The new research and development pact that Symphogen has just signed with Baxalta makes CEO Kirsten Drejer both happy and proud, as the deal cements Symphogen’s status as a biotech company with a mature pipeline. It also means the biotech baby Kirsten Drejer conceived back in 2000 is on the verge of becoming the mature company she has worked to transform it into for the past 15 years.
“It usually takes 20-25 years before you have a profitable biotech company and I now believe we will reach that point. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Symphogen will turn 16 this summer and we now have a 16-year old who is well-equipped for the future,” Kirsten Drejer says about the company she leads.
The deal with Baxalta means Symphogen will develop six novel oncology drugs using its proprietary antibody technology and take them from preclinical development to the completion of phase I studies.
“It’s massive validation of our antibody platform and of our company that Baxalta believe we are the right company to develop drugs for them. I’m proud that they have chosen us as their strategic research and development partner and moreover, we have a mature pipeline,” Kirsten Drejer says.
In addition to the six new projects that will now begin development from scratch, Symphogen is testing its own candidate Sym004 against colon cancer in phase IIb trials. Sym004 was previously licensed to Germany’s Merck KGaA, but the drug and chemical group returned the candidate and all the rights to it to Symphogen in January last year.
The biotech company now aims to test Sym004 in a phase IIa study in brain cancer and in a phase Ib study in which it is paired with chemotherapy to treat colon cancer.
Moreover, Symphogen is testing candidates Sym015 and Sym013 against a range of solid tumors with both candidates scheduled to enter clinical phases this year, just as it has a number of other assets in preclinical development.
“We cover the whole spectrum of oncology drug development and that’s basically the kind of company we wanted to be. We are a company that keeps on renewing its pipeline with new drugs due to our effective antibody platform,” Kirsten Drejer believes.
Solid financial foundation
Aside from the new deal with Baxalta, which gives the company a capital injection of USD 175 million, Symphogen also received an undisclosed milestone payment from Genentech in early December. Genentech took the candidate Sym009 into clinical phases against an undisclosed infection disease in November. Sym009 is also based on the biotech company’s antibody platform and it is the only candidate not targeting cancer.
“The milestone payment and the new deal mean we have a solid financial foundation at the moment,” she explains.
The company can thus distance itself somewhat from the massive IPO buzz that has surrounded it in recent years.
“We now await the results from the Sym004 phase IIb study sometime in the late fall. If they are positive, we might have to raise additional funds to take the drug all the way to the market – and then that discussion might crop up again,” says Kirsten Drejer, who simply rejoices in the newly signed deal for the time being.
“A 16-year old like Symphogen can be pretty difficult from time to time, but with this deal we have ensured that our teenager receives the best possible education from our partners and all the competent people I have in my management team and boardroom,” she says in conclusion.
- translated by Martin Havtorn Petersen
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