Northwest Bio gets $40M more for controversial brain cancer vaccine

Neil Woodford

Back in November, U.K. heavyweight investor Neil Woodford invested $25 million in Northwest Biotherapeutics ($NWBO) in the hope that its brain cancer candidate would turn up good Phase III results. Now, Woodford has thrown another $40 million behind the Bethesda, MD-based biotech as it continues to work through Phase III.

The $40 million, invested through Woodford Investment Management, will buy 5,405,405 shares at $7.40 per share. It will come in two closings, with the first $11.5 million having closed by Wednesday, and the remaining $28.5 million to close on or before April 30.

"NW Bio made tremendous progress in 2014, and is building on its progress in multiple development programs in 2015. We are very pleased to receive a further major investment from Neil Woodford as a cornerstone of NW Bio's financing plans, keeping NW Bio at the forefront of the immuno-oncology space," said Linda Powers, CEO of NW Bio, in a release.

Northwest has a platform for DCVax dendritic cell-based vaccines. Its lead candidate, DCVax-L, is in Phase III trials for glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It is also running a Phase I/II trial using DCVax-Direct to treat all inoperable solid tumors cancers.

While the company has touted individual success stories of patients in a Phase I/II study of DCVax-L living well beyond the expected survival time, critics have said that the data seen so far from a small group of patients shouldn't be considered statistically significant because of the trial's size and "informal nature."

Northwest Biotherapeutics CEO Linda Powers

While Powers--and Woodford--is optimistic, the setbacks in the cancer vaccine field cannot be overlooked. 2014 had its fair share of late-stage failures, including Merck KGaA and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) non-small cell lung cancer candidates both flopping. Several companies have tried to avoid that fate by going the combo route and pairing their candidates with a second drug. Bavarian Nordic recently reported positive results from its Phase I study combining Prostvac and Bristol Myers-Squibb's ($BMY) Yervoy, while Amgen ($AMGN) is testing its melanoma vaccine T-Vec with Merck's ($MRK) Keytruda.

- read the release

Special Reports: ASCO preview: What's the outlook for cancer vaccines? | Top 10 Phase III disasters of 2014 - Tecemotide (Stimuvax) - Merck KGaA - MAGE-A3 - GlaxoSmithKline

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