Artisan Draws Strength from Japan and the US to Treat Sepsis




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Video title: Artisan Draws Strength from Japan and the US to Treat Sepsis
Released on: August 19, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
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Filmed at the BIO conference in San Diego, Fintan Walton talks to President and Chief Executive Officer of Artisan Pharma, Jeffrey D. Wager MD. Dr Jeffrey reveals how building close, long term relationships with Japanese companies has led to the formation of Artisan Pharma, a company funded by both Japanese and US investors. The company, based in Massachusetts, with the help of its partner, Asahi Kasei Pharma of Japan, was formed to create focus and attention around its lead product, ART-123 (Asahi recombinant thrombomodulin). A key to regulating thrombosis and inflammation, Dr Wager explains progress in the development and commercialisation of the product . The product is approved in Japan and used for the treatment of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), including sepsis.
The basis for founding of Artisan and role of Asahi Kasei Japan.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to pharmaventures business review here at Bio in San Diego. On this show I have Jeffrey D. Wager who is the president and CEO of Artisan Pharma based in Waltham, Massachusetts. Welcome to the show.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Thanks very much.
Fintan Walton:
Jeff Artisan Pharma is a company that as I said is based in Massachusetts but it has a link to Japan.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
That's right.
Fintan Walton:
Could you tell us about that link and why that was the basis for a founding of Artisan.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Sure. So Artisan was founded as a result of a 15 year relationship that I had cultivated with the originating company Asahi Kasei in Asahi Kasei pharma in Japan and they had a lead product their lead development stage product which they wanted to develop and commercialize in the west given that they had no direct development or commercialization presence in the west they went through the analysis of either licensing it out a big pharma big biotech or emerging biotech and they finally decided that forming a new company around the product would maximize the focus and attention on it which they thought was so important.
Fintan Walton:
Right because your background Jeffrey D. Wager is you are a venture capitalist. You've been. On the other side of the table on many occasions funding biotechnology companies and related businesses. What was it you mentioned the fact that you had this contact back over 15 years ago
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
It was that contact that activity that venture capital activity that you had with that lead to this opportunity?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
It's a number of things but I think what it really comes down to is the building of close relationships. Yes there is a venture capital background to my career but there is also a corporate development and strategic alliance components as well and really is the synthesis of those combined with just a very long term of relationship building with not only Asahi but other Japanese pharmaceutical companies that lead to the formation of Asahi [PharmaDeals ID = 25258] to Artisan.
Fintan Walton:
So what is also important is the decision to for Asahi to give it to a startup company effectively that then must have been an important decision for them?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
It is and in fact we think it's the first of its kind of a kind of company that come out of Japan the reason for that is that ART-123 our lead product is the top priority of Asahi at the moment and normally they would not license their top priority program to least of all a brand NewCo a brand new startup.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
They did in this case because they felt that that by doing so the focus and attention and the priority of development would be maximized.
The product ART-123 (Asahi recombinant thrombomodulin) A key to regulating thrombosis and inflammation.
Fintan Walton:
Okay so let's look at the product now because we've talked a little bit about the company the product is ART-123.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Correct.
Fintan Walton:
It is thrombomodulin ?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
Could you tell us about it's about the product itself specifically and the treatment it's going to be used for?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Sure. So ART-123 stands for Asahi recombinant thrombomodulin,123 referring to the three key domains of this protein molecule that are necessary to exert its mechanism of action.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
And instead of thrombomodulinis present in the endothelial cells of your vascular vasculature in every human being and it is a key regulator of both thrombosis and inflammation and in the normal healthy human individual when you get cut for example injury the body knows that it's been damaged. It starts both in inflammatory as well as a bleeding cascade, it stops the bleeding but somehow the body also knows that the process of stopping the bleeding has to be localized and that systematize otherwise you clot up everywhere and thrombomodulin is one of the key mediators of how the body does that.
Fintan Walton:
Okay so it is so is this being developed specifically for Sepsis in particular disseminated intravascular coagulation?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
It was actually developed for DIC disseminated intravascular coagulation in Japan and in and that condition is the result of a number of underlying causes such as sepsis such as Hematological malignancy such as some complications of pregnancy and some other conditions. The problem is that it is true that if you do aggressively and successfully treat the underlying cause that the DIC in most cases will resolve but unfortunately too often what happens is that by the time the DIC develops it starts to exert its own damage you know to the patients and including in risking the increasing the risk of that particularly in sepsis patients.
Fintan Walton:
So how would that stand be used? How it is? Is this gonna be used as a form of prophylactic sharing during Sepsis or how is the what is the clinical regime?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
There is a number of potential indications that could be developed. Initially what we are doing is we are leveraging the Japanese data which was studied primarily in two of the DIC populations. The first of them being DIC in Sepsis and the second one DIC in Hematological malignancy. The data in the DIC and Sepsis component of the phase III trials was very very encouraging and combined with some other observations from Sepsis development over the years made us and our investors conclude that that was the best initial indication. So DIC and sepsistherapy provided followed by DIC and sepsis prevention and then expanding out into other DIC indications is the roll lot of indications that we have in mind.
Fintan Walton:
Okay and I understand that the clinical trials here in the US are at sort of phase II B is that correct?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Phase II B and it's actually a global study.
Fintan Walton:
Okay.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
So it's a 750 patients global study enrolling currently even North America, Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand and shortly also in India and South east Asia.
Fundings from both Japanese and US investors.
