Eleven rebrands as Sesen as data readout nears

A lotus flower, the plant behind Sesen's name. (Yoshikazu TAKADA/CC BY 2.0)

Eleven Biotherapeutics is changing its name to Sesen Bio. The change comes 20 months after the then-flailing biotech merged with Viventia Bio and refocused on oncology.

Viventia essentially took control of the combined company, with its leadership team taking over and executing its cancer-focused strategy. However, the company took the Eleven name. Now, the firm has severed that link to its past.

The company is rebranding as Sesen and changing its stock ticker to SESN. Sesen said the name, the Egyptian word for an ancient lotus flower symbol, better reflects its focus on oncology.

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The company is changing its name days before an important data readout. Three-month data from a phase 3 trial of antibody-drug conjugate Vicinium in bladder cancer patients are due on May 21.

The data are a significant stepping stone on a path Sesen sees leading to 12-month data around the middle of next year and regulatory approval beyond that. Sesen will need to raise cash to reach the 12-month data.

Rebranding distances Sesen from the troubles of Eleven, a startup formed in 2010 by Third Rock and Flagship. Eleven built on that strong foundation by pulling in private and public money to take an eye drug deep into the clinic. The plan unravelled in 2015 and 2016 when two phase 3 flops wiped out Eleven’s lead candidate.

Eleven offloaded a preclinical IL-6 drug to Roche to keep going before striking the deal with Viventia. The Roche deal generated $7.5 million upfront and a further $22.5 million when the FDA signed off on an IND in 2016. Progress has slowed since then. Roche withdrew the phase 1 later in 2016 and the deal generated no revenues in the most recent quarter.