It looks like the end has arrived for once-promising biotech company Mirna Therapeutics.
After its lead drug produced severe side effects during a Phase 1 study, the Austin company had to halt any attempts to bring that drug to market. Late last year, Mirna Therapeutics also decided to halt its research and development activity and explore a sale of the company and its assets.
An unknown number of employees were also laid off earlier this year. As of March 31, Mirna had seven employees still on staff, according to securities filings.
A company spokesman said: "Mirna has engaged a financial adviser to assist in the evaluation of strategic options which serve shareholders' best interests. The company continues discussions with third parties in an effort to complete a transaction aligned with this goal.
Investing in a biotechnology company is one of the riskiest things someone can do with their money. If the company’s product makes it through the long road to regulatory approval, the rewards are enormous.
Only 12 percent of drugs that reached Phase II clinical trials ever made it to market, according to a 2012 study by research firm KMR Group. And if you track the pre-clinical trial drugs, only 3 percent ever succeed, according to that same study.
The company’s stock, which once traded as high as $9.43, is now hovering around $2.
The company issued a news release this week as part of its first quarter earnings announcement that said Mirna is trying to sell its assets or merge with another company.
“Further operating costs and workforce reductions were also implemented to reduce overall cash burn,” the company said in a written statement.
In September Mirna had $72 million in cash on hand, but said that number has now dropped to $57.5 million.
The company said it is spending between $1.5 million to $2 million each quarter, though almost none of that is for research and development activities. Winding a company down can be expensive. Mirna had to pay $3.8 million to break its lease, the company disclosed this week, and millions more to break employee contracts.
Mirna specializes in developing synthetic drugs that mimic microRNA, which plays a crucial regulatory role in cells. In the now-closed Phase 1 trial, the drug was being used on patients with liver cancer, lymphomas and leukemias.
This drug mimics the naturally occurring microRNA tumor suppressor miR-34, which is "expressed in a wide variety of cancers," the company says on its website. Mirna entered clinical trial testing in 2013.
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