Borean Pharma: Novel Protein Technology Opens Doors to Danish Biotech Company




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Video title: Borean Pharma: Novel Protein Technology Opens Doors to Danish Biotech Company
Released on: July 01, 2007. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
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In this exclusive interview, Fintan Walton talks to Johanna Holldack, CEO of Borean Pharma. The conversation begins with a discussion on the unique aspects of Borean's proprietary technology, including its scaffold library, which is derived from a human protein, and whose compounds possess features that facilitate the process of their development. Johanna then discusses Borean's current strategy of developing its lead molecules for entry into clinical trials in 2009. The 2006 product acquisition deal between Borean and F. Hoffmann-La Roche is also discussed, and Johanna explains why Roche may have been interested in acquiring one of Borean's lead candidates. The interview then turns towards the state of the biotech industry in Denmark, and how this is backed by innovative research, especially in the field of protein engineering, that is taking place in the Denmark's research institutes and universities. The importance of international investors to small biotech companies is covered, and the interview concludes with Johanna's speculation on whether the company will undergo an IPO or an acquisition.
Borean Pharma's technology platform based on antibody analogs.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures Business review here live at Bio in Boston. On this show I have Johanna Holldack, CEO of Borean Pharma you are based in Denmark. Welcome to the show.
Johanna Holldack:
Yes. Thank you very much.
Fintan Walton:
Borean is a Danish biotech company and it has, it's got a specific type of technology or a drug platform I suppose which is based on antibody analogs. Would you Jonanna tell us a little bit about that technology and how it differentiates to other companies attempts to come up with antibody analogs?
Johanna Holldack:
Okay, the technology is based on the human molecule which is Tetranectin and what you do is, what we did in the past, we took the molecule and changed to that random that we build a whole library with 10 times (indiscernable) different molecules and now we screen this library and identify the compounds that we want to develop any further. What differentiates us from other Scaffold companies is the fact that it's a human protein which is important when you think about immunogenecity and they are --
Fintan Walton:
It's natural human protein?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes it is a human protein. And once we identify it and take it out of the library this is the final compound you don't need to humanize it, you don't need to attach things to it, this is the final compound. So that makes it easier in identifying the compounds and to develop them. In addition it has very specific features that no other Scaffold in the world has and that is a very strong carbohydrate binding, so it binds to sugars very strongly and specifically and it does induce like for instance classical monoclonal antibodies too it induces complement lysis and Hemolysis, so that makes it a terrific platform for the development of new compounds against Tumors.
Strategy of selection of lead molecules and targets.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so from that platform you have started to create a number of lead molecules?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
What is your strategy going forward with those, I mean why did you select those molecules? Was this specific because of the platform that you got was (indiscernable) you've got or was it because of the therapeutics need? what was the driver there?
Johanna Holldack:
Well the driver is I think the specific profiles these compounds have, our next milestone or what is really important to create more value, increase the value of the whole company is to move this through pharma development through the pharma toxicology studies the GMP production of the molecule and then initiate clinical trials and that is, this is our next big milestone and I hope to achieve that in 2009.
Fintan Walton:
But at the moment the targets that you have, that you have set yourself.
Johanna Holldack:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
I mean I think which ones of have you identified as the areas you want to focus on?
Johanna Holldack:
Okay.
Fintan Walton:
At this stage?
Johanna Holldack:
The first compound we worked on was on Apo-1 which has been acquired by Hoffmann-La Roche [PharmaDeals ID = 24164] last year and they continued the development for a the proof of concept of our technology to utilize a TNFantagonist.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Johanna Holldack:
And into addition to that we have identified more than 10 new targets where we already did the discovery step took them out of our library and we know the proof of concept in animals. We are very much focused on all the new diseases on oncology so all of our targets are in that therapeutic area.
Fintan Walton:
So these targets are already well defined targets?
Johanna Holldack:
Oh yeah, oh yeah.
