Xanthus: Evolving Business Strategies




Episode Loading...




PharmaTelevision requires Javascript enabled and Adobe Flash Player to watch our programmes. If you do not have Flash installed, you can download it for free from the Adobe Flash homepage.

Improve your Internet experience and start watching exciting new video content.

Video title: Xanthus: Evolving Business Strategies
Released on: February 01, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
Share/save this page:
Email
Bookmark
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Follow us:
RSS
Twitter
  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
Fintan Walton talks to Mike Boss, Chief Business Officer, Xanthus Pharmaceuticals, about his role in the evolution of Xanthus, a biopharmaceutical company founded in 2001. After covering Mike's industry experience, Fintan and Mike discuss how Xanthus morphed from a personalised medicine company into a drug discovery firm, which today has five promising molecules in its product pipeline. All of the company's products are focused on the treatment of cancer and autoimmune disorders. With successful backing from a group of venture capital firms and US$25 M secured in a recent funding round, Xanthus is in a strong position. Although the firm's business strategy was originally to in-license small novel molecules and advance them to a stage where partnering can be assessed, the acquisition of new molecules has led the firm to adapt this strategy according to the stage of the product in development. For one of Xanthus' molecules, this will involve taking the product through clinical trials.
Michael Boss's experience in biotech industry.
Fintan Walton:
Welcome to PharmaVentures Business Review from San Francisco. On this show I have Michael Boss, Chief Business Officer at Xanthus Pharmaceuticals based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Welcome to the show.
Michael Boss:
Thank you Fintan Walton.
Fintan Walton:
Michael Boss, your name is synonyms with antibodies because you are the boss in the (indiscernable) patents. That I say that because it tells you a little bit about your history and your experience because you're originally joined the industry working on antibodies at Celltech and you are involved in obviously in the development of the capability to produce recombinant antibodies which is an important milestone, do you now you are involved in Xanthus Pharmaceuticals over those years you've had considerable amount of experience and at one stage you worked at Celltech then you moved over here to the US and you are involved in the area of diagnostics, want to tell us a little bit about that story.
Michael Boss:
There was a company original company was Genica Pharmaceuticals which was founded in 1990 as a clinical reference lab. The idea was the gene whose defect causes Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy was identified and the thought was to create a company that would do a diagnostic test on every male because it's an excellent disease that'll be a great business and it started the idea of having a specialized reference lab with proprietary technology and if you could get $750 times 2 million babies very nice business however the reality was that people did not want to do a muscle biopsy on their new born child [ph] and as they thought there was a problem.
Fintan Walton:
So that was when you are at Genica?
Michael Boss:
That was in fact just before I joined Genica and then I joined and we rapidly took the company into genetics and we started acquiring the rights for genes on exclusive use for diagnostic purposes and we bought a highly successful business in genetic and neurological diagnostic testing services.
Fintan Walton:
And that was eventually gonna acquired by Athena.
Michael Boss:
That was acquired by Athena Neurosciences which in turn was acquired quite rapidly by Elan.
Fintan Walton:
Right and you stayed with Elan up to relatively recently?
Michael Boss:
I stayed with Elan in fact I moved to I eventually moved in Elan corporate position managing a number of the strategic alliances and then I left there at the end of 2002 to come to Xanthus Pharmaceuticals .
Origins and morphing of Xanthus Pharmaceuticals into a drug development company..
Fintan Walton:
Right.Now the Xanthus Pharmaceuticals story is an interesting one because right at the very beginning that was a company that was involved in personalized medicine that was the focus of that?
Michael Boss:
That's right.
Fintan Walton:
And you've morphed that in a sense want to tell us about that.
Michael Boss:
Sure. So go back to 2001 when the company was actually founded and then it was actually founded as a personalized medicine company using what was what we call phenotyping and that is understanding how an individual metabolizes a drug because we are not merely a bag of genes. We are the consequence of our diet, whether you exercise, multi pharmacy effect how you metabolize an individual drug and so the technology was based on understanding how particular drug was metabolized and then using that data to adjust so that you could reduce the adverse effects and increase the opportunity for the drug to work in individuals and you may know a 100,000 people in the United States alone die each year of adverse drug events, so this is a big problem. However the reality was it was not something in that time period that was particularly fundable and so we morphed the company into a drug development company.
Fintan Walton:
So it was a great idea and it's like in lot of cases in biotech the funding climate at that particular time didn't suit that great idea?
Michael Boss:
Exactly.
Products and technology of Xanthus Pharmaceuticals .
