3 Reasons to Watch Galena Biopharma Inc.'s Next Catalyst

With news flow being positive for Galena Biopharma Inc (GALE) in 2014, the next catalyst could be worth keeping an eye on

Jan 20, 2014 at 3:00PM

This has already been a busy and eventful year for Galena Biopharma (NASDAQ:GALE). The company has caught the eye of many health-care investors in the three weeks since the Champagne corks popped to welcome in the New Year. Shares have risen from under $5 each on Dec. 31 to their current price of $7 -- more than a 40% gain in just three weeks!

Three significant pieces of news flow seem to have been responsible:

1. Galena announced on Jan. 7 that the first patient had been enrolled in the Phase 2 trial for GALE-301, which is a folate binding protein with potential use in conjunction with an adjuvant to prevent recurrences in high-risk, endometrial and ovarian cancer patients. The market seemed to be positive about this development, as it showed that Galena's drug pipeline is making some advances.

2. On Jan. 13, Galena announced the acquisition of Mills Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in the development and commercialization of targeted oncology treatments. The main take-home feature of the acquisition is the addition of GALE-401, which is a patented, controlled-release formulation of anagrelide to be used for the treatment of essential thrombocythemia. Total sales from the drug are estimated to be worth up to $200 million per annum.

3. A strategic partnership between Galena and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories was announced on Jan. 14, which is focused on a commercialization partnership on NeuVax in India. The deal means that Galena has licensed commercial rights to Dr. Reddy's for NeuVax in breast and gastric cancers in India, with Galena receiving development and sales milestones as well as double-digit royalties on net sales.

Of course, the progress made with clinical trials is extremely difficult to ascertain. However, the reaction of the share price (up more than 40% in less than three weeks) indicates that market sentiment is strong and that further catalysts could be worth keeping a close eye out for during the rest of 2014.

Indeed, the positive impact of catalysts in other health care stocks has also been witnessed in 2014. An example is the strong support shown to Chelsea Therapeutics International's (NASDAQ:CHTP) Northera drug, which received a vote of 16-1 in favor by an FDA advisory committee.

Although the committee is there to do as its name suggests (i.e., to advise the FDA), its recommendations do tend to be followed by the FDA, and that's why shares in Chelsea Therapeutics pushed through $5 on the back of the news.

Similarly, Intercept Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ:ICPT) share price quadrupled after a clinical trial was halted early when patients taking a liver-disease drug had shown a "highly statistically significant improvement" in measures of the health of their liver versus a placebo.

Such catalysts, although unpredictable, inevitably have a major impact upon the share price of the company in question. Health-care investors may wish to keep an eye out for the next catalyst on Galena's horizon, which could be further developments surrounding the aforementioned GALE-301 Phase 2 trial, in which the first patient was enrolled just a couple of weeks ago.

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Fool contributor Peter Stephens and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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