Neuropharma: A New Wave of Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease




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Video title: Neuropharma: A New Wave of Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease
Released on: July 08, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
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In this interview, Fintan Walton speaks with Belén Sopesén, Managing Director of Neuropharma, a subsidiary of the Zeltia group specialising in research and development of innovative drugs for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, particularly Alzheimer's disease. Neuropharma has exclusive rights to use the huge library of marine organisms created by sister company Pharmamar, for exploration and exploitation in the field of neurological diseases. Currently, the company has completed Phase I clinical trials on its lead compound, code named NP-12, a new mechanism of action that may slow the neurodegenerative process by inhibiting the GSK-3 enzyme involved in the excessive phosphorilation of the tau protein and in the deposit of neurofibrillary tangles. Phase II clinical trials on NP-12 are set to begin before the end of 2008. With long term plans to develop into a pharmaceutical company, Neuropharma is currently seeking partners for licensing their compound in North America and may also be looking towards an IPO offering in 2009.
Origins of Neuropharma.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures Business Review here in Madrid. On this show I have Belen Sopesen, who is the Managing Director of Neuropharma here based in Madrid. Welcome to the show.
Belen Sopesen:
Thank you very much. Thank you very much for your invitation.
Fintan Walton:
Neuropharma, and you head up Neuropharma is a company that's obviously based here in Spain. It's one of the few biotechnology companies. By your name you are specialized in the neurosciences, could you describe to us about the origins of Neuropharma how it started?
Belen Sopesen:
Yeah the company was started in 2000. It's like a spin off not really but more or less we started with a licensing of a compound from the Spanish Research Council. So the company was started because there was a compound that shows to be active in neurodegeneration, so at that time it was enough information to set up the company and this is why we are here today.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah. And you're also part of the Zeltia Group which most people will be aware off, but they're probably more aware of Pharmamar which is one of the oldest biotechnology companies here in the Spain?
Belen Sopesen:
That's true, Pharmamar is a company of Zeltia Group, Zeltia Group is a holding group and there are more or less six companies there, there are two chemical companies and four, five biotech companies in the holding.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So you're obviously working closely with these other biotechnology companies within the Zeltia Group, The company was founded through Zeltia Group, but original founder investors are from the Zeltia Group, but recently you've undergone some financing yourselves, could you say something about that?
Belen Sopesen:
Yeah that's it. The entrepreneur at the beginning was the Zeltia group so the company was run by Zeltia Group originally since 2000 until 2004 when it was dubbed the first financial, the first private placement first one was in 2004 and then we had a second one in 2006 by the end, so now the company is owned by Zeltia Group but only in a 59% it is a different business model as Pharmamar is.
Licensing of glycogen synthase kinase 3 inhibitor.
Fintan Walton:
Now you've got several molecules coming through into clinic could you describe those, because one of them is a glycogen-synthase-kinase-3-inhibitor could you describe that and the origins of that it was one of the compounds I think you've in licensed right at the very beginning?
Belen Sopesen:
Yeah we in licensed the license but we complete all the features of the compound in-house so NP-12 is an ATP and non-competitive ATP It's an inhibitor of GSK-3 and this compound is suppose to be disease modifier of the disease, because NP-12 is suppose to be a new kind of compounds to treat Alzheimer's disease all the compound are there currently in the market for Alzheimer's disease, they are not a disease modifier so the way it's works in the body suppose that is going to be a disease modifier.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So one of the key things here is that it's going through Phase I at the moment and you expect to start Phase II when do you expect to start Phase II clinical trials?
Belen Sopesen:
We expect to start Phase II by the end of the year more or less in a few months we are finishing the Phase I and this compound works in one of the major features of the Alzheimer's disease in the pathology of the Alzheimer's disease that you can find two major relations one of the relations is caused by neurofibrillary tangles do it to our hyperphosphorylation of a protein. And it's suppose that NP-12 inhibits this hyperphosphorylation. So we expect to start with Phase II by the end of this year.
Development of transgenic mice disease model.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And the other aspect to the GSK-3 story is the development of this transgenic mice?
Belen Sopesen:
That's true.
Fintan Walton:
So could you tell us that because that becomes an important disease model?
Belen Sopesen:
Yeah. We have our transgenic mouse model which reproduces major features of Alzheimer's disease. And we did a licensing out last year with another company, because it's a very good model to try this kind of compound there. This transgenic model is involved in the hyperphosphorylation of protein of tau protein.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So and you then looking to license that again or you gonna offer that to other pharmaceutical companies or is it purely for your own, for your own use?
Belen Sopesen:
We have been using this for our own use but currently we licensing out to another company. And they are using it is more or less like a CRO company a Contract Research Organization so they offer to model to any kind of companies.
Association with Pharmamar.
Fintan Walton:
Right. Now the next group of compounds you are looking at actually are derived from Pharmamar itself could you describe those molecules?