Fintan Walton:
So you morphed it into a company just after that after you joined I think very shortly after that and when you morphed what where you morphing into what where you what ideas did you have that particular moment of time?
Michael Boss:
We had what we started with a compound that was originally called Amonafide we've now changed the name to Xanafide and that was a compound that was originally developed by Knoll Pharmaceuticals and it was known that it was effected by the metabolism of individuals and the thought was if we could just figure out how to correctly dose this drug then it would have good activity and so it was a way of combining the knowledge in the personalized medicine and the variable metabolism into a drug.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So where does that got to? I mean it sounds like that was an interesting compound coming through but I understand that's also lead into basically I think I would describe it as a rediscovery program is that correct?
Michael Boss:
That's infact common Fintan and what I would say so we The National Cancer Institute and Knoll Pharmaceuticals who originally developed it were primarily interested in solid tumors and they took it in, they took Amonafide into some 33 Phase II trials which is an enormous investment. However and this is going back to the late 80's early 90's at that time people were not particularly interested in hematological tumors and there however had been some Phase I trials in acute myeloid leukemia and the reality was those results were pretty interesting and so we've taken the drug now forward in acute myeloid leukemia and it's looking quite promising going all the way back to the personalized medicine it turns out with the adverse effect of Amonafide which the personalized medicine was designed to counter in the solid tumors is a variable reduction in neutrophils while in this form of leukemia those were exactly the cells that you want to kill and so you don't need the dose adjustment and so the reality is we are not using the base technology that the company started with although we are really excited about the progress we are making with Xanafide.
Fintan Walton:
So can you then generate new molecules on based on the design of the original molecule?
Michael Boss:
That's not the focus of the Xanafide program, we are taking it forward in an amount of"
The Symadex compound program.
Fintan Walton:
So the other compound that you've got is Symadex which also has an interesting story do you want to tell us about that?
Michael Boss:
Yes, that's a really interesting story so the compound was originally developed at the Technical University of Gdansk.
Fintan Walton:
In Poland?
Michael Boss:
In Poland, to have the activity but not the side effect profile of mitoxantrone and that was then licensed to BTG in the UK and we acquired exclusive worldwide rights from BTG.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Michael Boss:
And originally the compound was thought of as a fairly classic cytotoxic and we initiated oncology program based upon that level of understanding however at the same time because of the (indiscernable) of the molecule from mitoxantrone and mitoxantrone as you may know is approved not only in oncology but also in multiple sclerosis in fact it's the only small molecule currently approved in multiple sclerosis and so we thought that maybe there was an opportunity widening away from oncology into autoimmune disorders and we started some work in some autoimmune disorders models and we started getting some fantastic data and actually curative properties in some of these autoimmune disorders models and that caused us to say "hey this molecule has to have a different mechanism of action to that which was originally concerned" so we went back and we've now identified Symadex as a incredibly specific tyrosine-kinase-inhibitor and quite potent against FLT3.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So does that mean you've got to go back to the lab and do another sweep through various types of new molecules?
Michael Boss:
Well I think it provides an opportunity to expand in an area of biotech that is knowledged as desperately need of new drugs in the big markets Symadex could well have the right profile in oncology and in the treatment of certain forms of rather serious autoimmune disorders may be in the sort of acute Phase but for chronic administration we feel it'll be better to make some modifications to the molecule and so despite the fact that our model is more of a development company we are going back right now and doing a whole analoging program and we're actually quite excited about some of the early results already seeing.
Future business strategy for the drugs in clinical development.
Fintan Walton:
Right, So taking that forward then you've got those key drugs in clinical development, are you going to do that all on our own or you looking for any partners? What's your business strategy for those?
Michael Boss:
So it depends on the molecule Fintan. So with theXanafide and acute myeloid leukemia has a nicely defined niche and we are planning on taking that forward on all the way to registration ourselves.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Michael Boss:
With the autoimmune disorders that is not something that the company of our size can take through to registration.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Michael Boss:
Our thoughts are to see if we can get some human activity data and build rapidly build value in the program and when in that stage then partner that out.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So it basically you are trying to identify where the best clinical program can go forward for a specific use in autoimmune disorders?
Michael Boss:
Or at least an initial clinical program to obtain some human activity data so that potential partners can feel comfortable about the program and it builds value to demonstrate that the compound is in man and has some demonstrated activity.
Acquisition of Molecules from Schering AG and the opportunities.
Fintan Walton:
You've got remaining two other molecules in clinical development, one is in Phase I the other one is in preclinical, could you tell us little bit about those two molecules?