Fintan Walton:
Okay and when it comes to the funding of Artisan Pharma you've got money from both Japan and the US coming into the company is that correct?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Yes it is and this is a really unique feature we think about Artisan as well in that we strategically wanted to syndicate a group of investors that were very balanced between east and west and so the largest venture capital fund in Japan is a significant investor in our JAFCO. The largest life sciences fund in SingaporeBio*One Capital is a significant investor and then balanced with those are the western investors who are actually the lead investors for example NGN capital, New leaf venture capitals and NovaQuest which is the venture arm of Quintiles.
Moving ahead from a one product company.
Fintan Walton:
And clearly you are at the moment a one product company?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
How do you respond to the fact that you are just a one product company because there is obviously it tells us a little about how the company was informed which is important that you got a product as a in now actually in Japan which is been registered is that correct?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
It is.
Fintan Walton:
So you have a pretty good chance for getting this product forward.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Correct.
Fintan Walton:
What are your plans going forward for making it more than one product company?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Right so there is always this debate, always this a pole between focus focus focus and diversified risk.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
So the way we are and our investors are thinking of it are that first it is a late stage product that has been approved in Japan and we wanna leverage that approval both in our clinical development program and in our commercialization strategy until the fullest extent possible as the top priority of the company. That all being said we have a multi indication strategy for the product post approval of its first indication which should reduce overall risk and then in terms of the second or additional product that we could potentially in license we have a very good credibility position we think with other Japanese pharmaceutical companies given that we have a strong alliance with Asahi, we have investment from JAFCO, investment from Singapore, a very strong Asian link in general and we have found that this has made other Japanese companies very very comfortable in talking us about some of their very advanced and prioritized programs.
Internationalisation of Japanese companies.
Fintan Walton:
I mean does that really reflect the real opportunity from Japan because as we all know Japan has had a quite a number of pharmaceutical companies historically. Some of them which are associated with larger corporations having a specialized smaller pharmaceutical division I get like Asahi.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Right and so I guess the question is then why us or why or what does the future hold for Japanese companies internationalizing and my view on that is what you already seeing in terms of acquisitions by the top 10 companies of various firms around the world Millennium, Agensys, the latest one with Daiichi Sankyo [PharmaDeals ID = 30464] with Ranbaxy in India. I think we will see a lot more of that. I also think that you will see a lot more of venture activity. I think Japanese companies are realizing that in order to accelerate the development of their portfolios they have to use multiple strategies in order to move along their portfolios and that the venture vehicle for doing that is a good one.
Relationship with Asahi
Fintan Walton:
So it provides an opportunity for Japanese companies to take products which they probably would have difficulty licensing may be to a larger corporation. Not difficult in the sense that there is a problem with the product but their concerns about whether that product is gonna get the level of priority that they would like to see around their product.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
I think it is that latter point that in their minds is just the most important. You know Asahi had lot of capital at their disposal to potentially form Artisan themselves entirely without any venture capital money if they had wanted to do that. So it wasn't it wasn't just the money that was attracting them to the you know concept of Artisan but rather it was the management team that they thought and hopefully have found us to build that was the deciding factor as well as the development strategy and development focus and I think that's by far the number one driver for that.
Fintan Walton:
Do they have an option to acquire you?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
They do not. That being said without breaching confidentiality. There are some what I would call alliance structure decision points that a sort of natural in the course of drug development in which they being closest to us vis a vis[ph] than being a license to our
Fintan Walton:
Having a relationship?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Having a relationship being a minority equity holder in us as well.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah we just spoken.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
That they would be naturally well positioned to potentially transact with us going forward.
Fintan Walton:
If they wanted to?
Jeffrey D. Wager:
If they wanted to.
Fintan Walton:
Sure. Jeff it's been really interesting to hear about Artisan pharma, it is a very interesting company and we will be watching it certainly over the next few years.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Thanks so much, I hope to come back and tell you the next chapter.
Fintan Walton:
We hope so too Jeffrey D. Wager. Thank you very much.
Jeffrey D. Wager:
Thanks so much.
Jeffrey D Wager
President and Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Jeffrey D. Wager senior management experience in the life sciences industry — spanning corporate development, venture capital, investment banking and drug development — dates back to 1990. He earned his medical degree from Rush Medical College and his MBA from the University of Chicago. From 1996-2006, Dr. Jeffrey D. Wager founded and grew Apeiron Partners LLC, a boutique life sciences investment bank. There, he raised over $275 million in capital for a wide variety of life sciences clients and completed five corporate spin-outs, including Targacept(NASDAQ: TRGT), QED Solutions and KBI BioPharma (from Kinetic Biosystems). He was also advisor to Z-Cube s.r.l., a $60 million venture capital arm of Zambon Group S.p.a., where he assisted in the founding of Suppremol GmbH, Elagen and other companies. From 1995-2000, Dr. Jeffrey D. Wager was also a Senior Associate at Medical Science Partners (MSP), a Harvard-sponsored venture capital fund. There, he was involved in the business development of companies such as ICAgen (NASDAQ: ICGN), ZYCOS, Diatide and deCODE Genetics (NASDAQ: DCGN). From 1991-1995, Dr. Jeffrey D. Wager was Executive Director, Business Development of a $1.4 billion Japanese trading company affiliate of the Bank of Tokyo, where he managed a number of major clinical studies sponsored by Japanese pharmaceutical companies and structured strategic alliances.
Artisan
Artisan Pharma is a U.S. biotechnology company formed in 2006 as a partnership between a group of Asian and Western investors led by NGN Capital and Asahi Kasei Pharma Corporation(AKP) . Their lead product, ART-123, is a late-stage biologic drug candidate in-licensed from AKP. A new, separate, independent entity, Artisan has a mission to become a leading critical-care pharmaceutical company. By blending a high degree of skill with world-class R&D, corporate development and operational competencies, the company aims to generate the maximum benefit to patients and the maximum value to its shareholders.