Asmacure. CEO, Martin Driscoll talks about their simple new mechanism which could transform the health of patients with asthma




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Video title: Asmacure. CEO, Martin Driscoll talks about their simple new mechanism which could transform the health of patients with asthma
Released on: October 26, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Martin Driscoll, CEO of Asmacure.
Asmacure's Lead compound for treatment of Asthma
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America in Boston. On this show I have Martin J. Driscoll, who is the CEO of a company called Asmacure based in Quebec City in Canada, welcome to the show.
Martin J. Driscoll:
Thank you Fintan, glad to be here.
Fintan Walton:
So Marty Driscoll, you've just joined at Asmacure but it's a company that's been established for some time, could you first of all tell us what is Asmacure about? What's the company?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Asmacure was established in 2002 the focus is the development of molecules called nicotinic receptor agonist and our focus is on inflammatory diseases , but our lead compound is right now in the clinic being tested for the treatment of asthma.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so what is it that I mean obviously there are lots of molecules out of there, lots of treatment for asthma, so what are you bringing to the asthma story that will transform the health of patients with asthma?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Very good, today most therapies for the treatment of asthma especially the chronic maintenance of asthma are what's called fixed dose combinations they have an inhaled steroid for the inflammation and a bronchodilator combined in a product called fixed dose combination and although effective and generally well tolerated they have their issues and most of the late stage development in asthma are newer forms of those standard fixed dose combinations, we are looking at a whole new mechanism for the treatment of asthma nicotinic receptor agonist and we believe our molecules also have an affinity at other receptors targets that are implicated in inflammatory diseases which asthma is, so the concept here is could we have a single entity molecule that would be both an anti-inflammatory and a bronchodilator like current standard of care but it's not an inhaled steroid which some patients don't like or a long-acting beta agonists which other patients don't like and it would be a simple new mechanism, so what it could in fact could be an addition to current standard of care, because you are going after new targets so pretty exciting.
Fintan Walton:
So where are you in the clinical development program for these particular molecules?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Sure, all of the development work to this point has been done in Canada, and right now we are doing two Phase II studies in patients with asthma in Canada. The first study targeting 24 patients and we are looking at can this drug in the clinic demonstrate this anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory and bronchoprotective effects and then those are in that's in mild asthma because you are inducing an inflammatory response and then we're doing a second study at moderate to severe asthmatics to see if this drug could manage their acute broncho constriction episodes. So two studies total of about 42 patients and we should have the results before the end of the year.
Fintan Walton:
And are these patients that already having complications with the current treatments?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Not necessarily that's not necessarily an inclusion criteria but they are definitely patients with asthma they have other inclusion requirements, but the moderate to severe asthma by definition they have difficulties with their asthma and ultimately with our compound we believe that's the market is the moderate to severe asthma the patients that have regular episodes of exacerbation of their condition there although they are not entirely controlled and we think that's the opportunity for our compound.
Science behind the lead compound
Fintan Walton:
Right, and what has in the past science that you've done obviously in the preclinical's research you did and obviously you did your Phase I clinical part, what is in it that's giving you confidence sort of Phase II is gonna actually work?
Martin J. Driscoll:
That's good question, well what's fascinating Fintan is that the founder of our company is a pulmonologist in Cedar, still practices in the clinical two days a week, he was fascinated earlier in his practice about these patients like farmers who came in with a cough and they would tell them that they smoked to relieve their symptoms and he was intrigued by the word of nicotine, nicotine is known to be an anti-inflammatory agent in others words, excuse me inflammatory it has an effect on inflammation whole notion of smoking in opening up the lungs if you will. So he really focused on studying these nicotinic receptors it's targets particularly in the lung, so off he went pre-clinically in animals in ex vivo, in vivo, in vitro the company we've shown that this compound could be both this anti-inflammatory and a bronchodilator component that would be an unique in a single entity, so we decided to take it into the clinic and we did the Phase I studies and helped the volunteers to look at the safety and the PK profile came out fine and then they decided to advance into Phase II where you actually study the drug in people with the disease with asthma and that's where we are today.
Funding structure of Asmacure
Fintan Walton:
Okay, just a little bit about the company itself you said it was founded back in 2002?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Right.
Fintan Walton:
Who are the backers and obviously you know clinical trials are expensive and so funding and so forth, so tell us a little bit about the funding structure?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Sure, so as I said 2002 Yvon Cormier the founder was doing his work at the University of Laval, it's in Quebec City. The Canadian university system is very supportive of incubating or stimulating life sciences development companies and that was the case here. So he decided to start his company out of based on his research, University of Laval gave a global exclusive license to the company for our library of molecules that are nicotinic receptor agonist, he got funding from angel investors and from two Canadian government backed venture capital that helps to stimulate incubate life sciences companies, so off they went. In 2006 Domain Associates a well known US based life sciences VC got in interested and in early 2007 invested in the company and so did in a Series A round and so did the Canadian, two Canadian VC's also invested. So today the capital structure is Domain Associates and the two to a lesser degree the two Canadian backed VC's government backed VC's and as well as some other founders and others. So we are well capitalized to continue what we are doing and we will see with the results of our data later this year about how we proceed forward.
