EXCLUSIVE: Cellular Biomedicine Group Ready to Hire After Snapping Up Cancer Vaccine

EXCLUSIVE: Cellular Biomedicine Group Ready to Hire After Snapping Up Cancer Vaccine
June 24, 2015
By Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Sr. Editor

The recent acquisition of Blackbird Bio’s University of South Florida & Moffitt Cancer’s cancer vaccine by Cellular Biomedicine Group will result in new hiring as the company continues in “growth mode,” its CEO told BioSpace Wednesday.

“We are currently in a growth mode and have more than doubled our staff in the last year,” William (Wei) Cao, chief executive officer of CBMG, told BioSpace. “We believe we will continue to expand the depth and breadth of our talent as indicated by the recent appointment of Richard L. Wang as chief operating officer, a seasoned and accomplished industry professional.”

Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. bought the rights to the next generation GVAX (CD40LGVAX) vaccine for $2.5 million in cash and $1.75 million in shares two weeks ago. The only Chinese biomedicine firm traded on NASDAQ said it plans to roll it into Phase II trials in the second half of 2015.

Cao said that plan will require more talented additions to its workforce. “We are pleased that CBMG is able to attract such talent and expect to evaluate ongoing staffing needs as we continue to produce the vaccine to supply the trials and potentially sponsor the Phase III trials,” he told BioSpace.

NSCLC is the leader cancer killer for men and women in the United States. BioSpace chatted with Cao about why this deal is significant—and what it could mean for treatment in this field.

1. Explain why this deal is important?

This transaction addresses meaningful and sizable unmet medical needs. As mentioned in the press release dated June 9, 2015, based on the latest data available from NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (Version 4. 2014), an estimated 224,210 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014, with an estimated 159,260 deaths occurring because of the disease. In China, 728,552 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, and 592,410 people in China died from lung cancer in 2012 (source: Chinese Cancer Registry annual report 2012 & GMCD40L Study Synopsis).

NSCLC is relatively insensitive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Despite the advances of targeted therapies and recent breakthroughs with immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as anti-PD1 or PDL1 monoclonal antibody treatments, there are still significant unmet medical needs in NSCLC. CD40LGVAX vaccine, in combination with an anti-PD1 monoclonal antibody, may provide synergistic and improved clinical benefits in both PDL1 positive and negative patients.

Secondly, this is the first opportunity for a pure-play, publicly listed China biotechnology company to enter the U.S. market with the ability to conduct U.S clinical trials under FDA protocols.

Lastly, this transaction is synergistic with our current immuno-oncology cell therapy platform. This advanced and unique combination will highlight that Nivolumab, a new leading checkpoint inhibitor that when combined with CD40LGVAX, a new therapeutic vaccine, is proven both safe and effective based on Phase I clinical data.

2. What were the deal terms?

The deal terms consisted of $2.5 million in cash and $1.75 million in shares of the Company’s Common Stock. The per share price will be based on the 20-day volume weighted average price (“VWAP”) of the Company's Common Stock upon the closing conditions of the agreement. CBMG will pay potentially more than $25 million in future milestones and royalty payments.

3. How does this advance your pipeline?

This transaction will advance our pipeline since the principle testing of CD40LGVAX in NSCLC could lead to other potential designs therefore, potentially new targets. CBMG will evaluate new combinations with other cellular therapies as part of its ongoing R&D efforts.

4. What's your time frame for trials? How about regulatory approval?

We believe that the trial will soon obtain regulatory approval and we have guided that the trials will commence in the second half of 2015.

5. What made Blackbird so attractive?

Blackbird was attractive to CBMG as the technology asset and opportunity to work with leading scientists at the Moffitt Cancer Center will further validate the type of work CBMG has been conducting in China. Our strategic goal is to serve large addressable and meaningful markets. This strategic acquisition will enable CBMG to significantly broaden its product portfolio based on the acquired intellectual property rights to augment our immuno-oncology platform portfolio, particularly cancer immunotherapy vaccine and vaccine combination technology platform. Fundamentally, it would transform CBMG into a global player with leading comprehensive cancer treatment programs with the ability to conduct Phase II trials at a leading U.S. cancer center.

As Rumors Swirl About GlaxoSmithKline Bid, Who Could Suitors Be?
Rumors are swirling that Swiss-based Roche and U.S.-based Johnson & Johnson are eying the U.K. company for approximately $143 billion. But Roche and J&J aren’t the only companies though who have been thought could go after the elephant that is Glaxo.

Last month there was buzz that Pfizer Inc. was considering acquiring Glaxo, a year after it failed to acquire AstraZeneca PLC . Just this month over a third of respondents in a poll conducted by BioSpace believe that AstraZeneca PLC could be in the running to acquire struggling GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

So BioSpace wants to ask our readers again what they predict for this new dealmaking bonanza. Will Glaxo go—and if so, to whom?

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