Astex Pharmaceuticals: James Manuso & Harren Jhoti introduce the newly formed Astex Pharmaceuticals




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Video title: Astex Pharmaceuticals: James Manuso & Harren Jhoti introduce the newly formed Astex Pharmaceuticals
Released on: November 02, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Paul Larsmon talks to James Manuso Chairman & CEO and Harren Jhoti President of Astex Pharmaceuticals.
Reasons for merger of SuperGen and Astex Therapeutics into Astex Pharmaceuticals
Paul Larsmon :
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPartnering Europe 2011, in London. On the show today I have got James Manuso, formerly of SuperGen and Harren Jhoti, formerly of Astex Therapeutics. Now you guys have come together the two companies have merged the obvious question is what was the synergy, how and why did you merge?
Harren Jhoti:
Sure, so may be just a few seconds to give you a description of Astex Therapeutics as it was, so we were private company VC backed had raised around 80 million pounds it also been quite successful with this snapping big pharma partnerships with people such as AstraZeneca, GSK, J&J, Novartis and our real differentiating product or platform was in the fragment based drug discovery arena a new approach to develop small molecule medicines. What we have been doing was using that platform to establish these partnerships, but also using the platform to build our own internal clinical pipeline which we've had successfully done, so we actually had three compounds which were on the verge or had entered Phase II clinical trials, so the challenge for Astex Therapeutics was you know how do we take that next step, you know how do we continue to grow the company. We obviously were monitoring the possibility of doing an IPO in London for several years, but at the same time we were entertaining other options as well and that's where really that story this story began where Jim Manuso and I had a initial discussion few years back and that's what happened which resulted in this merger [PharmaDeals ID = 40098].
Paul Larsmon :
And James, you were clearly impressed by what Astex Therapeutics had to offer?
James Manuso:
Yes very much though, actually a former employee of SuperGen's ended it up at Astex Therapeutics some years ago so we followed the company with great interest and also were compelled to have discussions about their pipeline especially in light of our circumstances. SuperGen at the time of the merger discussions a profitable company, profitable in three out of the last four years and in fact this year we anticipate overall revenues in the range of $57.5 million from Dacogen the lead product and also about $6 million from deals that were done primarily by Astex Therapeutics, so all then we expect this year to bring in about $64 million, on the other hand what was interesting to us was this remarkable platform a basis for continuing drug discovery and the basis for so many opportunities to earn additional revenues from the deals with the pharmaceutical companies, SuperGen for its part a very strong clinical and regulatory development operation, significant cash on hand in fact we ended the second quarter of this year with about a $128 million, a pipeline and also a joint focus primarily on oncology and this then made a great deal of sense given the discovery capabilities of Astex Therapeutics and the clinical and regulatory development capabilities and commercialization capabilities of SuperGen.
Paul Larsmon :
I must ask you James, I mean what's in the name the new company is Astex Pharmaceuticals?
James Manuso:
It is.
Paul Larsmon :
It's unusual for the smaller company to keep the name Astex and for the bigger company SuperGen to just disappear why did that happen?
James Manuso:
Well we actually changed the name to Astex Pharmaceuticals, there we moved from discovery to therapeutics to pharmaceuticals and that implies commercialize the product, that's one aspect of this. The other side of it is appreciate that SuperGen was founded in 1991 and underwent a series of (indiscernable) in the course of its life time, we wanted to be very clear about a new company that had a very specific focus and we also liked the name Astex and the call letters ASTX on the NASDAQ.
Clinical portfolio and products
Paul Larsmon :
All good reasons, little bit about the science, I mean well James touched on this earlier, but what are you doing now and what's coming up?
Harren Jhoti:
So a couple of things really obviously we have a very exciting portfolio, clinical portfolio in which we have our lead product which is marketed Dacogen which is the basis on which we have a very strong financial foundation and that is that product is being sold by Eisai [PharmaDeals ID = 29181] in North America and J&J [PharmaDeals ID = 24684] rest of the world, but behind that we have several targeted agents all in oncology and the two which I will just highlight for now are HSP90 inhibitor AT13387 which is in Phase II clinical trials in patients with GIST which is a key tumor that's going to that is being tested in combination with imatinib, so we're very excited about that product and we're also be doing like Phase II trials with that product, we are in a very competitive space with that HSP90 inhibitor. And the second product which I would highlight has been productized for significant additional development resource is SGI-110 now that is a second generation hypomethylating agent and it really builds on the side to be in franchise i.e. Dacogen and what we are doing there is improving some of the drug like properties which have limited Dacogen because of without going into too many clinical details the half-life of the product doesn't Dacogen doesn't allow itself to be used for solid tumors, so what we're doing with SGI-110 is developing a novel hypomethylating agent which we hopefully should be able to take into the solid tumor studies.
