Proactive Investors - Run By Investors For Investors

Humanigen CEO optimistic on drug candidate after pulling company from the brink

The biotech is in the early stages of work on a drug designed to reduce the sometimes dangerous side effects of a cancer therapy involving altered T cells
Cameron Durrant
The company was in ‘pretty dire straits,' Dr Cameron Durrant says

Almost three and a half years ago, Cameron Durrant made one of those pivotal decisions that executives face perhaps once or twice in their careers.

Several colleagues had called him about taking the reins of Humanigen Inc (OTCMKTS:HGEN), a company that’s now getting into the clinic to reduce the sometimes fatal and dangerous side effects of CAR-T, a new approach to cancer therapy involving altered T cells.

But there were a few twists. The company had filed for bankruptcy, with slim prospects of getting out. It had been delisted from the Nasdaq, was facing multiple class-action lawsuits, and its drug pipeline was in disarray. The little money the company had would probably be spent on the bankruptcy and legal actions. The board had imploded.

READ: Humanigen study of its monoclonal antibody in CAR-T therapy featured in medical journal

“The company was in pretty dire straits,” Durrant told Proactive Investors.

Durrant consulted with family and industry colleagues and joined the board in January 2016, effectively working as the CEO, a role he officially took in March 2016.

An enticement, according to Durrant, was the Burlingame, California, company’s stable of drug candidates.

Prior work for the turnaround specialist includes serving as CEO at three specialty pharma companies and in senior executive roles at Pharmacia Corp, now part of Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE), as well as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ).

Humanigen emerged from bankruptcy in June 2016, but it had another setback when it was beaten to approval by a competitor that won Food and Drug Administration approval in August 2017 for benznidazole, a treatment of Chagas disease, a tropical, parasitic illness.

Focus on lenzilumab

Since then, the company has concentrated on its main drug candidate, lenzilumab. It’s a recombinant monoclonal antibody designed to treat side effects associated with CAR-T therapies used in the treatment of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and adults with advanced lymphomas. The side effects include fever, heartbeat irregularities, low blood pressure, organ failure, seizures, coma, brain swelling and sometimes death.

Lenzilumab, according to Humanigen, shows promise in neutralizing a substance that was previously thought to promote growth of white blood cells but is actually tied to inflammatory processes that can occur during CAR-T therapies and lead to the side effects. Pre-clinical work has shown lenzilumab is effective in preventing the side effects and may make the CAR-T therapies more effective, according to the company.

Durrant is optimistic about the company’s prospects as he steps up fundraising and hunts for partnerships and deals.

“We have additional investors who are willing to pony up,” he said, “As well as considerable proactive outreach from potential pharms partners and leading key opinion leaders and clinicians in the field. We think we can make some great things happen.”

View full HGEN profile View Profile

Humanigen Inc Timeline

Related Articles

researcher at microscope
May 24 2019
Its lead asset, RXC004, is part of a potentially breakthrough group of cancer drugs called Porcupine inhibitors
Scientists in a lab
January 30 2019
CEO Gary Phillips says Pharmaxis’ healthy cash balance gives it time to choose between in-house and partnering options.
February 01 2019
The cancer detection device is on track to finish a key clinical study in the first quarter of 2019, but in the meantime, it has shown promise in detecting abnormalities in unborn children
Copyright ©, 2019. All Rights Reserved - Proactive Investors North America Inc., Proactive Investors LLC

Market Indices, Commodities and Regulatory News Headlines copyright © Morningstar. Data delayed 15 minutes unless otherwise indicated. Terms of use