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Galena Biopharma licenses cancer pain drug Abstral

NEW YORK (AP) -- Galena Biopharma Inc. said Monday it acquired the U.S. rights to a fast-acting drug designed to treat severe pain in cancer patients.

Galena is acquiring a drug called Abstral from Orexo AB of Sweden. Abstral is a tablet form of fentanyl, a powerful pain drug, and it is designed to dissolve under the tongue within seconds. The Food and Drug Administration approval Abstral in January 2011 for use against bouts of severe and unpredictable "breakthrough" pain in patients who are already being treated with other opioid pain drugs, and whose bodies are adjusting to the medication — meaning the medication is becoming less effective.

Shares of Galena Biopharma rose 7 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $1.99 in morning trading.

The Lake Oswego, Ore., company will pay Orexo $10 million upfront and will pay $5 million more within 12 months. Orexo will also get royalty payments of more than 10 percent on sales, and it can get additional payments based on sales targets.

The companies said Abstral is the best-selling drug of its kind in Europe, with $54 million in sales in 2012.

Abstral is Galena's first approved drug. It is researching several experimental products including the cancer treatment NeuVax, which is designed to induce immunity to breast cancer recurrence in certain patients. Galena is also studying NeuVax as a treatment for prostate cancer. The company said Monday that it wants to have revenue in 2014 to support further development of its drugs. Galena recently said it has enough cash on hand to stay in business into 2014.

Galena is taking out a $15 million loan to fund the acquisition of Abstral. It said the debt will mature in 2016.