Tim Sparey, Head of Business Development talks about Proximagen’s partnering strategy.




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Video title: Tim Sparey, Head of Business Development talks about Proximagen’s partnering strategy.
Released on: May 04, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Tim Sparey, Head of Business Development at Proximagen
Recent deals
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at Bio-Europe in Milan, Spring 2011. On this show I have Tim Sparey, who is Head of Business Development at a company called Proximagen based in the UK, welcome.
Tim Sparey:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Proximagen, is a company that's floated on the market on the AIM market, it has its history goes back to King's College in London, tell us a little bit about that history?
Tim Sparey:
The company was founded around 2003- 2004 and the time the main focus was on Parkinson's disease . The academic founder was Professor Peter Jenner and he had at that time and indeed still has world leading expertise in Parkinson's particularly preclinical and so the company for the first four or five-years had a main focus on the early stage research on Parkinson's disease and then since then progressed the development interest in other diseases of the CNS particularly in neurology and expanded it's focus, but those certainly where the early interests and we still retain interest in Parkinson's disease ?
Fintan Walton:
Right, and part of that journey has also been the acquisition of products as well and companies, tell us about the recent deals that you've done?
Tim Sparey:
Sure, so after the listing on the stock market in 2005 about 12.5 million pounds has raised, I think that the company was regularly preserving cash, post investing in the assets within with partners and also on the company's own balance sheet, but in 2009 more money was raised and the main rationale for raising the money then was that to trade in paper would have been not necessary the best means of Proximagen to acquire assets, so with cash from our investors we were able to go and acquire assets that fitted the in-licensing criteria that Proximagen had which at that time were focused on neurology so it brought in assets then would complement and also expand the portfolio beyond those early discovery stage programs and so now we have a pipeline which is through from discovery into Phase II with the range of assets in Parkinson's and also Epilepsy and we've invested in some of the assets ourself but also with partners. So in terms of the individual deals for example we bought Minster Pharmaceuticals [PharmaDeals ID = 39653] that was several year ago. And the main reason for doing that deal was to bring in Tonabersat which has a rich history of clinical development through SmithKline Beecham as it was at the time through to Minster Pharmaceuticals now with us and our partner Upsher-Smith Laboratories [PharmaDeals ID = 36538] [PharmaDeals ID = 31448]. That's a really interesting deal for Proximagen, I think it exemplifies our risk mitigation model which is one way we retain value in an asset, but our partner is investing in the clinical development, so Upsher-Smith in this case has North American rights to the asset primarily in Epilepsy they are investing in the clinical development through to the market, Proximagen with the rights retained in Europe and the rest of the world can either choose to partner at some downstream point for example proof of concept or indeed retain the rights for the assets through to the market and commercialize the product in Europe or perhaps the subsidy territories in Europe which is one of the Proximagen's longer term goals.
Fintan Walton:
So once you've done a deal which is giving away a particular territory does that limit your abilities to do deals later downstream?
Tim Sparey:
With that particular asset we have held retained the rights in Europe, so it gives us very good flexibility we could perhaps consider an option type arrangement sooner where our partner in Europe could come in and have the ability to have access to the data that Upsher-Smith is generating as we do, alternatively as I said we can retain interest in the asset going forward to either commercialize the product in Europe and then at some point release the value of the asset to a Japanese or Korean partner, I think it gives as actually additional flexibility from a partnering perspective.
Products in Oncology
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so clearly the company is focused on neurological area you've also got interest in oncology is that correct?
Tim Sparey:
That's right.
Fintan Walton:
So what products have you got in clinical development in that area?
Tim Sparey:
The oncology portfolio is certainly a growing area of interest for Proximagen that really is based on the science that's growing and some very hot areas based around inflammationwhich we believe the aspects have come so that we are pursuing our inflammation, base, so second to our neurology interest we have the growing inflammation portfolio and within the inflammation portfolio there are number of targets that we believe are critical from a cancer perceptive particularly around how tumors survive targeted cancer therapies that are being developed with secondary growth perspective to control that process is one that is an area of significant unmet medical need. So our main focus is on targeting those secondary processes that tumors seem to be very clever at circumventing a primary therapy and if we can demonstrate really good data sets in those preclinical models that we are looking at currently and indeed take those forward more likely with partners I think that will be a really big growth area for Proximagen going forward.
Deal and Partnership strategy
Fintan Walton:
Right, now for a company of your size there is a certain limit to the number of products you can take through clinical development, so what is the strategy there, what is your capacity to take products forward for an example?
Tim Sparey:
I think what we have done if you look at the growth the Proximagen has and it is our successful growth story to-date and we hope that continues, we've gone from having discovery stage programs through name to a portfolio as I said this spans discovery, lead optimization all the way through to Phase II studies that we are running ourselves and also with partners. So in someways if we have the right partnerships in place there is no near-term limit to our capacity to pursue programs however from a financial perspective clearly need to make sure we have the cash run way to invest in those programs, so I think we are at a point now where the focus has shifted from in-licensing of assets to now finding the right partners either collaboratively or in a licensing outmode which enables us to take programs forward either retaining territories particularly in secondary and tertiary care setting products or in primary care products plus looking at more straight forward out-licensing were Proximagen does not have the interest nor ability to commercialize assets in primary care products, so really it depends on the asset from the indication and our appetite for risk.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and for a company like yours you've way done via acquisition over a year ago are you tempted to do more in that area is that also an underlying part of your overall strategy?
