Bind Therapeutics had the dubious honor of being one of only a handful of biotechs to file for bankruptcy last year. After a series of trial failures, dropped deals and major staff cuts, Bind went into Chapter 11, and its assets were sold off to Pfizer for just $40 million.
That was a big comedown for the company, which had been valued at more than $200 million just four years ago.
Co-founded by MIT superstar Robert Langer, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company was at the cutting edge of targeted and programmable therapeutics called Accurins to combat cancer using nanoparticles. It caught the interests of Amgen, Pfizer, Roche and Merck; went public to the tune of $70 million; and along the way picked up a Fierce 15 award.
Things didn’t take long to go wrong after its IPO. In 2014, Amgen walked away from a $180 million collaboration with Bind after trial results didn’t go their way.
But in 2016, it got much worse. The biotech's nanoparticle candidate Bind-014 didn't perform up to standard in a key trial. Running short on cash, Bind said it would cut its workforce by more than a third and scout for new capital to continue its research.
Bind-014 was being developed using a nano-engineered targeting mechanism that binds to tumor cells. It was designed to deliver a toxic payload with limited damage to nearby healthy tissue.
In its first phase 2 study, iNSITE 1, Bind tested the therapy in patients with advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Bind-014 demonstrated a 52.5% 6-week disease control rate for the intention-to-treat population and 70% in the per-protocol population, which exceeded the trial's target rate of 65%. The company chalked this up as a success, saying it saw opportunities to continue developing Bind-014 in NSCLC.
But a second study in patients with cervical and head and neck cancers, iNSITE 2, didn't work as well. In the first stage of the trial, Bind-014 showed an objective response rate of just 10% in the head and neck cancer cohort. There were no objective responses in the cervical cancer cohort.
Based on these weaker results, Bind halted iNSITE 2 enrollment. Its cash reserves were dwindling and it had millions of dollars in debt hanging around its neck, so it couldn’t afford to run new trials.
At the time, Bind CEO Andrew Hirsch told FierceBiotech that the company's technology worked, but he admitted it wasn’t quite good enough yet. He said he was weighing whether to sell the company or look to set up combo trials with immuno-oncology players.
Hirsch also noted questions about some of the trials themselves. When asked what went wrong, Hirsch said, “The choice of payload is really important in terms of how it performs, and what the pharmaceutical properties of that payload are. I think for Bind-014, I'm not convinced it was the right payload choice given what we now know about the treatment.”
An I-O deal never happened, and in May of last year, the biotech filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and prepared to reorganize. In the end, former partner Pfizer bought up the biotech’s assets in a $40 million bid, with around $13 million of the proceeds going to its increasingly impatient lender Hercules Technology. It’s not clear how much, if anything, went to Bind shareholders.
This was a case of hyped tech backed by big names, such as Langer, that didn't deliver, and a management team that failed to make a deal better for shareholders, and its workers, than a bankruptcy-court asset sale.