Syntaxin: Melanie Lee explains their biological platform, based on Botulinum Toxin, and its primary indications




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Video title: Syntaxin: Melanie Lee explains their biological platform, based on Botulinum Toxin, and its primary indications
Released on: August 31, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Melanie Lee, CEO of Syntaxin
Syntaxin: Origin and fundings
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here in Oxford. On this show I have Melanie Lee, who is CEO of a company called Syntaxin which is based here in Oxford, welcome.
Melanie Lee:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Melanie, you are a now CEO of a company called Syntaxin as I mentioned and your own background has been at GSK and you've spent a number of years quite important years at Celltech, UCB Celltech now UCB I suppose, could you tell us first of all little bit about Syntaxin's origin and what is it about Syntaxin that makes you want to join it?
Melanie Lee:
Yes, I was a consultant for Syntaxin after I left UCB and why I joined it was because I saw a platform in Syntaxin the like of which I haven't seen in reviewing many other companies and Syntaxin's platform is based from a technology that came from Porton Down where the Health Protection Agency spun them out in 2005.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so we will come on to the some details on technology obviously one of the key questions is are you funded and how well funded are you?
Melanie Lee:
We are very well funded and we are fortunate because we had a Series C round last year where we've raised 18 million pounds.
Fintan Walton:
And 18 million in total how does that add up to?
Melanie Lee:
Total of 40 million.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and so to be clear you have both venture capital source funds as well as corporate funds?
Melanie Lee:
Yes we have been well funded and then we had LSP, SR One, JJDC came in for the next round with that being worth and then last year we picked up Ipsen, Lundbeck Ventures, and Seventure.
Technology and Products
Fintan Walton:
Quite a broad range of company showing interest in your company. So let's just move now to the products that you've got or the technology that you've got and the products you want to develop, so what is the underlying technology? What is the underlying part of the technology that Syntaxin has got?
Melanie Lee:
Yes, well it's a biological platform and it's based on Botulinum Toxin and Botulinum Toxin is in essence a secretion inhibitor, but if you manipulate it through molecular engineering you can actually turn that secretion inhibition which normally works on neuronal cells into secretion inhibition on cells of your choice.
Fintan Walton:
So obviously that's one of the reasons why you did a deal way back at the beginning with Allergan?
Melanie Lee:
Yes Allergan [PharmaDeals ID = 25209] saw the potential of the technology in pain and in fact had a deal with the Health Protection Agency [PharmaDeals ID = 25208] prior to the company being formed so they have the area of pain and we worked with them for a long time. Allergan have a whole range of preclinical molecules to treat pain and more importantly they have their lead molecule in two Phase II studies.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so the primary indication for those two Phase II studies are?
Melanie Lee:
The primary indication is post-herpetic neuralgia with results in January 2012. And then the second study is overactive bladder with urinary incontinence and those results should be out in July 2012.
Fintan Walton:
And obviously Syntaxin will get the benefits of the deal going forward if that product is successful?
Melanie Lee:
We have undisclosed milestones and royalties from that deal.
Fintan Walton:
So let's just go back then to the remaining program that you've got the platform that you describe it, I think last year you had an undisclosed deal with an undisclosed company obviously, can you tell us something a little bit about that can you disclose anything other than there undisclosed.
Melanie Lee:
I can't say very much about that deal, because it's highly competitive it was important to us and it was one of the catalysts to help us through our series C investment, but it's an ongoing deal that should give us new stream next year.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so more information coming later on?
Melanie Lee:
More information next year.
Portfolio and Programs
Fintan Walton:
Okay good. So let's then go back to what remains within the Syntaxin portfolio if I can describe that, so what have you've got and where are you going with it?
Melanie Lee:
Yes so we have the Allergan molecules and they are incharge of development of those molecules and they are using those molecules with local administration in both the indication of post-herpetic neuralgia and overactive bladder . Our molecule lead molecule is at the moment preclinical but should be in the clinic next year will be in the clinic next year to achieve proof of principle in human volunteers and proof of concept next year early next year in patients now the disease indication is Acromegaly, now Acromegaly is a disease with the human pituitary and the pituitaries secreting growth hormone in access due to a tumor on that pituitary , so that program will be a systemic administration of our molecule to treat the pituitary and stop that secretion.
