F-star GmbH (Private)

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July 30, 2012 Issue

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Using Two-in-One Antibodies that are Similar to Normal Antibodies in Bispecific Next Generation Biologics, F-star GmbH has discovered the Key to Improvements in Overall Drug Potency

Company Profile:

F-star is a leader in the development of novel bispecific antibodies. Our technology leverages decades of experience with traditional antibody technology, while overcoming the limitations in the development and manufacture of bispecific antibodies. F-star is now applying its proprietary technology to the development of a pipeline of products.

To date the company has raised over €34m in venture capital from Aescap Ventures, Atlas Venture, Merck-Serono Ventures, MP Healthcare, Novo, SR One, and TVM Capital. The Company has two major alliances with Boehringer Ingelheim and Merck-Serono, each covering multiple targets. The deals provide F-star with technology access fees, research funding, plus commercialisation milestones and royalties.

The Company’s management team has significant biopharmaceuticals experience from discovery to commercialization, and has a track record of building successful biotechnology companies.

F-star was founded in 2006 based on the work of Professor Florian Rüker at BOKU (the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences) in Vienna with which it maintains close links.

F-star currently employs approximately 30 people at its research sites in Cambridge, UK.


John Haurum Chief Executive Officer

- MD from University of Aarhus, Denmark

- D.Phil. in immunology from the Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, England

- Experience in building and leading antibody biotech companies, including discovery, development, financing and business development

- Successfully managed several monoclonal and oligoclonal antibody products into clinical development and collaborations with both Genentech and Meiji

- Previous experience includes
- VP Research, Biologics Products at ImClone Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company
- Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Symphogen A/S

Bispecific Antibodies

F-star GmbH
Granta Park, Great Abington
Cambridge, CB21 6GS UK
Phone: +44 (0) 1223 896350


Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July 30, 2012

CEOCFO: Mr. Haurum, what attracted you to F-star?

Mr. Haurum: The opportunity was exciting because F-star provides quite a novel approach to developing bispecific antibodies. I am interested in combinations of antibody drug specificities, since it is now quite well established in the industry that combining different antibody activities in the final drug compound potentially may provide additional drug potencies, novel biology, and synergies from having different specificities at the same time. The route to develop such structures is either to have combinations or to have bispecific antibodies. F’star’s approach to develop bi-specific antibodies is quite unique in that the final product, while still looking like a monoclonal antibody in the overall structure, it has the ability to bind to two different targets at the same time. You have the benefit of the bi-specific but you don’t have the disadvantage of all the different peculiar scaffold structures that are out there.

CEOCFO: How does the technology at F-star differ from others?

Mr. Haurum: The conventional antibody structure is basically unchanged. With our selection approach, we select antibodies that in the opposite end of the binding region, has additional binding activity engineered into the antibody but overall, the antibody looks like a normal monoclonal antibody.

CEOCFO: Why the change in leadership and the change in some of the key people at this point in time?

Mr. Haurum: When the company was founded, most of the effort and focus was on enabling and building the technology platform. Now, the company has reached a point where the platform is established, it works, and we now want to switch towards compound discovery and development internally. The investors have provided us with financing to establish our first internal drug discovery program and the leadership change is in part a result of this added focus on building internal value.

CEOCFO: What will the program be for the next year?

Mr. Haurum: We have not disclosed the exact nature of the program and we are currently in the early phase of going through what we have delivered from our pipeline so far, going through the different options. Based on the different compounds we have in our early discovery pipeline, we will select one internal development candidate by the end of the year.

CEOCFO: What about the compounds you have looked at so far?

Mr. Haurum: I can tell you that quite likely we will have a focus internally in oncology, but the actual targets that we are working on as such are not disclosed, except for the fact that we have worked on Her2 as a target, so we have some efforts in that area.

CEOCFO: Is the medical community aware of F-star?

Mr. Haurum: Maybe not the medical community, but the biopharmaceutical community certainly is. We have two collaborative agreements with pharmaceutical companies. We have one agreement with Boehringer Ingelheim and another agreement with Merck Serono, which are platform technology discovery agreements where we use our technology to discover new compounds for our partners, one which is a seven target and the other which is a three-target deal. This of course is great validation of our platform. I think that the majority of the bigger pharmaceutical companies are well aware of F-star as a potential player in this area.

CEOCFO: Is the team fully in place, or do you still need some changes?

Mr. Haurum: A company like this probably always is in an evolution in terms of the skills that it needs, but right now we have a good team in place.

CEOCFO: What is it about the technology that allows for speed of action or speed of results?

Mr. Haurum: In the way that we develop the bispecific antibodies, we have a modular design of our platform, so that the novel specificity of the antibody that we want to generate is selected beforehand. We will make a domain which is specific for an antigen, then we can in a modular manner replace this domain into other existing antibodies at will very easily. We can quickly establish combinations of our novel specificity in the context of other existing entities in a modular approach.

CEOCFO: You mentioned that your investors have been very generous with you, are you funded to get to commercialization, or will you need to do additional fundraising?

Mr. Haurum: Not to get to commercialization. In biotech when you are developing drugs at our phase, it is typically a ten-year horizon before you get to commercialization if you talk about commercialization in terms of launching a drug we are many years out. Our short-term commercialization prospects are selling parts of the platform or making additional strategic collaborative agreements with big pharma, and we see the efforts in that area of commercialization continuing, and that is the near-term business plan.

CEOCFO: What about the skills you and your team bring to the table, why are they the right team for F-star?

Mr. Haurum: We have extensive experience from biotech and pharmaceutical companies. We have worked with the process of bringing technology platform companies into a drug discovery and development mode. I have personally worked in ImClone Systems, a subsidiary of Ely Lilly and Company, and in a smaller biotech company, by the name of Symphogen before that. During those postings, I have developed several drug candidates and development to the stage of clinical development, and similarly with the other new members of management, who also have that expertise, and expertise in establishing collaborative partnership agreements with big pharma and so forth.

CEOCFO: Why does F-star stand out for investors?

Mr. Haurum: F-star stands out because of the interest in the industry to develop combination drugs and next generation biologics that have this additional feature and provides more than one biology. It addresses more than one target at the same time, and is really a major trend. For example, especially in oncology, having multiple activities in your treatment paradigm is considered key to get improvements in overall survival, therefore F-star technology allows a quite ingenious way of providing drugs that do more than one thing. We have two-in-one antibodies and this is something that gives promise for improved medicines. Since investors are investing in cutting-edge value generation, they realize that this is a way to invest in F-star as a way to establish a company that may be very attractive for a big pharmaceutical corporate partner. F-star’s two-in-one antibodies stand out since they are similar to normal antibodies, but as bispecific next generation biologics address more than one target at the same time, which is considered key to get improvements in overall drug potency.


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F-star’s two-in-one antibodies stand out since they are similar to normal antibodies, but as bispecific next generation biologics address more than one target at the same time, which is considered key to get improvements in overall drug potency. - John Haurum



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