National Cancer Institute Awards Cellectar $2M For Clinical Study

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Cellectar Biosciences has received a $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that will support a Phase 2 clinical study of its leading drug candidate, the biotech company said earlier this week.

Madison, WI-based Cellectar (NASDAQ: CLRB) said that the funding is aimed at advancing CLR 131, which has the potential to treat multiple myeloma and other types of blood cancer.

The funding represents the second phase of a NCI Fast-Track Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. The first phase of the grant, which was announced in October and awarded up to $2.3 million to Cellectar, was focused on the pre-clinical development of a drug candidate designed to treat micro-metastatic disease. However, Cellectar said this week that it changed course and decided to “redeploy” first-phase funds toward CLR 131.

CLR 131’s payload is iodine-131, a cell-killing radioisotope frequently used to treat thyroid cancer. Jim Caruso, Cellectar’s president and CEO, said he expects that combining iodine-131 with his company’s drug delivery vehicle will lead to “unique clinical benefits.”

Past studies have shown that blood cancers are “highly sensitive to radiotherapeutics,” Caruso said in a prepared statement.

Cellectar’s stock price was $2.71 at the end of trading on Wednesday, the day the latest grant was announced. That was up about 7 percent from Tuesday’s close of $2.54 per share. The rest of the week saw Cellectar’s stock drop slightly, to $2.61 per share when markets closed on Friday.

The last several months have seen some major swings in the company’s performance on Wall Street. In March, Cellectar announced a 1-for-10 reverse stock split, meaning stockholders were given one share for every 10 shares in the company they owned. Cellectar said the move was done in part to ensure that its stock price stayed above $1, which is a requirement for being listed on the Nasdaq exchange.

Then, in May, shares in the company rose sharply after it announced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published identification numbers for Cellectar’s patent applications for phospholipid drug conjugates, a core part of the company’s technology that helps deliver drugs and imaging agents to their targets. The company’s stock has since given back some of those gains, though it currently doesn’t appear to be in any imminent danger of dropping below the $1 threshold.

There have also been a couple key personnel changes recently at Cellectar. Last month, co-founder and chief scientific officer Jamey Weichert, who is also a radiology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, left the company. Not long after that, Cellectar named Jarrod Longcor as its senior vice president of corporate development and operations.