After the Meltdown: Synta Pharma CEO Trumpets New Top Cancer Drug

7/12/10

Synta Pharmaceuticals has been climbing back from one of the Boston area’s highest-profile clinical trial failures of 2009. And a big part of the Lexington, MA-based company’s recovery has been to learn from the failure and advance other drug candidates in its pipeline.

After Synta (NASDAQ:SNTA) halted its pivotal trial of the drug elesclomol for patients with a deadly form of skin cancer in February 2009, the firm saw its common stock value fall more than 80 percent in a day. The company cut 41 percent of its staff, and then lost the London drug giant GlaxoSmithKline as its partner in commercializing the cancer drug last June. However, there were several reasons during that time to think the firm still had good prospects, Safi Bahcall, Synta’s chief executive, says.

The company still had a couple years worth of cash in the bank, more drugs in its pipeline, and an understanding that many biotechs hit bumps along the road to success. The company is now holding onto the promise of its mid-stage cancer drug, STA-9090, which Bahcall says has supplanted elesclomol as the top drug candidate in the firm’s pipeline. Plus, he’s aware of at least a few other biotech companies such as Seattle-based Dendreon that have brought drugs to market after setbacks on par with the one Synta suffered last year.

“If you look at essentially every good company, and essentially every good drug, they all had a setback,” Bahcall says. To make his point, he cites Dendreon, which got FDA approval for its immune booster drug for prostate cancer in April after 18 years in business.

Synta hasn’t lost hope for elesclomol. The company stopped its late-stage trial of the drug last year because there were … Next Page »

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