conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – July
Mr. Haurum, what attracted you to F-star?
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
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
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