Forbion’s General Partner Sander van Deventer discusses game changing investments.




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Video title: Forbion’s General Partner Sander van Deventer discusses game changing investments.
Released on: August 08, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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  • Summary
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Sander van Deventer, General Partner at Forbion Capital former & interim CEO of Dezima PharmaPartners talks to Fintan Walton about the game changing Pharma and Biotech companies Forbion is investing in Dezima Pharma, a recent investment, is discussed at length.
Investment strategy of Forbion Capital Partner
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioEurope Spring, in Barcelona, in 2013. On this show I have Sander van Deventer, who is General Partner at Forbion Capital, welcome.
Sander van Deventer:
Yes, thank you very much.
Fintan Walton:
Sander you are a as I said a General Partner at Forbion Capital, but you are also Interim CEO of a company called Dezima , now Dezima is a company, we will come on to the detail of that, but it describes the types of companies you are investing in, so just from Forbion Capital point of view, what sort of companies do you invest in? What are you looking for and what you like about the companies you have identified?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes, I think in general our strategy has been to invest in companies that really are game changers in their respective therapeutic areas. So that includes novel class of small molecules, but also gene therapy, cell therapy approaches and our strategy really is to bring it you know some times from really early on all the way to market registration such as we've done for example with UniQure where we really started gene therapy and then brought it all the way to a product which is now approved in Europe, and the other thing is that we really want to cater unmet medical needs.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and game changers, disruptive technologies have got big prizes to them but they have high risk to them as well, so how do you balance that risk particularly if you are going to back the products all the way through into clinic?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes of course we spread risk in our portfolio, so Dezima Pharma which is a small molecule for dyslipidemia really falls in a different category than say an early investment in a gene therapy company. On the other hand I think what we have specialized in this to be really good at clinical development, regulatory strategy and not the least also manufacturing.
Buying compound from Mitsubishi Tanbe and formation of Dezima Pharma
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so let's look at Dezima, because that's an interesting story in its own right, first of all just give us a little bit of the history to that, how do that come about and why did you get in the game so early?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes so we do have a good relationship with a couple of our exclusive advisors including John Kastelein whom I know quite well because together we were the, we founded UniQure together.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Sander van Deventer:
And so he is our Advisor and he brings us quite a lot of deals, and so John actually knew that there was this compound in Japan which had been developed by Mitsubishi Tanbe, but they discontinued development and we knew actually from the characteristics of the drug and looking at it in more detail actually it became quite apparent that this was a real good one in that particular class of drugs which are CETP inhibitors. So starting from there actually we founded a company around it, the company actually opened for additional in-licensing and we formed the management ourselves, we got great help from one of our other portfolio company Xention, part of their development team, the CMO and the VP clinical development are from Xention, and so with a lot of support from Forbion and one of our portfolio companies we really brought this product into a company which hit the floor running I would say.
Fintan Walton:
Right, but you've also just raised some money recently through Series A?
Sander van Deventer:
We did, yes. We actually pre-financed the company with together with a local Dutch fund called BioGeneration Ventures, but now we have a new investor coming in New Science Ventures, very well known to us, we have couple of joint investments, very good investor bringing in significant amount of additional money including money from ourselves which will fully fund the company all the way through Phase IIb. So we also got a 4.4 million soft loan called innovation credit from the Dutch government, so together that fully finances this company all the way through Phase IIb.
Fintan Walton:
I suppose when a company discontinues a product like Mitsubishi Tanbe does you have to ask questions, I am sure you did, so what answers did they give to your questions that enabled you to say 'yes, this may be still a winner'?
Sander van Deventer:
Well of course that is a question you would have to ask Mitsubishi and not to me, we believe it's a winner just basically looking at the data which include clinical data, and I think there is more corporate strategy reasons for them to discontinue development.
Fintan Walton:
So there is nothing there from a clinical perspective or from a technical perspective that worried you?
Sander van Deventer:
No not at all.
Fintan Walton:
Obviously, otherwise you wouldn't have taken it.
Sander van Deventer:
We've done very extensive due diligence and I think the people we work with know this CETP space in and out and so, yes we are really confident that we have a good product here.
Fintan Walton:
And is there a still a collaboration with Mitsubishi Tanbe [PharmaDeals ID = 50581] on this?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes, we are very happy with the collaboration with Mitsubishi, and I think things are moving quite rapidly forward, I mean and it's only for this reason that we will be able to do start a Phase II study within just a couple of months from now.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so obviously they carried out a lot of clinical knowledge about this particular product?
Sander van Deventer:
They did, they did a Phase I single dose and multiple ascending dose studies in Europe, they've done fantastic work on the drug itself, on formulation and they've provided us with a really good preclinical package.
Development of Lead molecule in dyslipidemia space
Fintan Walton:
Right, so let's look at the this lead molecule, because I mean obviously it's in a very interesting space, dyslipidemia is important obviously it fits within the same field as cholesterol-lowering drugs, so what is it about your molecule that and it's approach that put it's in a superior position to say regular Statin?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes, so Statin lower LDL cholesterol and clearly are effective in doing that when it comes to clinical endpoints, but despite Statin treatment quite a lot of patients with dyslipidemia still have coronary events. For example if you had a first coronary event even with Statin treating you have a 25% chance of getting another one within two-years time, so there is room for improvement. The problem is if you increase the dose of Statin then you do see more a cholesterol lowering, but you also run in to other problems such as for example increased type 2 diabetes incidence and some Statin actually decrease HDL cholesterol at higher dosages, so just increasing the dose of the Statin doesn't work, you see CETP inhibitors have a quite a different mechanism they mediate there or they effect of shuttling of cholesterol from HDL to LDL particles in exchange for triglycerides and by doing that they both increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol and so that in itself is an interesting mechanism and they do it on top of Statins.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Sander van Deventer:
And so if you combined CETP inhibitors with Statin then you could get to more for example LDL cholesterol lowering while you avoid actually the diabetes risk, in fact in one of the first studies with a CETP inhibitor, the one that was initially developed by Pfizer, that even that came very nicely out of the trial.
