Northwest Biotherapeutics aims to break new ground in battle against cancer with new product

Northwest Biotherapeutics continues work to battle cancer.

The small Maryland-based company, Northwest Biotherapeutics, nearly closed 10 years ago after it almost ran out of cash. With just one week to go before its doors closed, the company was saved by financial backer Linda Powers. Now, the company hopes to assert itself in a field that has seen well-known failures by developing experimental treatments and therapies for brain cancer and various inoperable tumors.

Powers became chairman of the company in 2007 and has invested over $20 million in the company and its drugs. Northwest is now worth almost $300 million, and has seen a jump in stocks up to the $7 range just this year. However, despite attention from institutional investors such as Goldman Sachs and Franklin Advisers Inc., some investors are wary of the company, noting the uncertainty and high risks involved with developing drugs for diseases that are difficult to treat.

Powers asserts in a recent Reuters interview, “Biotech is not for the faint of heart.” She continues, “Through two major recessions and pummeling in the capital markets, we’ve chosen to keep our focus.”

The hallmark of the company is a brain cancer drug called DCVax-L. This drug has been paramount to the company’s survival, providing strong trial results in a small selection of patients. Northwest has recently begun to test a similar drug called DCVax-Direct, which is designed for use against many different types of tumors that cannot be removed through surgery. These tumors are associated with cancers such as colon, pancreatic, breast and melanoma.

This drug is one of a new trend of similar drugs that prompts the body’s immune system to find and kill cancer cells with dendritic cells, which call upon t-cells and b-sells to make antibodies against the disease.

Biotech analyst for Summer Street Research, Carol Werther, said, “If (DCVax-L) has a positive result, it could be the new standard for care of brain cancer and have potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for newly diagnosed patients.” She adds, “And if it works against other solid tumors, it could be a multibillion-dollar product.”

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