Thiakis’ origins, Bloom and acquisition by Wyeth




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Video title: Thiakis’ origins, Bloom and acquisition by Wyeth
Released on: September 22, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
Dr Fintan Walton talks with Dr John Burt, former CEO of Thiakis, about:

• the company’s origins and specific technology
• the work of Professor Steve Bloom at Imperial College
• obesity treatment
• how the company came to be acquired by Wyeth, and the involvement of Credit Suisse
• John Burt’s plans for the future
The company's origins and specific technology
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to Pharmaventures Business Review here at the BIA leadership summit in Hertfordshire UK. On this show I have John Burt who is the former CEO of a company called Thiakis based in London. Welcome to the show.
John Burt:
Thank you, Fintan.
Fintan Walton:
I say former CEO because Thiakis is now recently just recently bought by Wyeth [PharmaDeals ID = 31942] [DOI: 10.3833/pdr.v2009i1.89] back in December. Could you tell us first of all before we get to the particular deal, the origins of Thiakis, where it came from, its origins and its specific technology?
John Burt:
Certainly, yes Thiakis was built really on the intellectual property on the work of Steve Bloom at Imperial college. Steve has been working in the field of gut hormones regulation of appetite for several decades and so its building of his work at Imperial college that we founded the company (indiscernable) back in 2004 with the support of Imperial innovations and we took the company forward from 2004 raising finance through to the deal that you just mentioned.
Fintan Walton:
So how important was Imperial innovations to the birth of Thiakis?
John Burt:
Imperial innovations was very important to Thiakis not at least I was running medical life sciences tech transfer in Imperial college, Imperial innovations before finding Thiakis so it's there that I met Steve Bloom, got to know him got to know the IP and that's how we started the company.
Fintan Walton:
Saw the opportunity?
John Burt:
And then they did invest in the company and so they were very supportive along the way.
The work of Professor Steve Bloom at Imperial College
Fintan Walton:
So tell us about the specific technology. You have given us some indication about the activities of Dr. Bloom, but tell us more about what that was?
John Burt:
So Steve's research worked all on the guthormones and since these are hot hormones that are released by the intestines in response to the food ingestion, which are involved in regulating appetite and also glucose homeostasis. So there are number of hormones they have worked on, but we were particularly interested in PYY3-36 and oxyntomodulin, and so we took the IP related to those two peptide hormones, both of which had clinical validation from his academic work and took those forward into the company. And in one particular oxyntomodulin we took forward as a therapeutic program ourselves into the clinic.
Obesity treatment
Fintan Walton:
So how does that actually work as a therapeutic?
John Burt:
So these the hormones work and so the beauty of our products was we were working with a natural mechanisms of appetite regulation so your body, when you eat, releases a number a hormones in response to the food ingestion to then reduce your appetite. So it's all answering the question why do we feel less hungry after a meal. The approach therefore is if you have an elevated level of these hormones before you eat your appetite is reduced, you consume less food and therefore you have a weight loss therapy with Oxyntomodulin watching you. So you have the added benefit; as well as reducing food intake, you increase energy expenditure. So two sides of the energy balance equation and so you have a potential powerful approach to treating obesity. So that was our approach treating obesity with the gut hormones and Oxyntomodulin.
Fintan Walton:
And would you describe that as a natural method?
John Burt:
It's a natural mechanism of appetite regulation and we started with the natural form of the hormone, but the Oxyntomodulin, most of them and the program that we took into the clinic, was an analog. So we made a superior molecule from the native hormone, which was superior in terms of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and also much stronger intellectual property position.
Fintan Walton:
So how far did you take this particular product?
John Burt:
We advanced the program into the clinic and we announced the entry into the clinic in March of last year, and it was off the back of that entry into the clinic that we initiated the (indiscernable).
Fintan Walton:
So got into phase I?
John Burt:
So we were into phase I of that.
How the company came to be acquired by Wyeth, and the involvement of Credit Suisse
Fintan Walton:
So how did you end up being bought by Wyeth?
