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Cell Pathways Goes Its Own Way

Executive Summary

Cell Pathways began as the pet project of a man suffering a rare inherited disease causing colon polyps. He'd heard an anti-inflammatory from Merck might help, and when it did, he asked the prescribing physician to research it further. Hopes that Merck would take up the work were dismissed, so the founders decided to develop a metabolite of the original drug on their own. They got some money from angel investors and set to. The small firm came to believe its compound triggered cell death by a novel mechanism-and decided utter secrecy was necessary to protect the discovery. That choice meant Cell Pathways built no scientific credibility and found no partners. A new CEO has attracted some investors, taken the firm public and expanded its focus to cancer treatment. He too sought partners at first, before deciding the company had more to gain by keeping all rights to the product. Cell Pathways' credibility problem--compounded by a Phase III failure early in 1999--could be greatly healed if, as management now hopes, a revised data package convinces FDA to approve Aptosyn after all. The company insists it is not a one-trick pony, and says Aptosyn is in fact the first in a new class of compounds with the power to treat and even prevent some cancers. But before it can argue for a platform, it must prove the product works.


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