Fintan Walton:
So you are coming up with alternative methods too?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes, well you know there are different approaches either you take a compound that is validated in the clinical trials or even in the market or you identify compounds that have not been validated in any of those, they are of course more risky. So we have a mixed bag, we have targets that are already successful in the market and we have more recently identified some where we know that they work in a clinic but we ,where we can improve them and get them to the market.
Trimerization technology, E.coli system and the product acquisition deal between Boreanand F. Hoffmann-La Roche.
Fintan Walton:
So the deal that you did with Roche about I think it was by a year-ago now?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
Could you tell us about that I mean is that why did, and why did Roche do a deal with you guys and what was good about that time that you had?
Johanna Holldack:
Because we have a very unique technology in addition to the platform technologies that I described and that is the Trimerization technology.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Johanna Holldack:
And we trimerize ApoA-1 and that has a couple of advantages. First of all the trimerisation attaching these coiled structure to the given protein makes it bigger and prolongs therefore the half life because the filtration through the kidney takes longer. But the trimerization does not only prolong the half life it's stabilizes proteins. The trimerization module is a very, very stable protein as long as you don't boil it, it's stable. So it's stabilizes the ApoA-1 makes it easier to produce and doesn't require the trimerize ApoA-1 doesn't have to be liquidated before you inject it.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Johanna Holldack:
So there are many technical advantages that the trimerization can bring to any given protein.
Fintan Walton:
And is there collaboration with you and Roche around this or they just taking it and they are going up?
Johanna Holldack:
They acquired, yes.
Fintan Walton:
They're going off with it on their own?
Johanna Holldack:
Well until last week actually we had a very thorough tech [ph] transfer. We produce some proteinfor them and we transferred all the knowhow in the production of the protein to them but now they are basically developing on their own.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So that's gonna be the first molecule to be more as for to validate your technology, is that correct?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes, yes. It will be the first one to go into humans, yes.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah. So second, so the remaining molecules that you have got are the ones that you've been creating under your protein Engineering scheme. That's will mean you need more money?
Johanna Holldack:
They will need what?
Fintan Walton:
You need more money?
Johanna Holldack:
Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. Definitely, I mean.
Fintan Walton:
Unusual for a biotech company but you may need some money too. Are you looking to raise more money for?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes, yes.
Fintan Walton:
Because I suppose what's important for a company like Borean Pharma is that you've got a very innovative technology, but the key thing is you got to take it now into humans and that's gonna cost money.
Johanna Holldack:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
And that's going to be incredibly important for the validation of the technology?
Johanna Holldack:
Absolutely, and as you probably know GMP manufacturing the pharma toxicology program for each of the potential new compounds would cost a couple of million. So yes we are rising more money at this point in time.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and the system that you used to the, the expression system used is the E.Coli system?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes, for the majority of our compounds we use E.Coli, some of them they have to be produced in the mammalian cells.
Fintan Walton:
Right, okay and do you foresee that as being a contract manufacturers or you are gonna outsource that to a company like CMC based in Denmark?
Johanna Holldack:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
Maybe.
Johanna Holldack:
Yeah, for instance.
State of biotechnology sector in Denmark
Fintan Walton:
It could do yeah, yeah I'm sure and just talking about Denmark I mean it's clearly got some very good universities and research institutes, got a good sound science. From your perspective how was biotech going and doing in Denmark right now Copenhagen?
Johanna Holldack:
Well you know there are different aspects important for the success of a biotech company and the first one is the science has to be sound and Denmark is a absolutely wonderful place for ProteinEngineering in particularly University of Aarhus is one of the number one locations in the world, I would think this regard to a Protein Engineering. Now when you move a compound out of the discovery area into pharma development you need people with a different skill set and there it becomes a little challenging to get them at least into Aarhus but if you look at Medicon Valley they are very successful biotech companies and if you look at the international funding that biotech companies in Denmark can get from international investors it makes it very clear that it's a very good location for the biotech industry.
Future financing and the importance of having a large international investing group.
Fintan Walton:
So, but from you mentioned you gonna raise money for your company, the original rounds of finance came from within Denmark, is that correct?
Johanna Holldack:
The first the seed financing came from investors in Denmark in the last round in 2005 we got international investors in from Switzerland and from the Netherlands.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, and now when you for the current round that you're looking for?
