Cancer therapy that zeroes in on stem cells seeks $50 million IPO

A biopharmaceutical company developing cancer therapies that zero in on cancer stem cells to treat brain cancer and acute myeloid leukemia is seeking to raise $50 million in an initial public offering.

Cancer stem cells are viewed as highly malignant “seeds” of tumors, according to the company’s website. Although they account for 5 percent or less of the tumor, they are responsible for the bulk of the cells that form it. By targeting cancer stem cells, the goal is to prevent or delay recurrence.

Stemline Therapeutics in New York is working with two compounds. Its lead compound, SL401, for acute leukemia is in phase 2b clinical trials. SL701 is in phase 2 clinical trials to treat high-grade glioma and pediatric patients with malignant glioma, but is also being developed to treat advanced brain cancer in children and adults.

Last year its brain cancer vaccine, licensed from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center,  had positive phase 2 clinical results.


Interestingly, the Madoff family is listed among its investors.

The IPO market for life science companies used to be viewed as an exit, but it’s become simply another fundraising avenue. Although the appetite for these deals is returning, companies are not exactly outperforming their targets, as demonstrated by the recent public offerings by Cempra and Greenway Medical Technologies, underscoring the market uncertainty. But if Cambridge, Massachusetts-based stem cell company Verastem‘s IPO is anything to go by, Stemline stands to get a warmer reception.

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