A new Danish biotech company has seen the light of day. Hoba Therapeutics has officially been launched after Novo Seeds and Borean Innovation have injected a total of DKK 14 million (USD 2.025 million) in the company.
“The reason for our investment is that we see it as a very exciting project in the field of neuropathic pain. It’s an area of the pharmaceutical industry where there hasn’t been a lot of innovation for a number of years,” says Morten Graugaard Døssing, Investment Director in Novo Seeds, in an interview with MedWatch.
He says there are only two approved drugs, both cleared about 20 years ago, and therefore a need for new and more effective therapies for people with chronic back pain and other similar conditions.
Novo Seeds is fronting DKK 10 million, while Borean brings the remaining DKK 4 million. Moreover, the Danish biotech NsGene, from which the project comes, will gain an ownership share in the company. Novo Seeds was turned on to the project by the biotech’s former CEO, Teit Johansen, who now works as CSO for ALK and serves on the board of Hoba Therapeutics.
“It was through him that we reached out to this project. We have since seen that it was of such a nature that we would need some real heavyweights who understand this field to lift such a project.”
But the firm is still in its infancy and the management team is not yet one hundred percent in place.
“We have found a team, but they are in the process of resigning their current positions. So we can’t make their names public just yet. But at the turn of the year we will have a full-time CEO and a part-time in vivo pharmacologist. They are people with 15-20 years of experience in development of medicine to treat pain.”
They also have experience with licensing of projects in the field, and Morten Graugaard says it lets the company know that it sits on a candidate drug markedly different from the assets being advanced by rivals.
Moreover, they are working to secure a partnership with a major Danish research institution, the identity of which is also confidential for now. Last, it has attracted a foreign profile to its boardroom.
“We were fortunate enough to bring Amanda Hayward into the project as chairman of the board. She’s a former partner in Baxalta Ventures; she has broad venture experience and experience in this field. Normally it's difficult to attract foreign board members at such an early stage as this, but she was as impressed as us by the pre-clinical data.”
The lead candidate is based on a protein in the human body that is expressed during fetal development, and Morten Graugaard says it has shown interesting data in pre-clinical animal models in neuropathic pain.
“We especially take note of generated data showing the candidate to have a potential disease-modifying effect and a very different profile from currently marketed treatments. The pain-relieving effect from other drugs is relatively short-lived, whereas this protein has shown effects of up to three weeks in animal models. It’s a very different biological concept.”
But there are still years of work to be done before the candidate can be tested in human subjects.
“A number of animal studies have been conducted, but we want to advance those studies further so we gain a better understanding of which neuropathic indication to target. Moreover, there is a number of factors relating to manufacturing that need to be established and assessed, as we are dealing with a protein-based drug.”
Bigger investment ahead
The DKK 14 million will help see the biotech through that stage.
Accoding to Morten Graugaard the money should last for about two years, after which they will begin manufacturing of the drug and run toxicology tests. Once all that is out of the way, they can initiate clinical studies.
“It would require an additional investment, where we hope to bring new investors on board. After that, we will carry out a series A funding round. The exact scope of that depends on which way the project will go, but it will typically be in the region of at least 10 million dollars (DKK 69.3 million, ed.),” he says.
- translated by Martin Havtorn Petersen
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