Novelos Becomes Cellectar, Returns to Madison Roots

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Novelos Therapeutics today announced a corporate name change that returns to the roots of the Madison, WI, company.

Novelos (OTCQX: NVLT) is now Cellectar Biosciences and will trade under the stock ticker symbol (OTCQX: CLRB) effective Wednesday. The new name should be familiar to those who follow Wisconsin’s life sciences industry. Novelos was formerly based in Newton, MA, but moved headquarters to Madison in 2011 after it acquired the former Cellectar and its pipeline of cancer drugs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Novelos had previously stopped developing its leading cancer drug candidate when the compound failed in a Phase III trial in 2010, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

Jamey Weichert, a University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor of radiology, founded the original Cellectar in 2002 and currently serves as Cellectar Biosciences’ chief scientific officer.

In recent months, the company has evaluated its business strategy and development pipeline to take “steps to begin rebuilding shareholder value,” CEO Simon Pedder said in a press release today. Those steps have included making changes to the board of directors and management and raising $4 million from investors to advance clinical trials in two of its drug candidates.

Cellectar Biosciences is developing compounds that either kill cancer cells or act as imaging agents for detecting cancer. Its drugs are designed to target cancer cells, including cancer stem cells, while minimizing damage to healthy cells.

The company also provided more details about its cancer drug development strategy. It is focusing its efforts on the tumor imaging agents first because they can be developed faster and validate the company’s drug-delivery technology.

The company last week announced plans to start a Phase II imaging trial of its “Light” compound in glioblastoma, a type of brain or spinal tumor, during the first quarter of 2014. Today the firm said that trial is expected to enroll around 36 patients across 10 medical centers and be completed by the end of the year.

Cellectar Biosciences also said it plans to submit an investigational new drug application this year to initiate a Phase I trial of its “Glow2” compound—a non-radioactive agent that helps make tumors visible during operations—in breast cancer surgery.

“We look forward to starting this new chapter and are proud to do so under a new name that reflects the origins of our technology and the simplicity of our mission to create cancer and cancer stem cell selective technology,” Pedder said in the release.