Cancer player Nordic Nanovector stokes takeover talk

Oslo, Norway
Oslo, Norway, where Nordic Nanovector is based.

Nordic Nanovector CEO Luigi Costa has talked up the level of third-party interest in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) candidate Betalutin. Costa claimed the level of interest in the asset is growing as clinical data accumulates, triggering a double-digit jump in Nanovector’s stock price.

Nanovector is now up 670% over the past year. The sharp rise covers a period in which Nanovector has bounced back from a filing-delaying R&D rejig and cases of reversible thrombocytopenia and neutropenia to advanced to the cusp of a pivotal study of its CD37-targeting antibody-radionuclide conjugate. Along the way, Nanovector has released data from its phase 1/2 trial, spurring the interest of investors and, according to Costa, the attention of possible partners and buyers.

“We talk a lot with companies, and as the data improves and the company develops, the more interest we have, that's for sure,” Costa told Reuters.

Nanovector is up more than 10% this week on the strength of the comment, although at this stage Costa is yet to commit to seeking a buyer, let alone find a company willing to meet the asking price. Pushing ahead with development and potentially commercialization of Betalutin solo or in a partnership are both still options.

“[We will be] opportunistic about this,” Costa said.

The task of deciding the best path forward will become more of a priority if Betalutin can clear the clinical hurdles it faces. With the phase 1/2 trial reporting overall and complete response rates of 63% and 29% in 35 heavily pretreated patients with relapsed NHL last year, the asset is on the cusp of advancing to the next stage of development.

Nanovector raised NOK 499 million ($60 million) to fund development late last year, 20 months after it pulled off a NOK 575 million IPO, one of the larger biotech listings seen in Europe in 2015. Those financings have set Nanovector up to embark on a development path it sees leading to a filing for FDA approval in third-line follicular lymphoma in the first half of 2019 and have the drug on the market before the decade is over.

"Our timeline is based on the assumption that the FDA will grant us a breakthrough therapy designation and accelerated approval,” Costa said.