Polytherics close series C funding: John Burt discusses the funding environment leading up to their latest round




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Video title: Polytherics close series C funding: John Burt discusses the funding environment leading up to their latest round
Released on: December 21, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to John Burt, CEO of PolyTherics.
PolyTherics's technology platform and Interferon beta program
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO-Europe, in Duesseldorf, Germany in 2011. On this show I have John Burt, who is CEO of a company called PolyTherics which is a UK based company a private company, welcome.
John Burt:
Thank you very much Fintan, great to be here.
Fintan Walton:
It's good to have you and talk about PolyTherics which is a company you've taken over as CEO in the last year or so?
John Burt:
Last year right, yes.
Fintan Walton:
Could you just tell us or remind our audience what PolyTherics is about?
John Burt:
PolyTherics is about site-specific conjugation to proteins and peptide drugs to enable better biopharmaceuticals, so historically it's been a technology that's been used for PEGylation to optimize PK and PD we have extending that application to other areas where you need that site-specific conjugation such as in antibody drug conjugate platforms.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so give us some examples of drugs that you have or molecules that you modify using your techniques?
John Burt:
Certainly, one most exciting programs we working on in the last year is with interferon-beta for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, it's a well established platform $6 billion of sales of interferon-beta products, but today there is not a long acting form of interferon-beta on the market unlike interferon alpha, so we have been working with Nuron Biotech [PharmaDeals ID = 40970] in the US who have developing interferon-beta there NU100 product which is in Phase III in a non-PEGylated form and we've now PEGylated that protein very excited by the extension of half life we are seeing, so expect that program to move towards clinical development very soon.
Fintan Walton:
So how is that molecule like that compete with the existing molecule that's on the market?
John Burt:
So the long acting form reduces the frequency of administration so clearly offers a patient benefit, one of the issues as well with the number of this cytokines therapies is potential to generate antibody response so reducing the frequency of administration also reduces the risk of generating an antibody response to that therapy, so a number of advantages that come to a patient and to the physician using a long acting form of the product.
Fintan Walton:
So it is, you see this as a reimbursable product?
John Burt:
Absolutely.
Fintan Walton:
You are comfortable with that idea?
John Burt:
Yes very much so.
Fintan Walton:
Good, so that's one example you've got a couple of others as well?
John Burt:
Yes and so in a different franchise area with the blood factors so blood coagulation factor such as factor IX we've been working with Celtic Pharma Holdings [PharmaDeals ID = 29730] on applying our TheraPEG technology where we conjugate across the disulphide bond of a protein applying that to factor IX that program has been going very well and we expect that to be cresting in development, we've also applied that to other blood factors and so we are now going public on the fact that we've been able to successfully apply the technology to factor VII-A and we are so now looking for partners around factor VIII as well, so a broad blood coagulation factor therapeutic area is one that we can really apply technologies in.
Business model
Fintan Walton:
Right, so I mean obviously one of the things about your company is that you have this platform, this capability to modify proteins and protein based therapeutics, so in the end your business model is all through collaboration and licensing of your technology, you don't develop your own drugs?
John Burt:
That's right, we no intending to develop our own drugs and take those into the clinic, what we are is a technology provider and a solution provider to enable better biopharmaceuticals, so it's about collaboration and licensing of our technology to our partner to take that program into development. However what we will do is identify certain proteins of interest and actually work on them ourselves at our own risk to generate data packages to take to perspective partners to demonstrate that we can apply technology to their proteins and that is exactly what we do with Nuron with already generated data on applying TheraPEG to interferon-beta to take to them to demonstrate that we could apply the technology and then it's an easier business development process through to a deal.
Funding and investors
Fintan Walton:
Now the other thing we've mentioned you a private company obviously, you've done some financing recently for a biotechnology company or a technology company I suppose another way of describing you, what is it like to try and raise money in the current climate?