Johanna Holldack:
I think we'd be even more international.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and then how important is that for a company like yours to get a have a large international investing group?
Johanna Holldack:
I think it is very important because you know in every investor that brings in money will be playing a role in the board and opens the door to a different role that acts in a different network, so I think it is very important. And looking from the outside of the company if you attract important international investors then everybody understands that there must be some value in the company.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Johanna Holldack:
So absolutely it's absolutely key.
Fintan Walton:
So when you are talking to those investors are you saying to them we were going to be you're gonna get your money back because we're gonna do an IPO or you going to get or you going to get it back because you're gonna be acquired in the future?
Johanna Holldack:
I guess.
Fintan Walton:
It's difficult to know it but?
Johanna Holldack:
Well you know that both ways can be very rewarding for any given investor right?
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Johanna Holldack:
Right now, I mean a couple of years-ago everybody did a IPO and it was the only way to go. If you look at the year 2007 the number of IPO's just were limited although the window is getting more opened these days. I would love to do another IPO. Is that a realistic? I am not so sure.
Fintan Walton:
Would you say you did one before?
Johanna Holldack:
I did one before.
Fintan Walton:
With, with who?
Johanna Holldack:
MediGene.
Fintan Walton:
MediGene, yeah?
Johanna Holldack:
Yeah, but
Fintan Walton:
You had a what was the position on MediGene? you had a...?
Johanna Holldack:
I was Chief Operating Officer.
Fintan Walton:
Chief Operating Officer, yes, fine so you look forward to doing another IPO then Johanna?
Johanna Holldack:
Me personally, yes.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, okay good. I'm sure the investors will be pleased to hear that too. If you can get it away at the right price?
Johanna Holldack:
Sure.
Fintan Walton:
Listen, I think it was an excellent to talk to you about Borean Pharma and the future. It sounds like an exciting company and we wish you all the best for the future. Thanks for coming on the show.
Johanna Holldack:
Thank you very much. That's been great being here.
Fintan Walton:
Thank you.
Johanna Holldack:
Thanks.
Johanna Holldack
CEO
Dr Johanna Holldack is CEO of Borean Pharma. Her international management track record in Germany, the US, Italy and theNetherlands includes the strategic selection and evaluation of R&D projects, global project management, the establishment of regulatory and quality assessment procedures, and the preparation of a product launch in the US. In addition, she has extensive business experience in organizational design, budgeting, strategic planning, M&A and IPO execution for a major German biotech firm. Dr Johanna Holldack's previous posts included Chief Operating Officer at Borean, Chief Operations Officer at MediGene in Munich, Germany, and Vice President Global Vaccines and Therapeutics at Chiron, in Emeryville, US. Before entering the pharmaceutical industry, Dr Holldack spent more than a decade as Research Associate and Assistant Professor in Paediatrics and Paediatric oncology and haematology at the Universities in Essen and Freiburg, Germany, as well as at the Harvard Medical School in the US. Dr Holldackwas awarded the research fellowship of Deutsche Krebshilfe at the Harvard Medical School in the US. She studied medicine at the Georg-August-University in Gottingen, Germany where she earned her MD.
Borean Pharma
Borean Pharma is a Danish drug discovery and development company focused on recombinant protein technology. The company's technology platform has the potential for design, development and production of a new generation of pharmaceutical protein products. The advantage of Borean's protein products is that they have a straightforward modular structure that is easy to reconfigure. In contrast, traditional antibody molecules have a complicated structure and low design flexibility, and are costly to produce on an industrial scale. The company's antibody-analogues are based on naturally occurring human proteins, and therefore have a lower risk of immunogenicity. The two main components of Borean's technology platform are its CTLD (C-type lectin domain) library technology and a trimerisation technology. In addition, the company has a broad set of supporting tools that cover key elements from research to product development, including the cost-efficient Escherischia coli-based production of final products. Borean Pharma has one lead product in preclinical development for rheumatoid arthritis, and has ongoing research programmes addressing additional opportunities in the general area of cancer and immune disorders.