Lion Biotech Raises Approximately $100 Million and Names a New CEO

Published: Jun 07, 2016

Lion Biotech Raises Approximately $100 Million and Names a New CEO June 6, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK – Shares of Lion Biotechnologies roared on Friday, jumping about 25 percent to hit a high of $8.89 per share after the company announced the appointment of a new chief executive officer and raised about $100 million in a private placement of Series B preferred stock.

On Friday, Lion Biotechnologies, which is focused on the development of immunotherapies for cancer, tapped Maria Fardis as its new president and CEO. Fardis, the former chief operating officer for Acerta Pharma, succeeds Elma Hawkins, who served as the company's president and CEO since January 2015. Fardis, who left Acerta in March, was tapped due to her long history in working in oncology therapeutic development and is expected to drive Lion’s novel tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes technology to commercialization. In January, the company filed an investigational new drug application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct clinical trials of its lead candidate LN-145 in the treatment of cervical cancer, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

"Lion Biotechnologies has a unique scientific approach in using immuno-oncology to treat solid tumors and I am thrilled to join the team and execute our mission to advance the frontier of personalized medicine. The combination of a strong leadership team as well as financial stability, will allow us to execute a broad development program in commercializing TILs for multiple indications," Fardis said in a statement.

While at Acerta, Fardis has a long history of working with the development of oncology therapeutics. While at Acerta, she worked on the development of acalabrutinib (ACP-196), a selective and potent inhibitor of BTK currently in multiple registration directed studies, until Acerta was acquired by AstraZeneca for $7 billio earlier this year. Before joining Acerta, Fardis held the position of chief of oncology operations and alliances at Pharmacyclics LLC , where she oversaw development of ibrutinib (so know as Imbruvica), abexinostat, an HDAC inhibitor, and FVIIa inhibitor programs. At Gilead Sciences , Fardis was involved with multiple therapeutic areas including antivirals, oncology, and cardiovascular therapeutics and worked on the development and life cycle management of ambrisentan (Letairis). Former CEO Hawkins will continue to serve Lion in an advisory role, the company said.

In addition to tapping a new CEO, Lion also named Wayne Rothbaum and Iain Dukes to the company’s board of directors. Rothbaum, president and managing member of Quogue Capital, LLC, will become the new interim chairman of the board, the company said.

In February, the company tapped Steven A. Fischkoff, the former vice president of clinical and medical affairs at Celgene Cellular Therapeutics, as its new chief medical officer. In March, Lion announced Michael T. Lotze, who initiated the first approved gene therapy protocols at the National Institutes of Health, as the company’s new chief scientific officer.

The $100 million the company raised through the Series B funding, combined with about $100 million of existing cash, should be enough to fund the company’s research for several years, according to an analysis by the Motley Fool.

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