When the board at biotech company Scandion Oncology, which is listed on the Swedish spotlight exchange, meets the next time it will be with a well-versed biotech player at the table.
Bo Rode Hansen, whose day job is to hold the reins at US biotech company Genevant Sciences, thus becomes the fifth member of the board. With his more than 20 years of experience, he will help position the Danish oncology firm "correctly throughout the world."
I met with Peter and CEO Nils Brünner when I was traveling through Denmark and after that meeting I was able to really see how I can contribute positively.
"I'll bring my strategic and operational experience from 20 years in Danish and international biotech and pharma to the table. I hope to be able to contribute with the board and management to position Scandion correctly throughout the world and this has the potential of Scandion fulfilled for the benefit of cancer patients," Rode Hansen says to MedWatch in an interview.
It caused quite a stir when Rode Hansen informed his employer Roche that he was stepping down from his position as Global Head of RNA research and Head of Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen, formerly known as Santaris Pharma.
An attractive and interesting offer from the newly started biotech company Genevant Sciences in Boston's biotech hub was, however, so intriguing that Rode Hansen, who is trained in biochemistry, could not pass up the opportunity.
Nor was it difficult to say yes when the chairman of Scandion Oncology, Peter Høngaard Andersen, reached out to Rode Hansen recently with the offer to join the Copenhagen-based oncology firm's new five-person board of directors.
"Peter wanted to compliment the board with more experience from pharma, biotech and business development and wanted to know whether I was interested. I met with Peter and CEO Nils Brünner when I was traveling through Denmark and after that meeting I was able to really see how I can contribute positively," explains Rode Hansen.
An important mission
Scandion Oncology develops drugs that are given in combination with known chemotherapies and can restore cancer cells' sensitivity to a given treatment that the cells had otherwise developed a resistance to.
With the Danish-developed technology, the patient is thus able to continue the treatment, which would otherwise have been discontinued as their cancer disease no longer responds to the chemotherapy.
"Scandion Oncology is an incredibly exciting clinical-stage biotech firm with a huge potential and a skilled team. Scandion's mission is to try to make a difference for the many people who unfortunately struggle with cancer treatment resistance," says Rode Hansen.
"It's a mission that I've found important for many years," he adds.
Scandion Oncology is based on a screening platform developed as part of a national research foundation funded by the Danish National Research Foundation.
The company's leading drug candidate SCO-101 is currently being tested in a two-part phase 2 trial on 12-18 patients with metastatic bowel cancer. The patients will receive the biotech company's experimental treatment in combination chemotherapy Folfiri.
The study will pave the way for other studies with SCO-101 combined with another treatment. And Scandion's current position as well as the company's overall mission and potential are some of the factors that appealed to Rode Hansen.
"After all, most of us have at some point in life had cancer affect our lives and know that it is a serious and life-threatening disease. Even though there is an increasing number of good cancer treatments, unfortunately there are still far too many people who cannot be effectively treated due to resistance," he says.
750 percent increase on the stock exchange
In recent years, oncology treatments have increasingly focused on immunotechnology. This is fantastic when the treatment works, but there is still a major challenge with resistance in cancer treatment, explains Rode Hansen.
"People have realized this and Scandion is one of the few companies worldwide that have embarked on this unresolved challenge," says Rode Hansen, emphasizing that investors have noticed this.
Over the past 12 months, the company's stock has increased more than 750 percent on the Swedish spotlight exchange, which makes Scandion Oncology the absolute high jumper on a stock market, which has otherwise suffered during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"The company has made it safely through the covid-19 crisis so far with only minor delays in clinical development," says Rode Hansen, who believes he can contribute with several things at the Copenhagen-based high jumper.
Most of us have at some point in life had cancer affect our lives and know that it is a serious and life-threatening disease
I have a large international network in life science and executive-level management experience from both pharma and biotech in Europe and the US. I have furthermore spent many years involved in collaborations, identification and development of cancer drugs – both at Santaris and Roche," explains Rode Hansen.
His first job will be to guide Scandion's proof of concept trial with metastatic bowel cancer safely to completion.
"Then there are other studies in the pipeline. Most recently, Scandion has also focused on resistance in immuno-oncology treatment – cemented through the partnership with Alligator Bioscience in Sweden," says Rode Hansen, with reference to a partnership deal from early June, in which SCO-101 is to be tested in combination with the Swedish-developed phase 2 ready immuno-oncology drug mitazalimab.
This is done to test whether a combination can improve the treatment of cancer patients. With time, Scandion Oncology will increasingly focus on new studies, business development and positioning, he explains.
Not the master of everything
When MedWatch spoke to Rode Hansen in December last year, he said that he plans to return to Denmark some day.
"Seeing as my family is also Danish, the plan is definitely to return to Denmark some day when the right job and the right opportunity presents itself," he said at the time.
So does your engagement to Scandion Oncology indicate that you are now returning more permanently to Denmark?
"I understand why that question would come up. I'm the CEO of Genevant Sciences and work based in Boston, but I often have business in Europe and I have board meetings in London and Basel anyway," he explains.
Genevant's board is positive about his commitment to a few boards of other non-competing companies, he continues.
Meanwhile, Rode Hansen has long wanted to remain active and contribute the Danish life science environment if the right opportunity came about.
"The Scandion opportunity fit really well with that," says Rode Hansen.
Meanwhile, serious illness in the immediate family has unfortunately meant that Rode Hansen's wife and their joint children have temporarily moved back to Denmark some time ago. This means that he spends more time in Denmark than he would have otherwise.
"Unfortunately, it's one of those things that you are not in control of yourself and which is a risk we knew we were taking when we left for Boston. That being said, Scandion is a unique opportunity that might as well be based in San Diego or Copenhagen in an industry with a large degree of international business," says Rode Hansen.
English Edit: Ida Jacobsen