Tim Sparey:
Absolutely even though we have a focused issue on partnering assets mostly in an R&D collaborative mode particularly some of the preclinical assets that some of which are novel mechanisms and therefore of high interest to partners, however we still have an interest particularly on the M&A side in acquiring companies that have assets that we think we could unlock the value as we did for Minster Pharmaceuticals with Tonabersat, we believe there are many UK and indeed European companies that have a range of assets and indeed may have suffered through attrition in the clinic where the lead asset may have failed and as often we see in these situations value is eroded and significant value is eroded I think that provides Proximagen with our cash balance it gives an opportunity to be able to acquire companies and really take those assets forward to the next value inflection.
Fintan Walton:
And if you take on that type of strategy you have to have the ability to perform in closing a deal like that do you think Proximagen has got that capability?
Tim Sparey:
I certainly think we have the expertise and I think the track record so far through the two significant M&A opportunities that we closed out in the last 12 months which was the Cambridge Biotechnology acquisition including small molecule portfolio Biovitrum [PharmaDeals ID = 34001] and also Minster Pharmaceuticals. So I think we've already demonstrated a track record of success in M&A and indeed releasing value from those programs and we've spent the last 12 months as I said looking at lot of opportunities some of which have included significant potential M&A opportunities that some of which we are still looking at, so I am hoping that we will be continues to be very active in the M&A space going forward this year.
Proximagen's focus and business model
Fintan Walton:
And would you describe yourselves as a specialty pharmaceutical company or just a drug delivery a drug development company?
Tim Sparey:
I think what we would say to ourselves is that we are growing specialty biopharmaceutical company and we are looking to growing to a significant European player, we are also focusing on our core strengths which are particularly in neurology and increasingly in inflammation so we have secondary tertiary care products but also the primary care product focus as well which is developing into a cancer portfolio at the same time.
Fintan Walton:
So you in the future would be marketing and selling drugs?
Tim Sparey:
That is one of Proximagen's longer-term goal and indeed the rationale for us to retain territories particularly in Europe, so with that model particularly with the assets we already have we can rely on a partner to develop and invest and assuming success which of course we will hope for then at some downstream point will have the ability try the partner or retain the territory and when we are at that purpose which we are not today, but we are certainly building up towards that in the next two or three-years to make sure that we are able in certain territories up to market products now will give us the ability to have a recurring revenue stream, I am not to have to go back to investors to ask more money.
Fintan Walton:
And in terms of going back to investors for more money, I mean obviously you've raised 50 million relatively recently is that likely to be another call on investors for more money?
Tim Sparey:
I think with the portfolio we have we know how we are going to deploy our funds going forward the next year or so, however given that Proximagen can afford to be opportunistic, we are reasonably confident that if we required more cash then would find the means to get hold of the appropriate funds or means to acquire a company if that was the transaction we were looking at.
Future plans
Fintan Walton:
Right, and in terms of looking forward what can we expect from Proximagen over the next three to five-years?
Tim Sparey:
I think growth, we've grown if you turn the clock back 18 months, we had an early stage portfolio with three or four discovery programs in just over 12 months we converted ourselves into a clinical stage biotech company with a range of programs, I think we have around 14, 16 programs which is significant growth already and I predict that we'll still have a very robust pipeline in three to five-years and indeed be very close to having marketed products in that time frame and I said the business development this year and the near-term goal certainly are to find partners for some of the assets where perhaps a collaborative arrangement will be the right for that asset either way I expect us to be very busy still bringing assets in but also critically finding the right partners for the right time for our current proprietary programs.
Fintan Walton:
Tim Sparey, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Tim Sparey:
Thank you for inviting me.
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).
Tim Sparey
Head of Business Development
Dr. Tim Sparey , currently serves as Head of Business Development at Proximagen.Tim joined Proximagen in November 2009 from Merck-Serono where he held the role of Head of UK Business Development. Formerly he was a Director in Licensing & External Research, Europe at Merck and he was also a Research fellow in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry (Group Leader) at Merck, working in Alzheimer's disease, Schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, anaesthetics and stem cell therapeutics.
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.
Proximagen
Proximagen Group plc (AIM:PRX) is focused on the development and commercialization of novel therapeutics for diseases of the CNS, neuroinflammation/inflammation and oncology. Proximagen Group plc are developing a broad pipeline of drug candidate programmes and have plans for substantial future growth through a strategy of acquisition and consolidation of innovative drug candidate programmes in diseases of the CNS, neuroinflammation/inflammation and oncology. The Company's strong balance sheet makes us one of the best capitalized biotechnology companies in the small and mid cap European biotech sector.