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Experimental Drug With San Antonio Roots Changes Home After Merger

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — Galena Biopharma, a Bay Area biotech that has been developing a cancer vaccine created by a San Antonio researcher, is merging with another immunotherapy company: Sellas Life Sciences Group, which will also be the name of the combined business.

Sellas Life Sciences is developing multiple experimental cancer immunotherapies, including a treatment for acute myeloid leukemia called galinpepimut-S, which Sellas says is ready for Phase 3 testing. San Ramon, CA-based Galena, meanwhile, has a few cancer treatments of its own, including a breast cancer vaccine called NeuVax that’s meant to prevent the occurrence or reoccurrence of cancer. Galena has three ongoing Phase 2 clinical trials—including two of which that test NeuVax in combination with monoclonal antibody trastuzumab—and the company says they will remain ongoing. Galena stopped a Phase 3 study of NeuVax last summer when the drug performed worse than a placebo at preventing the recurrence of tumors.

Galena (NASDAQ: GALE) decided to explore a sale, merger, or some other deal in January. Sellas, which is based in Bermuda and has offices in New York, is technically becoming a subsidiary of Galena, which is traded on the Nasdaq Capital Market. If Galena shareholders approve the deal, they’ll get 32.5 percent of the combined company; Sellas shareholders, who the company says have agreed to approve the deal, get the rest.

In 2011, Galena, then known as RXi Pharmaceuticals and based in Worcester, MA, acquired an Arizona biotech that had licensed NeuVax in 2006 from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Henry Jackson Foundation, a nonprofit that supports military research. George Peoples, the San Antonio-based researcher who developed NeuVax, is also a cancer surgeon who has held various roles at MD Anderson over the years. Peoples is now the chief medical officer of a San Antonio biotech, Rapamycin Holdings.