In my last article I pondered what was next for Ziopharm (ZIOP). In early September the company completed a small PIPE for approximately $5MM plus warrants for a like amount. I believe they were trying to put enough gas in the tank to safely make it to the next leg of the race.
The next leg may be upon them. On Friday, the company reported some very encouraging randomized Phase II data on its Sarcoma drug , palifosfamide (ZIO-201).The data was presented at the annual meeting of the Connective Tissue Oncology Society in Miami Beach.
While Ziopharm has yet to land a partner for any of its programs, that may soon change. Speaking from the conference, CEO Dr. Jonathan Lewis, cited "many considerations and options" for partnering. "The ideal thing would be to do a regional deal in Europe first, with someone who's very good at manufacturing, retaining rights in the U.S. and then go from there," he told BioWorld Today (here). "The clinical-development part we're quite good at."
Many experts in the field believe that palifosfamide holds promise.
George Demetri, director of Center for Sarcoma and Bone Oncology and Ludwig Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, said:
These interim results are very promising, indicating a potentially new drug to help control this life-threatening disease with acceptable safety and quality of life.
Lawrence Einhorn, professor at Simon Cancer Center of Indiana University Medical Center, said:
These data are not only encouraging for sarcoma but hopefully palifosfamide may also work in treating other cancers. This is particularly interesting if the oral form is successful in the clinic.
My bull thesis on Ziopharm remains intact. The company has 2 mid-stage drugs and one early stage compound and a market cap of just $75MM.Darinaparsin (ZIO-101) the other mid-stage drug was given much attention at ASCO this June.
I believe it likely that Ziopharm will be able to partner one(or both) of its mid stage programs short term. This will hopefully strengthen the company's balance sheet and cause a few more Wall Street analysts to take a serious look at this interesting micro-cap play.
Disclosure: Author holds a long position in ZIOP