James Manuso:
Appreciate that our company today has eight drugs in the clinic, four in or entering Phase II clinical trials, two of which will likely have the potential for Phase II proof of concept readouts next year and four that are partnered with pharmaceutical companies that have the prospect of bringing in over time up to a billion and a half dollars worth of milestone payments. So by putting together the cash, the capabilities, the revenue stream and this remarkable combined portfolio we have the potential to become a meaningful force in this business.
Paul Larsmon :
Is that, there is a lot of stuff there?
James Manuso:
It is.
Future Business plans
Paul Larsmon :
Is that gonna be enough to keep you busy for the time being or do you have more ambitious business plans ahead?
James Manuso:
So much so that in fact we are in the process of preparing a spin out company called Montigen Pharmaceuticals and that will have one Phase II product from our portfolio, one Phase II product from another company's portfolio called Ascalon and two preclinical stage drugs, a discovery operation and a number of the management team members and discovery scientists that originally worked for SuperGen we're actually going to be doing a pipe investment, a private investment in public equity in a reverse merger so there will be a public company and we hope to accomplish this before the end of the year, so that's an example of monetizing assets meaningfully on behalf of shareholders.
Paul Larsmon :
Talking about shareholders it's easy to see how Astex Therapeutics some shareholders be delighted with all this cash, shares and so on coming their way, what about your shareholders? What do they get?
James Manuso:
Well appreciate that building a pharmaceutical company is a long range game and to the extent that shareholder is interested in having a robust portfolio that can be partnered, that can be monetized, that can be developed we offer this opportunity, as you know what has happened in the recent past is there a number of vacancies in let's call it the middle ground of oncology companies, we have the potential to fill one of those vacancies and become therefore one of the more highly valued companies in the space.
Harren Jhoti:
Iust to may be just add to that, from the perspective of the Astex Therapeutics shareholders this transaction is very much viewed as a company building exercise and so this really wasn't positioned or is viewed as an obvious exit it really simply reflects the life cycle or the cycle timing of what it takes to develop drugs that is a quite extensive period. So what we're able to do here is through this merger allow additional resource to be applied to the different assets that we have jointly to be able to take this products much further ahead, and the other comment in terms of putting the two portfolios together I think it's worth emphasizing that we can actually raise the bar in terms of productizing just select the products which we really believe have a significant chance of success. I think too often in biotech companies people continue to struggle with one or two assets, because frankly that's all they actually have so they have no other options here we have many other options.
Harren and James's perspective: Current Pharmaceutical landscape and potentials for blockbuster drug
Paul Larsmon :
Many options, but do you think that there is the potential for the big blockbuster drug that we've seen in the past or those days over?
Harren Jhoti:
You know I think the whole pharmaceutical landscape is evolving quite rapidly and you know when I was at Glaxo over 10 years ago the concept of developing a medicine for a population, patient population which would generate sales a less than $500 million was just a non-starter, but I think with the whole concept of personalized medicine and targeted therapies I think what the whole industry is learning is that actually is a much smarter way to go, because we have a much higher chance we actually developing drugs which make a big difference and the payers will pay because frankly I think that's going to be another dimension to whether the industry can succeed as well as it has done in the past.
James Manuso:
And appreciate our strategic imperative that is to discover, develop, and commercialize drugs with the primary focus on oncology and I use commercialize in the broadest terms, you can commercialize a drug before it ever reaches the clinic something that Astex Therapeutics has done on multiple occasions you can do it in Phase I, Phase II, Phase III or at a point in time at which the drug has been approved this was the case with Dacogen you can also develop a sales force, however in today's world with the advent of the large pharmaceutical companies becoming more sales and marketing organizations you have a ready customer and if you have an approved drug that has proven itself in the clinic the deals can be quite significant and I use as an example the 20 to 30% blended royalty rate that we were able to negotiate for the out-licensure of Dacogen that translates into a lot of money with approximately a billion dollar drug.
Paul Larsmon :
Well fascinating stuff, good luck and thanks very much for joining me.
Harren Jhoti:
Thank you.