Belen Sopesen:
What we do with our molecule this is first molecule is a chemical compound but all the rest of the pipeline that we have in-house in different stages of the development they are all compounds of marine origin. So what we do is Pharmamar has a very important library of marine organisms they have more than 55,000 compounds described and organized. So we have a license to use all these compounds to look or to research for activity spent under the system.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And so you got a presumably that's an exclusive basis you are the only ones that have got access to those particular molecules for that particular therapeutic use?
Belen Sopesen:
At the moment the library is not open to anybody.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Belen Sopesen:
It's only in use for Pharmamar and we have the license to use it, yes in this terms.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And so you"
Belen Sopesen:
Sorry this is one, this library is one of the most important in the world, I have to say that.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah, yeah indeed and it's quite unique. So the other component to this is your ability to find molecules, so do you work in association with Pharmamar on that or you have your own scientist working exclusive to identify this?
Belen Sopesen:
We have our own technology, we have our own in-house technology to work with this kind of organisms and to look activity in central nervous system, so we have our technology platform which we kind of run this kind of compounds and to try to find this kind of activities, so we have our own technology because it's different just to look activity for cancer in which is involve Pharmamar so we have our own technology in-house.
Looking for partnerships to license for USA market.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.Now in terms of your company going forward you clearly have a major share holder in Zeltia Group , you've got a now a group of private investors
Belen Sopesen:
Private investor.
Fintan Walton:
They are not institutional investors they are private investors, what are your plans then for going forward because are you looking now to float the company in the future?
Belen Sopesen:
We are thinking to do that, we had in the past two private placements, so next year we want to launch the company and we will like to make an IPO.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. And in terms of your products taking those forward, take for an example the GSK-3-inhibitor, NP-12 as an example, do you plan to take that molecule all the way through clinical development yourselves and develop and commercialize it or are you looking for partners in the future?
Belen Sopesen:
We are looking for partners, we are trying to do the same what Pharmamar did in the did before because they have also partnered what we want to do is we will like to become a pharmaceutical company so we want to develop or we cannot do all around the world by ourselves so what we can do is to license the compound may be for the America markets and we want to what we want to keep is the European market, but at the end we will like to become a pharmaceutical company so we are trying to see which is going to be the best partner to license, but basically for the USA market.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, okay. So in the end you will have development given to North America and for Europe you will retain that, but presumably the rest of the world as well, is that gonna go to the company that is taking the American rights?
Belen Sopesen:
Yeah, well we'll see what are we going to do.
Biotechnology industry in spain.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. So Belen Sopesen, going into Spain itself the biotechnology industry in Spain , how would you describe that today?
Belen Sopesen:
Well the biotechnology in the Spain has no a big tradition for investors to be in this kind of markets. It's very (indiscernable) to know about these, during our second private investment we can see that is not tradition for investors to go to these kind of markets, so that is going high and we are trying on, now I suppose there is going to be a change on who are the investors are going to put the money, so we are trying to attract them to come to this kind of companies, but it's not a big tradition in Spain for this kind of markets, so it's not easy to find investor and any way we had a very good one in the second time.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So this is clearly an area that's going to develop over the next few years, we are gonna watch it very closely.
Belen Sopesen:
We hope so.
Fintan Walton:
Belen Sopesen, l would like to thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thank you very much indeed.
Belen Sopesen:
Thank you to you very much for inviting me here today.
Belen Sopesen
Managing Director
Belen Sopesen began her scientific training with SKBP (UK) as an EU scholarship student working in the development of experimental models related to neurological processes (1993) and earned a doctorate in Pharmacy from Complutense University, Madrid, in 1998. After 1997, she focused her career on clinical research with the Spanish CRO, Cibest (currently the SGS Group). In 2001, as Managing and Technical Director, she and other partners created Qualysite Consultancy Limited, a company specializing in training, auditing, and the implementation of systems for quality management for the health sector, pharmaceutical laboratories, CROs, and clinics in both the public and private sector. In April 2005, she joined the Neuropharma team as Director of Quality Assurance and in June 2006 was appointed Managing Director of the company.
Neuropharma
Neuropharma, located in Madrid, Spain, is a Bio-pharmaceutical company owned by the Zeltia Group, which focuses on, and is dedicated to, Research and Development into innovative drugs for the treatment and prevention of diseases of the nervous system. Neuropharma was set up with the idea of exploiting the potential diversity of active molecules from biological systems provided by nature, specifically the sea, in the field of nervous system pathology. It has exclusive rights to the organisms created by Pharmamar (another Zeltia Group) which leads the field in the development of drugs of marine origin. Neuropharma currently focuses on Alzheimer's disease by developing approaches which are able to slow down or stop the neurodegenerative process. The internal research carried out by the company, which focuses on Alzheimer's disease, is complemented by external projects with academic centres. These projects are designed to promote and acquire new knowledge about the molecular basis of the pathologies of the nervous system and to benefit from future transfers of such scientific technology which will enable the company to strengthen their research into these diseases.