Fintan Walton:
And then obviously you still got the remaining part of your program?
Melanie Lee:
Yes, so the Acromegaly program we show that we can with precision targeting of our molecules we can target cells of choice and we can do it systemically, so extending our program into other therapeutic area is a great interest to us and we'd like to do that in partnership with others, but also understanding how to be more precise with the targeting and looking perhaps the protein scaffold platforms in conjunction with ours will actually be an area that our technology will show great potential.
Business model and Partnership strategy
Fintan Walton:
So with every platform there is a lot of potentials as you say, so how you going to what sort of business model do you have, how you going to take this underlying technology and turn it into the success that hopefully you are all striving towards?
Melanie Lee:
Yes with the lead molecule our lead molecule in Acromegaly will form a major proof of principal experiment for the platform as well as for the indication, in addition we will have programs that hopefully are partnered over this next year and next and the next following year to demonstrate that these other ideas we have will be working the potential as I said is very full so for our shareholders we will be looking for attracting a major acquirer, but really there is also massive potential if we can grow this company and that's something that I am enjoying the thought of being able to do.
Fintan Walton:
And obviously through for further collaboration with multiple companies?
Melanie Lee:
We would be still being attractive for exit we will strategically partner in key areas where we can attract people on specific programs.
Melanie Lee's perception: Strategy for successful fund raisings
Fintan Walton:
And just going back to the fact that you've successfully raised 18 million just in terms of the general environment, you know lots of companies would have loved to raise 18 million like you did last year and particularly here in the UK in the UK environment, what's your perception then for companies like yourselves to be successful? What is required to get that sort of funding?
Melanie Lee:
Well first for start I think you've got to have a platform that's believable and I think the whole area of toxins at the moment if you just look at how they are being used Botulinum Toxins in particular you can see that not only they are cosmetically used but therapeutic expansion is very possible so there is some people who just get it, but in fact the opportunity is broad. In addition last year what was important was a very credible executive team management to the organization and sound science in a robust patent to state in all those areas we take the boxes so last year it wasn't too well it was a job to be done but it wasn't too difficult to tell the story of the potential of this platform based on what was already known and what had already been done.
Fintan Walton:
And having the right investors behind you in the outset obviously helps?
Melanie Lee:
The investors are incredibly important and the investors that I came into the company we got the Series B investors they were incredibly supportive and without fail said they would go through this next round.
Fintan Walton:
Melanie Lee, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Melanie Lee:
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).
Melanie Lee
CEO
Melanie Lee Melanie Lee currently is CEO of Syntaxin. Dr Lee was formerly President of New Medicines and Executive Vice President R&D with UCB, having served as R&D Director at Celltech before its merger with UCB. Dr Lee brings a wealth of drug research and development experience to Syntaxin, through her early academic career at Cancer Research UK (as ICRF), a decade in research with GlaxoSmithKline and her later leadership of biopharmaceutical R&D at Celltech and UCB. Dr Lee currently Chairs Cancer Research Technology, an early drug R&D and technology licensing company of CRUK.
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.
Syntaxin
Syntaxin has a strong and unique biologics platform that delivers a pipeline of Targeted Secretion Inhibitors (TSI). The platform has the potential to generate multiple products to treat diseases where secretion is the major driver. These are large market opportunities, such as the treatment of pain , endocrine conditions and cancer . Syntaxin was founded in late 2005 through a spinout of intellectual property and scientists from the Health Protection Agency, and benefits from 15 years of research in the field of bacterial toxin engineering. The company owns dominant patents and know how in the design, manufacture and use of novel cell TSI based on engineered botulinum toxins. It has established a strong IP base with over 40 granted patents covering the platform and products. It is backed by a blue chip investor base including: Abingworth, Lundbeck Ventures, LSP, up Ipsen, JJDC, Quest , Seventure, and SR One.