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What Kind of Phase 2 Drug Can You Get for $5 Million?

By Brian Orelli, PhD - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 9:34PM

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Cell Therapeutics goes trash diving.

I just don't get Cell Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CTICD). The company is trying to gain Food and Drug Administration approval of its cancer drug pixantrone. The agency turned down the drug, but the company appealed and earned itself another review. It still seems like a long shot to me, but I can't blame them for trying. Gaining FDA approval by running another trial is a long and tedious process.

But then Cell Therapeutics issues a press release yesterday saying the company has "identified a potential acquisition opportunity that is a phase II drug candidate." Really? Does the company need a backup for pixantrone that badly?

And what's the point of spouting off that you've identified a potential acquisition target. Cell Therapeutics mentions that the target is in the field of cancer immunotherapy, seemingly trying to play off the success of Dendreon (Nasdaq: DNDN). Don't buy the hype, Fools.

How the heck is Cell Therapeutics going to pay for this drug? It's not as if the company is flush with cash. By my calculations, Cell Therapeutics has less than $50 million in its coffers right now. The company had $43.8 million at the end of last quarter, raised $16 million by selling stocks and warrants, and paid off $10.6 million of debt since then.

Elan (NYSE: ELN) had to pony up $20 million upfront plus another $30 million in research support to gain access to Proteostasis Therapeutics' drug discovery pipeline. Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) paid $14 million upfront for access to LPath's eye drug that hadn't even entered phase 2 development. Anything that Cell Therapeutics could license in the $5 million to $10 million range, which is all the company could really afford at the moment, likely isn't worth the effort.

There's a possibility Cell Therapeutics might try to raise additional cash to pay for a drug, but I certainly hope not. The company recently performed a reverse stock split in order to get the share price above $1 -- thus the temporary ticker change from CTIC to CTICD -- but shares aren't that far from hitting that level again. Further dilution isn't advisable.

Cell Therapeutics could be the next Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI) miracle story, but just keep in mind that for every HGS, there are multiple biotechs like La Jolla Pharmaceutical and Genta trading for pennies on the OTC boards.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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