How does Dezima Pharma compete against other CETP inhibitors?
Fintan Walton:
Alright, so how do you compete against other CETP inhibitors?
Sander van Deventer:
So the CETP inhibitors actually all are molecules from different classes and they have very different effects on LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, for example the dalcetrapib drug, a Roche's product that failed, only increased the HDL cholesterol and we believe that definitely is not sufficient for an effective clinical endpoints, we strongly believe you need to decrease LDL cholesterol and our product actually is the best in class in that respect, in both respects actually, increasing HDL but also in decreasing LDL cholesterol and then there are some other proatherogenic particles, lipoproteins like a particle called lipoproteinlittle a which is very atherogenic and it's not effected by any drug basically in a significant effect, so we do have a very pronounced effect on that proatherogenic particles also it really has differentiated itself from other Statins and CETP inhibitors.
Fintan Walton:
Right and what is it about your molecule that its structure and so forth that makes it distinctive?
Sander van Deventer:
Well it's a completely different class and we do know something about other CETP inhibitors that is where they actually bind to CETP and in what respect they effect the shuttling, and clearly our molecule binds in the lipid bearing pockets and it is probably 10-fold more or even more than 10-fold more potent than the other competitors.
Future plans and partnering strategy
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so obviously, but I've got to point out you are the Interim CEO so presumably you are looking for a new CEO for that, good luck with that, but there just in terms of taking the product forward, you mentioned that often you will take drugs all the way through into clinic and even to market, in this case you are going to do that?
Sander van Deventer:
Well in this case it's going to be a little different.
Fintan Walton:
Of course.
Sander van Deventer:
The point of course is that we know that Phase III clinical development for this type of product is large pharma territory and the clinical trials that are being designed by Lilly and Merck that range from depending on how you do it from 5000 to 14000 patients and that definitely will not be in our in what we will do, but we do believe that if we have a very strong Phase IIb program that we will be able to partner this product because it falls in an unmet medical need area and we are pretty sure that large pharma would be interested in a product like that.
Fintan Walton:
Right, obviously it retains its profile that you assume it has at the moment, so that's a partnering program, you also mentioned that for Dezima you were looking for other products, you are interested in licensing or identifying other alliance, could you give us some sort of feel for what that would be?
Sander van Deventer:
Well those would be products in the same area that is for treatment of dyslipidemia and that could be in various classes there is squalene synthase inhibitors, there are oral products, lipid analogs that modify lipid profiles et cetera, et cetera and as a matter of fact we see a lot of these opportunities coming by.
Fintan Walton:
Sure. And then obviously for a company like that, you are looking for an exit at some point?
Sander van Deventer:
We do, for all our portfolio companies we look for an exit.
Fintan Walton:
I know it's a leading question but I suppose this sort of company you probably wouldn't want to IPO, but you may want somebody to buy?
Sander van Deventer:
Yes, sure. I don't think it does make a lot of sense to IPO a company like this, I mean it's definitely going to be a partnership and a trade sale some point in time.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, and Sander's so just in the end just to finalize this you are here at this conference are you looking for partners already?
Sander van Deventer:
We do and actually, I mean there is a quite lot of interest in this product already, so yes.
Fintan Walton:
Sander's, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Sander van Deventer:
Well thank you.
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).
Sander van Deventer
Senior Vice President
At the time of recording this PTV interview Sander van Deventer serves as Interim CEO and Forbion's General Partner at Dezima Pharma. Dr. Sander van Deventer is co-founder, former CEO and CSO of UniQure , which developed the first approved gene therapy in lipoprotein lipase deficiency that also is a dyslipidemic disease indication. Sander is Professor of Translational Gastroenterology at Leiden University Medical Center and Chairman of the SAB of the Dutch RA foundation. He has had a critical role in the development of the first commercial monoclonal antibody (Remicade) for treatment of Crohn's Disease and was the first to infuse reconstituted HDL in humans. Sander has published over 450 research papers, reviews and book chapters and supervised over 30 PhD students to successful completion of their theses. Sander van Deventer also is General Partner at Forbion Capital Partner and serves in that role on the Board of Directors of UniQure , Argos Therapeutics, gIcare, Cardoz, and Hookipa.
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.
Dezima Pharma
Dezima Pharma develops novel drugs to treat dyslipidemia. Dyslipidemia is a major modifiable risk for cardiovascular disease. Dezima's objective is to develop novel compounds from pre-clinical development to meaningful proof of concept (PoC) in patients. Following PoC, Dezima will seek strategic partners to further development in the larger cardiovascular indications, and/or continue in-house development of its compounds in smaller, orphan type indications. Netherlands-based Dezima Pharma was founded in 2012 by Forbion Capital Partner and BioGeneration Ventures.