Tekmira Pharmaceuticals got a lot of free PR a few months ago during the Ebola scare last spring, as the firm was developing a treatment for the dreaded and highly transmissible disease. Tekmira’s share price hit a high of $28 on March 6th and slid back down when it turned out the government was working with three firms developing Ebola treatments and treated a few Americans with an experimental drug from Mapp Biopharmaceuticals.
According to investigative research firm TheStreetSweeper, investors should be wary of Tekmira given the company and its management’s track record, and especially wary given the recent spike in share price after the announcement of its merger with OnCore to develop a hepatitis B therapy.
OnCore has shady history
Sonya Colberg, Senior Investigative Reporter for TheStreetSweeper, notes that OnCore was “started as an afterthought in 2012, after a co-founder had already sold off its desirable product – a hepatitis C treatment.”
She says that OnCore bought its way into existence and provides a brief chronology of how things went down:
Oncore made a deal in September 2014 to make $150 million in milestone payments, and pay future royalties on any future drug sales, for NeuroVive Pharmaceutical’s hepatitis B drug candidate.
Then in October 2014, Oncore made an undisclosed cash offer to buy Enantigen Therapeutics who developed the experimental hepatitis B treatment. Coincidentally, both OnCore and Enantigen are located in the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center outside of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
In November 2014, OnCore filed fan initial public offering that never materialized.
Colberg doesn’t mince words with her opinion of the Tekmira – OnCore merger: “So the situation comes down to Tekmira buying a company after it had already sold its big idea and then paid mightily for other companies’ ideas. We don’t believe this merger target can possibly be worth $400 million.”
Tekmira has no approved products in 22 years
TheStreetSweeper report also notes that since its founding 22+ years ago, Tekmira has tried to develop nine products.
To date, the three most advanced candidates for Tekmira have only reached Phase II, and the Ebola treatment that got all the hype for Tekmira last spring is only in Phase I.
Five products (including another Ebola treatment) haven’t even made it through pre-clinical testing yet.
Colberg also points out that Tekmira still faces several years of clinical trials with its new hepatitis B candidate, and even after the trials are complete, there is no certainty of FDA approval or success in bringing the treatment to market.