was tapped as Activate’s chief business officer. For more than 20 years, Sung has worked with the life sciences industry and “has considerable experience in structuring and negotiating transactions and in the oncology area,” the company said.

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