Partnership strategy
Fintan Walton:
Right, and obviously presumably you want to partner this at some point with a pharma company?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Yes presumably one day, we don't envision the company becoming a commercial enterprise, we want to be a development company developing nicotinic receptor agonist (indiscernable), we don't have to partner today though. We're well capitalized, we can do it, but obviously I am here today at this business development conference certainly listening to companies and their interest and if there is a good collaboration that's good for the development of our compounds, good for the investors you know we are always here to hear that, but we are not we don't have to do a transaction we can continue our development, we have a plan, but ultimately we do want to collaborate because we don't envision becoming a commercial enterprise one day.
Focus on Gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases
Fintan Walton:
Right, and you say you are development company you presumably have you said, obviously asthma is with is one of the first areas therapy areas is one of your lead compound clearly going there, the remaining inflammatory diseases in your remaining program tell us a little bit about that?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Yes we focused here initially on gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, we've shown with a couple of our molecules some early exciting data activity and then all sort of colloids model. We are looking at the moment at Nephritis which is a disease involving the kidney we are looking at that still to determine whether there is significant activity there. So asthmarespiratory disease was the first and now we are starting to look at certain gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases.
Bridging program and basis of colloboration with drug delivery companies
Fintan Walton:
Right, and what can we expect now going into the future Marty for your company?
Martin J. Driscoll:
Well the most exciting and big event will be our proof of concept data by the end of the year. Just last week we had our first interaction with the US FDA what's called a pre-IND meeting, because we were gonna bridge from the solution form that we were studying in the Canada to a dry powder, most patients and most of the major markets prefer a powder that they inhale and what's called a dry powder the biggest products for that we wanna bridge to that, so we met with the FDA to talk about our bridging program it went very well, if our studies results are due data by the end of the year our non-clinical bridging works good we'll start studying our powder in humans probably by the start of the second quarter next year.
Fintan Walton:
Right, actually you bring up an important point because obviously that there is delivery requirement for these products as well.
Martin J. Driscoll:
Yes, that's key in respiratory. Very key in respiratory, you're not simply developing a molecule you also have to develop an effective device and system for delivering that to patients who want that.
Fintan Walton:
And on that basis are you collaborating with drug delivery companies?
Martin J. Driscoll:
We've collaborated till this point with a actually a Portuguese based firm called Hovione it's done very fine work and helping us to formulate our powder and we'll work with others as we progress. The pharma firms that talked to us many in the respiratory field have their own respiratory device platforms, so we focus principally on the formulation at this point to make sure we have a stable formulation with good flow properties and we've shown that so far.
Fintan Walton:
And importantly obviously going forward the type of company you want to partner with that already have good experience in this field?
Martin J. Driscoll:
That would be ideal it's not mandatory but it would be ideal, because the learning's will be far less you know they have the whole system infrastructure for respiratory device and formulation development globally I mean that would be preferred. They are not mandatory we will see.
Fintan Walton:
Marty Driscoll, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Martin J. Driscoll:
Thanks Fintan, my pleasure.
Fintan Walton:
Good.
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).
Martin J Driscoll
CEO
Martin J. Driscoll was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Asmacure on April 13, 2011. Mr. Driscoll has more than 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Mr. Driscoll's experience in the pharmaceutical industry includes senior roles in General Management, Commercial Operations, and Business Development for both privately-held and publicly-traded life sciences commercial- and development-stage companies. Mr. Driscoll has also previously served as a Director on the Boards of three private and public biopharmaceutical development companies. Previously, Mr. Driscoll was the Chief Executive Officer and a Director of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc, a developer of acute care pain products, from March 2008 until July 2010 when he engineered the successful merger of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc with Hospira Inc. During his career, Mr. Driscoll has also worked at Schering-Plough, ViroPharma Inc and Reliant Pharmaceuticals. In 2007, Mr. Driscoll co-founded Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals, a privately-held developer of women's healthcare products. During his career at Schering-Plough, Mr. Driscoll was the General Manager of Key Pharmaceuticals, the Schering-Plough Unit responsible for all respiratory products in the U.S. Mr. Driscoll has been involved with or led the commercialization of four blockbuster therapies, the direct negotiation of multiple transactions, licensing and M&A, and the successful submission of multiple major product regulatory filings. Mr. Driscoll holds a B.Sc. in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Board member of the Epilepsy Foundation of America.
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.
Asmacure
Asmacure Ltee is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of novel, proprietary nicotinic receptor agonist compounds for the treatment of inflammatory diseases . The company's lead compound, ASM-024, was the first nicotinic receptor agonist to enter clinical testing for the treatment of asthma. Asmacure was founded in 2002 and is based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.