Michael Boss:
Yeah. Well actually we've got a rather surfeit of molecules we've now acquired five molecules, so we recently acquired the rights to two molecules from Schering AG [PharmaDeals ID = 25456] [PharmaDeals ID = 25180] , one of those molecules is fludarabine, fludarabine is approved in the US in an IV formulation. But in many countries in fact in 68 counties I believe in the oral formulation and we've acquired the US rights to the oral formulation and that is at a really nice opportunity for a smaller company to get the compound that is already approved X US and gives us the opportunity of hopefully a relatively short time frame to a US approval.
Fintan Walton:
Right and that's the one you are going to take forward yourselves?
Michael Boss:
And we are planning on taking that forward right now a lot depends on quite what FDA is going to require and our plan we are assembling the data and our plan is sort to go work with FDA and see what would be needed forward, needed for registration.
Fintan Walton:
So when we were talking about an oral formulation is that the formulation that's important? Is there a specific formulation?
Michael Boss:
Yes there is a specific in fact patented formulation which is the version that is marketed.
Fintan Walton:
Elsewhere outside the US?
Michael Boss:
Correct.
Fintan Walton:
Right, okay. So how long do you think that will take before you can get that molecule registration?
Michael Boss:
I wish we knew, I think when we come out of our FDA meeting which is planned for later in the year we'll have a much better perspective.
Inlicensing programs in potential therapeutic areas.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So that it's quite interesting because then the Xanthus set out as a company that's going to be in personalized medicine, you've started this in licensing program bringing in different molecules and different shapes and sizes and effect but you've managed to identify those that are as in I suppose two areas one is in the area of oncology, the other one in autoimmune disorders those are the two potential therapeutic areas that you've identified. Are you going to continue to in license similar molecules? Are you gonna stick to the pipeline that you've got now and focus on that and develop those going forward?
Michael Boss:
I think five molecules is plenty for us. So now we are not looking right now to acquire any further molecules. Our plan is to move our compounds forward, build value, partner certain external XUS and at the appropriate point and then we build value potentially partner rather molecules specifically and particularly the autoimmune disorders program which is potentially wide scope in different diseases and also is potentially with a novel mechanism of action drug which Symadex is a huge opportunity.
Future plans.
Fintan Walton:
And then one final question really is going forward in developing the business, are you looking for additional funding if you are are you thinking about an IPO, how do you how does a company like Xanthus because you've got five molecules that you've taking forward in clinical development you need the money to do that?
Michael Boss:
Well we have an excellent group of venture capitalists. We've recently announced raising some $25 million and at this point our focus is taking the compounds forward, building value and potentially doing some partnering arrangements.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So your next real significant piece of activity one from a commercial perspective is to partnering of these molecules?
Michael Boss:
Specifically the autoimmune disorders program.
Fintan Walton:
For the autoimmune disorders?
Michael Boss:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well thanks a lot Mike for coming along to the show. Thank you very much indeed.
Michael Boss:
You are very welcome, it was nice to be here.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Michael Boss
Chief Business Officer
Michael Boss has 25 years experience in the biotechnology industry and is well known for his leading role on the first patent for recombinant antibodies (the "Boss Patent"). Since his role at Celltech, Michael Boss's career has flourished. After co-founding Oros Instruments, a firm that developed and manufactured protein purification equipment in 1987, he joined Genica Pharmaceuticals in 1991, first as Vice President of Research and Development, and later in 1997, was named Vice President of Operations. Following his time at Genica, he held the position of Vice President at Elan. Michael Boss graduated from the University of London with a BSc and PhD in immunology and an MBA from the London Business School. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with Nobel Laureate Dr David Baltimore.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Xanthus Pharmaceuticals
Xanthus Pharmaceuticals , Inc. operates as a biopharmaceutical company. It focuses on the discovery, development, acquisition, and commercialization of small-molecule therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune disorders. The company's portfolio of drugs includes Xanafide, a small moleculeoncology compound for the treatment of secondary acute myeloid leukemia; Symadex, an FLT3-Inhibitor compound for women with metastatic breast cancer; Oral Fludarabine for chronic lymphocytic leukemia; P2045 for non small cell lung cancers; and Clomet for solid tumors. It has a facility in Montreal,Canada. The company was founded as Xanthus Life Sciences Inc in 2001 and changed its name to Xanthus Pharmaceuticals , Inc. in 2006. Xanthus Pharmaceuticals , Inc. is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.