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Cancer firm intensifies search for partner: Hires experienced advisor

Danish Oncology Venture has appointed a US company to attract potential partners and increase the chance of selling the company's cancer hope. After receiving positive data, the Danish company plans to file for registration in the US soon.

Foto: /Ritzau Scanpix/Nikolai Linares

Oncology Venture has progressed in the development of the cancer drug dovitinib, which was acquired from Swiss drug group Novartis, and turns on the charm for the big players of the pharma industry.

To support its out-licensing activities, the Danish company has appointed US consultancy firm Destum Partners, which is sort of a match-maker between smaller biotech companies and Big Pharma.

"We are a small organization so for us, it's ideal to collaborate with a specialist in creating deals and partnerships that is based in the US because it's where we have most opportunities to find partners," says Ulla Buhl, Chief Operating Officer and Co-owner of Oncology Venture.

Destum Partners has previously served as advisor to another Danish company, Zealand Pharma.

We are a small organization so for us, it's ideal to collaborate with a specialist in creating deals and partnerships that is based in the US.

Ulla Buhl, Chief Operating Officer and Co-owner of Oncology Ventur

The investors at Nasdaq Stockholm welcome the news about dovitinib's progress and the collaboration with Destum Partners. Wednesday, Oncology Venture's share price boomed and increased by 40 percent.

The Danish company's business model is largely to acquire and develop cancer drugs that were shelved by large drug groups but nevertheless showed an effect in humans. Oncology Venture then looks for partners to either acquire the product completely or finance the expensive phase III trials.

Quick way to US approval

Oncology Venture declines to reveal how much it pays the US consultants.

The aim or the collaboration with Destum Partners is to get concrete advise from US specialists, for instance on how to achieve regulatory approval of dovitinib as fast and easily as possible.

Oncology Venture can, for instance, apply for 'on par' approval of dovitinib in the US based on existing data and literature.

In clinical trials, dovitinib as monotherapy proved just as efficient as the already approved alternative, sorafenib. Oncology Venture can therefore build on sorafenib's data when filing for registration of dovitinib.

Compared to clinical studies, this is a much cheaper method to obtain regulatory approval. According to the Danish company, an approval will make it much easier to enter partnerships about combination treatments with dovitinib and another product, for instance a immune oncology product.

Strong data

Oncology Venture has developed a method to identify which patients will benefit from immune oncology treatment with dovitinib. Based on that, the company is now ready to present itself to potential partners.

"We are now on a stage where we have so strong dovitinib data that we need external assistance for continuously presenting the opportunities dovitinib can give large drug groups," says Buhl.

We screened these companies and Destum Partners had the right combination of understanding of our technology and products and a history proving that they can create deals.

Ulla Buhl, Chief Operating Officer and Co-owner of Oncology Ventur

Oncology Venture owns 55 percent of dovitinib, while the partner Leon Sass from Sass & Larsen A/S holds the remaining 45 percent.

Sass previously expressed his wish to keep at least 15 percent but has given Oncology Venture an option to acquire up to 85 percent of the ownership. The option is valid until April, and, if Oncology Venture decides to exercise it, it will cost the company USD 3.5 million.

Besides dovitinib, Oncology Venture also has the drug Liplacis against breast- and prostate cancer. The candidate has progressed so much that the company is currently working to get a so-called IND/IDE status from FDA.

IND is for the drug itself while IDE is for Oncology Venture's drug response predictor (DRP) technology that predicts which patients will benefit from treatment with a certain cancer drug.

"We expect to be granted the two statuses soon and by then, we must also be very prepared for entering partnerships. We also expect Destum Partners to be very helpful in this," says Buhl.

Oncology Venture's pipeline also includes the breast cancer candidates 2X-121 and 2X-111 and the preclinical multiple myeloma drug APO010.

English Edit: Ida Løjmand

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