John Burt:
It's tough, it's very tough and it's always gonna be tough. I think it was easy then would be funding companies which perhaps shouldn't get funded so it's good that it's tough, but it's a tough market if you got a good story and a good technology then it's a bit easier clearly and we've got Imperial Innovations who are arguably one of the UK's leading early stage investors on our share register the company was founded out of Imperial College in its early days alongside The School Of Pharmacy. So they led almost recent round and so they've taken just under half of the round, so it's very important to us and for any company to have a very supportive investor who can follow-on into multiple rounds. So Imperial Innovations came in and we also got money from a new investor ProVen VCT, but it is a tough market out there, it's very tough and so one of my objective is to look to where the company is gonna go over the next 12 to 24 months to build out our story as well to move beyond our existing technology platforms to integrate other technologies into there often.
Future development plans
Fintan Walton:
So you are suggesting there that you will in-license, acquire technologies?
John Burt:
Certainly what we are looking at, we are looking at number of opportunities at the moment. I am quite excited to in this tough market there is attractive assets which are becoming available and so these are opportunity to be a consolidator within the space.
Fintan Walton:
So obviously would you then continue to be a drug delivery company or how would you describe yourselves?
John Burt:
Well as I said I see this as a solution provider, so we are enabling better biopharmaceuticals, we are not developing those ourselves, we are enabling better products to come through products with an optimal PK, PD profile, products which are conjugate products where if it's a protein drug conjugate you've got the conjugation to effectively deliver payload to the site of the tumor and so it's better for biopharmaceuticals without developing them ourselves so we don't need that level of capital and we don't bare that risk to be taking those programs into the clinic ourselves.
Fintan Walton:
And when you've raised this money it's for what? What's the purpose of raising?
John Burt:
So the money is to fund our internal operations and to take a modest stake on a risk sharing basis in programs that we move to preclinical proof of concept before our partner taking over full development of those programs, so there is R&D activity on the new technologies as R&D activity on those early programs as I said it takes preclinical proof of concept.
Fintan Walton:
John, thank you very much for coming on the show.
John Burt:
It's been my pleasure, thank you very much.
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).
John Burt
CEO
At the time of recording this PTV interview John Burt works as CEO of PolyTherics. John joined PolyTherics in November 2010 and brings broad business and corporate development experience to the Company. Prior to joining PolyTherics he co-founded Thiakis, with Professor Steve Bloom (Imperial College), which he led as CEO through a major financing round in 2006 and ultimately to a very successful sale to Wyeth in 2008. John has previously led medical and life sciences technology transfer for Imperial Innovations and at GSK served in a range of strategy, business and corporate development roles. His early experience in the biotech industry came through the R&D finance role with Vanguard Medica, now Vernalis. John was a board member of Sterix, a joint Imperial College- University of Bath spin-out company which was acquired by Ipsen in 2004, and has been an active advisor to early-stage biotech and life sciences companies on strategy, business development and finance issues.
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.
PolyTherics
PolyTherics is a biotechnology company that applies precision chemistry to develop protein and peptide based drugs. These two classes of drugs are administrated to patients by injection and are generally cleared from the body very quickly. This rapid clearance can reduce the efficacy of the drug and increase the frequency that injections have to be administrated to patient. Our precision chemistry technologies can extend the duration of action of these classes of drugs so patients require fewer injections, and can create more efficacious products. This reduces the cost of treatment and improves patient compliance. The Company has three proprietary precision chemistry technologies for attaching one or more molecules of the polymer poly (ethylene glycol) (PEG) to any therapeutic peptide or protein to slow its elimination from the body. PEGylation is an established method for improving medicines and nine PEGylated products are already approved for use in either the US and/or EU. PolyTherics' methods of PEGylation add PEG to a specific site on proteins and peptides producing a more homogeneous product than traditional PEGylation technologies. The market for therapeutic proteins is expected to grow to $160.1 Bn by 2013. PolyTherics has positioned its business to work in partnership with biopharmaceutical companies to produce better products to capitalize on this enormous market opportunity. The Company believes in collaboration to access therapeuticproteins and peptides, and complementary expertise, and pursues opportunities to expand its exploratory research under grant-funded initiatives.