Virttu Biologics: Stephen Powell. Transforming the future treatment of cancer using oncolytic viral therapy




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: Virttu Biologics: Stephen Powell. Transforming the future treatment of cancer using oncolytic viral therapy
Released on: January 23, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
Share/save this page:
Email
Bookmark
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Follow us:
RSS
Twitter
  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at BioEurope 2012 in Hamburg, Germany, Fintan Walton talks to Stephen Powell, the CEO at Virttu Biologics
Summary about origin and main focus of Virttu Biologics
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioEurope, in Hamburg, in 2012. On this show I have Stephen Powell, who is CEO of a company called Virttu, which is based in Glasgow, Scotland. Welcome.
Stephen Powell:
Good morning.
Fintan Walton:
Good morning to you. Virttu, was founded about 2000, about 12-years ago?
Stephen Powell:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
Absolutely, so tell us about the origins of the business?
Stephen Powell:
It's founded from the department of neurovirulence, so it's a virus based company, behind it is a foundation of some like 20-years worth of research looking at the ability of viruses to be used as a positive rather than a negative to use viruses to kill tumor cells. So the products that we are developing are called oncolytic viruses. So we use these viruses which are selected for tumor cells to infect the tumor and to lies or blow apart the tumor cells.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so where which, what viruses are you using? What are your targets?
Stephen Powell:
So all of our technology is based on HSV1, which is herpes simplex virus, it's the virus that most of us acquainted with through cold sores. It's an engineered virus, it's very simple gene deletion so that the virus can infect both healthy and cancerous cells but can only multiply, can only replicate in cancer cells.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so that means it can, it's obviously then targeted to only certain types of cancer, is that correct?
Stephen Powell:
We've done a lot of work both in research and preclinical development looking at it's tropism, it's ability to infect and replicate pretty much across the board in solid tumor cells, but we have focused our activity in three clinical areas brain tumors, liver cancer hepatocellular carcinoma and mesothelioma which is a cancer of the lung.
Clinical development strategies of Virttu Biologics' products
Fintan Walton:
And, so tell us a bit about the pipeline then, the actual pipeline that you are developing?
Stephen Powell:
So we have a technology platform which is basically an engineering capability to produce variance, oncolytic variance of HSV and produce those viruses very, very quickly, from that we have a lead candidate which is a particular variant of HSV1 called HSV1716 and this is a product which has already been into six clinical studies, Phase I clinical studies in brain and melanoma, and head and neck cancers, and what we've done in the last couple of months is now moved it into a Phase I stroke Phase II study in mesothelioma and we are advancing the brain tumor work now into Phase II studies.
Fintan Walton:
So what are the results from these studies so far?
Stephen Powell:
Well what we've been able to show from the multiple studies is first and foremost this is a safe product, so the side effect profile is very benign. We've been able to show that the virus localizes indeed in the tumors and not in the surrounding healthy tissue, so there is no collateral damage, and we've been able to demonstrate in humans that the virus does indeed replicate in the tumors and shrink some tumors. So we've been able to demonstrate all of those things, so we have very clear signals of clinical efficacy, but what we now have to do is to move it into more solid structured, randomized studies, Phase II studies to confirm that thesis of efficacy.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and when you say it's effective in some tumors is that on the assumption that it is not effective in others?
Stephen Powell:
Well out of, to you give you a statistic on what we have and what we saw in brain tumors, in particular recurrent glioblastoma tumors, we treated 29 recurrent GBM patients, and after those 29, 15 of those patients survived longer than expected, so improved survival in 15 out of 29.
Dosing and efficacy studies of oncolytic virus
Fintan Walton:
Right, and how is the actual dosing done, what's the approach when you are using an oncolytic virus?
Stephen Powell:
With the brain tumors what we are doing is delivering the virus dosing into the tumor at the time that a biopsy is taken, so we are not increasing the number of surgical interventions but we are delivering into the tumor. In the mesothelioma studies that we've just started then there we are delivering the virus into the pleural cavity, and in the United States we've just started a pediatric study where we are administering the viruses systemically and that's a huge step forward not just for us but also for the whole field of oncolytic viruses to be able to deliver a virus so that it is going around the system rather than just having to target the tumors.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and the results from that study shows that it's effective?
Stephen Powell:
These are studies in progress. So its fingers crossed and we are looking forward to data on both of those studies next year.
Financial strategies for product development
Fintan Walton:
Right, obviously very important studies for you. So obviously the research and development in pharmaceutical space is expensive as well as risky of course, so how are you going to fund this, because presumably as we know your company is a private company and so forth, so you've got two options raise more money or find a partner, so what's the, what, or you may even have another alternative strategy?
Stephen Powell:
Or a combination thereof.
Fintan Walton:
Indeed.
Stephen Powell:
So we have, we are a private company, we are funded by equity investors, private equity investors, but we have also done a lot of our work supported by research grants and research funding of which there is more around, so we are particularly interested in matched funding, using government money combined with our existing equity investors, and as we progress of course we are looking for partners as well, and our pipeline is very much geared around demonstrating the breadths of utility of the virus so that a potential partner or partners can see that this is a tool which through it they can use in their list of weapons against cancer, and what we've done with the clinical studies, particularly with partnering in mind, is structured those studies so that we are dosing the virus on top of standard of care, and the reason that we've done that is because what we've been able to show preclinically is that we are seeing synergy between the virus and it's killing capability and also with the standard chemotherapeutic agents. So we have a two plus two equals six effect, that was not just additive but in terms of what we are seeing in terms of tumor shrinkage and improvement in survival when you combine the virus with chemotherapy you get a clinical synergy and that's going to be quite important it means that multiple, the virus can be overlaid on top of multiple different treatment modalities and that's important.
Partnering strategies and product development milestones
Fintan Walton:
Right, so when we look at the key milestones that are going to appear over the next year or two which ones do you see happening first and how they develop?
Stephen Powell:
The biggest milestones are and the value inflection points are the usual clinical data, so over the course of the next year we expect to get data out of the pediatric study that I mentioned, where the virus is being administered systemically, we expect to get data out of the mesothelioma study over the next 12 months and more data out of the Phase II studies in brain tumors, that's at the development level. At a research level then we continue to produce new viruses with different modes of action which we are looking at in combination with new and existing drug therapies.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, and in terms of engaging with a new partner at what point do you see that happening?
Stephen Powell:
Well it's a very slow process and so that is something that we have already started to do, and what we expect to do is to continue that engagement through the clinical studies so that people can see what we are doing, become acquainted with what we are doing, and even if they are not necessarily signing up as partners at this point until we reach those value inflection points.
Fintan Walton:
Stephen Powell, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Stephen Powell:
Thank you very much.
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).
Stephen Powell
Chief Executive Officer
At the time of this PTV interview Stephen Powell serves as CEO of Virttu Biologics.
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 commercialization.
Virttu Biologics
Virttu Biologics is a clinical stage biotechnology company pioneering the development of viruses to treat cancer. By remodeling a common virus we have developed and patented a series of novel therapies that have the potential to transform treatment and target many forms of cancer effectively. Our most advanced programme, a unique cancer-destroying (oncolytic) virus, has the potential to radically change oncology therapy through its ability to seek out and multiply only in cancer cells: destroying them while leaving healthy cells unaffected. We are now actively advancing the clinical development programme required to secure regulatory approval to market our lead programme, SEPREHVIR, for use in cancer therapy.