TG Therapeutics Builds Pipeline Around Cancer and Immune Diseases

8/23/12Follow @arleneweintraub

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it’s what he knows best. From 2002 to 2009, Weiss served as CEO of Keryx Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KERX), a New York company developing a drug for patients with kidney disease. “All of my contacts are in the public markets, so it just seemed natural,” he says. (Manhattan Pharmaceuticals, the company TG acquired in the reverse merger, was developing two treatments for rare diseases. Weiss says TG is still determining what the future path will be for those drugs.)

The recent Rhizen deal expands TG’s presence in B-cell technologies. The compound the two companies are developing, TGR-1202, inhibits a molecular pathway called PI3K delta. Using the drug to interrupt signaling along this pathway has been shown in animals to be effective in fighting blood cancers. Weiss says the company’s goal is to begin human clinical trials in the first quarter of next year.

TG will be racing against a daunting rival: Foster City, CA-based Gilead Sciences, which recently started late-stage trials of its own anti-PI3K drug. Several other companies are also working on PI3K approaches. Weiss isn’t concerned. “We believe there is room for competition,” he says. “We think the drug we’ve now partnered on has some very interesting attributes that could make it a better molecule when it comes to safety, tolerability, and dosing.”

TG isn’t looking for deep-pocketed pharma partners for either of its two molecules just yet, Weiss says. “We could do it alone,” Weiss says, though he’s quick to add that the company will be “opportunistic” should anyone approach with a tantalizing offer. “When we move into the broader area of autoimmune diseases, it might be nice to have a partner.”

For now, it’s hard to predict whether or not TG will get enough support on Wall Street to be able to finance both drugs all the way through the development process. The company’s stock rose by a nickel to $6.25 just after the reverse merger in April, but has since fallen to $3 a share. “We have the skill set to run large-scale trials,” Weiss says. “But capital always becomes a question. We just have to wait and see if the markets are positive, and if they want to give us the capital to do this on our own.”

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