James Manuso:
Thank you for your time, appreciated.
Paul Larsmon
Paul Larsmon has worked as a broadcast television journalist for 25 years, covering general news, business and politics. He has been both presenter and producer in several news broadcasters, including the major British television news company ITN. He joined PharmaTelevision as Executive Producer earlier this year and has been responsible for getting , PTV News launched.
Harren Jhoti
President and Director
Harren Jhoti presently serves as President and Director of Astex Pharmaceuticals. Harren Jhoti PhD, has served as Astex Pharmaceuticals president and member of the Board of Directors since July 2011. He co-founded Astex Therapeutics in 1999 and was chief scientific officer until November 2007 when he was appointed chief executive. Dr. Jhoti was named by the Royal Society of Chemistry as "Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year"for 2007. He has published widely including in leading journals such as Nature and Science and has also been featured in TIME magazine after being named by the World Economic Forum a Technology Pioneer in 2005. Dr. Jhoti served as a non-executive director of Iconix Inc. Before starting up Astex Therapeutics in 1999, he was head of Structural Biology and Bioinformatics at GlaxoWellcome in the United Kingdom (1991-1999). Prior to Glaxo, Dr. Jhoti was a post-doctoral scientist at Oxford University. He received a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry in 1985 and a PhD in Protein Crystallography from the University of London in 1989.
James S.J Manuso
Chairman and CEO
James Manuso PhD, MBA, currently serves as chairman and chief executive officer at Astex Pharmaceuticals. He served as Astex Pharmaceuticals (formerly SuperGen) chairman, president and CEO from January 2004 to July 2011, as chief executive officer-elect from September 2003 to December 2003 and as a director since February 2001. He is co-founder and immediate past president and chief executive officer of Galenica Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Manuso co-founded and was general partner of PrimeTech Partners, a biotechnology venture management partnership, from 1998 to 2002, and co-founder and managing general partner of The Channel Group LLC, an international life sciences corporate advisory firm. He was also president of Manuso, Alexander & Associates, Inc, management consultants and financial advisors to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Dr. Manuso was a vice president and director of Health Care Planning and Development for The Equitable Companies (now Group Axa), where he also served as an acting medical director. He currently serves on the boards of Novelos Therapeutics Inc. (NVLT:OB) and privately held KineMed, Inc. Previously, he served on the boards of Merrion Pharmaceuticals Ltd (MERR:IEX; Dublin, Ireland), Inflazyme Pharmaceuticals Inc., Symbiontics Inc. (subsequently sold to BioMarin as ZyStor Therapeutics Inc.), Quark Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Galenica Pharmaceuticals Inc, and Supratek Pharma Inc Dr. Manuso earned a BA with Honors in Economics and Chemistry from New York University, a PhD in Experimental Psychophysiology from the Graduate Faculty of The New School University, a Certificate in Health Systems Management from ,Harvard Business School and an Executive MBA from Columbia Business School. Dr. Manuso is the author of over 30 chapters, articles and books on topics including health care cost containment and biotechnology company management. He has taught and lectured at Columbia, New York University, Georgetown, Polytechnic University, Waseda University (Japan) and elsewhere. He has delivered invited addresses at meetings of the American Management Association, the American Medical Association, the Securities Industry Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and many other professional associations. Dr. Manuso serves on the Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and its Health Section Governing Board. He previously served as vice president and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a company that has proven success in deals and alliances. PharmaVentures offers: Over 18 years of healthcare industry experience gained from working with in excess of 1000 clients in 38 countries, and conducting more than 450 assignments Over 40 specialist advisors, analysts and researchers Skills honed in many countries - 80% of its business comes from outside the UK.
Astex Pharmaceuticals
Astex Pharmaceuticals is dedicated to the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapeutics with a focus on cancer. The Company is developing a proprietary pipeline of novel cancertherapeutics, will selectively in-license assets possessing a strategic fit with an attractive cost value ratio, and is creating de-risked products for partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies. Astex Pharmaceuticals, formerly SuperGen, developed Dacogen and receives significant royalties on global sales.
Astex Pharmaceuticals
Astex Pharmaceuticals is dedicated to the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapeutics with a focus on cancer. The Company is developing a proprietary pipeline of novel cancer therapeutics, will selectively in-license assets possessing a strategic fit with an attractive cost "value ratio, and is creating de-risked products for partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies. Astex Pharmaceuticals, formerly SuperGen, developed Dacogen and receives significant royalties on global sales.