After Strikeout, San Diego’s MEI Pharma Looks to Rebuild Confidence

12/17/12Follow @bvbigelow

Sometimes, innovation companies operate in stealth mode to keep the technology they’re development out of the limelight.

And sometimes, companies maintain a low profile until they’re ready to present their best case to shareholders, potential investors, and others. Such is the case with San Diego’s MEI Pharma (Nasdaq: MEIP), a cancer drug development company originally known as Marshall Edwards that moved to San Diego two years ago in a bid to reboot its reputation.

“We wanted to get away from Marshall Edwards, which was kind of a long, sordid story,” says MEI spokesman Pete De Spain. “There was too much baggage.”

Marshall Edwards acquired its unwanted luggage in 2010, after the company halted a late-stage clinical trial of phenoxodiol, an experimental drug advanced as a potential treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer. The company ended the trial after recruiting 142 of a planned 340 patients. An interim analysis showed that phenoxodiol had no significant effect in either stopping the cancer or improving patient survival.

MEI Pharma CEO Daniel Gold, Marshall Edwards, Cancer

Daniel Gold

“The design of the study in and of itself made it difficult for women to decide whether or not to participate in the study,” said Daniel Gold, the former CEO of San Diego-based Favrille, who joined Marshall Edwards as CEO in 2010.

Marshall Edwards was founded in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 by Novogen, an Australian biotech company with a library of isoflavonoid compounds with cancer-fighting characteristics. Novogen continued to hold a majority stake and operated Marshall Edwards as a public subsidiary after Marshall Edwards went public on the Nasdaq market in 2003.

The failure of phenoxodiol, however, prompted a reassessment.

Novogen spun out Marshall Edwards, distributing its … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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