John Burt:
We had raised money from the VC's back in 2006. We had raised 10 million pounds from Nova who have been venture partners in Imperial innovations, and others in 2006, but our business model was very lean single program business model, more of a project than a company and it was clear that we won't go to IPO, we won't even if the markets where open; that was not the path we were on. So the objective in time was to excel the company and so, with the clinical validation of our program, we set out a process to identify potential acquirers that run the process and identified Wyeth with an attractive deal. So we signed on close on December 18 last year.
Fintan Walton:
Would you have accepted a license deal?
John Burt:
We, because of the company structure, we were a single program and therefore a licensing deal would have left us with a license in a corporate entity and no program getting forward. So it was a less likely outcome but we never said never.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
John Burt:
But it was the preferred outcome to achieve the sale of the company.
Fintan Walton:
Right so basically you wanted to, for your investors, a complete exit?
John Burt:
Exactly.
Fintan Walton:
So you said you ran a process. How was that process actually run?
John Burt:
We worked with advisors, we engaged Credit Suisse and we talked to a number of advisors engaged with Credit Suisse, who have got an experience in this type of transactions and liked the proposition we are offering and believed that they could work with us to achieve the sale. So is a structured auction process to list indicative bids and a final bid. We did have quite lot of interest from the companies one would expect to be interested in obesitytherapy.
Fintan Walton:
Did you reduce it down to a few groups of companies where you did presentations or did you do presentations before the bids went in?
John Burt:
I can't say too much about the details of the whole process. What I would say though is that we started talking to pharma way before we started the process. So from day 1 of finding the company we maintained a profile amongst our competitors and potential acquirers. So the name was recognized the technology was recognized.
Fintan Walton:
And they knew you and they knew enough about you"
John Burt:
Exactly.
Fintan Walton:
So, okay. So now that the deal is done and the deal obviously was done back in December of 2008. Six months later you are out?
John Burt:
That's correct. Yes.
Fintan Walton:
And what will happen there, the program has gone back into Wyeth which was obviously now Pfizer will become Pfizer [PharmaDeals ID = 32282] [DOI: 10.3833/pdr.v2009i1.93]?
John Burt:
Yes, so we operated as a very lean operation. We outsourced all our development activities there were only four people in the company, so we were infrastructure light. So I represented it going into the sale process. So when Wyeth took on the development work integrated that into their own R&D portfolio. So now the program is moving ahead within the Wyeth portfolio, since then the Pfizer, Wyeth portfolio and it's in their hands, so I am now free man.
John Burt's plans for the future
Fintan Walton:
Being a free man; we are here in Hertfordshire in the UK we are not there on the beach sure you know in Miami or some nice sunny place. Why are you here?
John Burt:
I am here today because I enjoy networking with peers in the industry, but the UK is a great place to be in and Bio is also"
Fintan Walton:
You are going to continue in the field?
John Burt:
I am going to continue in the field. I am looking at a number of opportunities now, but there will be time on the beach and I have had time on the beach.
Fintan Walton:
Good. Nice to meet you. John Burt. Thank you for coming on the show.
John Burt:
Thank you very much Fintan Walton.
John Burt
ex-CEO
John Burt was at the time of recording working as an Independent Consultant at Ashendun Limited. He was the CEO and co-founder of Thiakis which had a successful acquisition by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals . His previous experience include working as Head of Medical & Life Sciences at Imperial Innovations and Director, Genetics & Discovery Deal Structuring, GSK, Director, Strategy & Business Development (Predictive Medicine) at GlaxoSmithKline. His prior stints include Financial Planning Manager at Vanguard Medica (Vernalis) and associate at Coopers & Lybrand. He has a degree in BA Natural sciences from University of Cambridge.
Thiakis
Thiakis focused on the development of novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of obesity and other metabolic diseases. It was founded in 2004 by Professor Steve Bloom and Dr John Burt to focus on the development of peptide hormones that regulate appetite, based on the research of Professor Bloom's group at Imperial College London. Thiakis was acquired by Wyeth in December 2008.