4873 English

I slutet av april tilldrog sig Abliva den nordiska life science sektorns uppmärksamhet när man meddelade att den tunga investeraren Hadean Ventures investerade 20 Mkr i bolaget genom en riktad emission. I samband med detta föreslogs att Dr Roger Franklin, partner i Hadean Ventures, skulle väljas in som styrelseledamot vid årsstämman i maj. Sagt och gjort, Dr Franklin kommer att tillträda sin tjänst från början av juli och BioStock tog tillfället i akt att tala med honom om hans syn på Ablivas potential samt hans nya roll som styrelseledamot för bolaget.

För Lundabaserade Abliva har det senaste året varit en händelserik period under vilken man har avancerat sitt arbete. En viktig förändring inträffade i oktober förra året då bolaget tillkännagav ett skärpt fokus i sin utvecklingsstrategi. I stället för att utveckla projekt som sträcker sig över fyra indikationer, fattade Abliva beslutet att fokusera på en av dessa, nämligen primära mitokondriella sjukdomar. Bolaget har stor intern expertis och erfarenhet på området, och att fokusera resurserna till primära mitokondriella sjukdomar är tänkt att optimera värdet för såväl bolaget som dess aktieägare.

Två projekt avancerar mot marknad

Hos patienter som drabbats av primära mitokondriella sjukdomar fungerar inte mitokondrierna, vars uppgift det är att skapa den energi som krävs för att vi ska kunna utföra grundläggande kroppsfunktioner. Detta innebär att basala funktioner såsom att röra sig och att andas blir svåra. Primära mitokondriella sjukdomar kategoriseras som sällsynta och påverkar cirka 1 av 5 000 individer.

För de drabbade innebär en primär mitokondriell sjukdom ett betydande lidande och reducerad livslängd. För närvarande finns det bara en godkänd behandling för endast en primär mitokondriell sjukdom på marknaden – idebenon för ögonsjukdomen LHON – och det medicinska behovet inom både LHON och andra primära mitokondriella sjukdoma är därmed betydande.

Ablivas mål är att bidra till att möta detta behov genom sina två kandidater KL1333 och NV354. KL1333, den kandidat som kommit längst, utvecklas mot indikationen MELAS och liknande tillstånd och har redan särläkemedelsstatus i både USA och Europa. Bolaget planerar att inleda en fas II-studie med KL1333 under 2021. NV354 syftar till att behandla Leighs syndrom och har visat positiva resultat i prekliniska studier. Här är målet att initiera kliniska studier under nästa år.

Betydande investering från ledande investerare

I slutet av april kunde Abliva notera ytterligare en viktig händelse när det stod klart att Hadean Ventures, en ledande life science-fondförvaltare som investerar i life science-bolag över hela Europa, skulle gå in som ägare i bolaget genom en riktad emission om 20 Mkr. Hadean Ventures, som grundades 2014, är en av de största aktörerna inom nordisk life science, och det faktum att de har valt Abliva för investering är en viktig kvalitetsstämpel för det svenska bolaget.

Hadean Ventures var från början tydliga med att man planerar att vara en aktiv ägare i Abliva. Som en del av denna strategi valdes Dr Roger Franklin, partner i Hadean Ventures, till ny styrelseledamot vid årets årsstämma för Abliva. Dr Franklin, som kommer att tillträda sin nya roll den 9 juli, har en doktorsexamen i onkologi från University of Cambridge samt omfattande erfarenhet inom riskkapital-, finans- och konsultindustrin.

BioStock fick chansen att prata med Dr Franklin om hans nya roll som styrelseledamot och vad det var som attraherade Hadean Ventures till Abliva.

Dr Franklin, congratulations on your new position as board member of Abliva. First of all, can you tell us a bit about your background?

– Of course! I started my career working on my doctorate in Cambridge in the field of the heritable breast cancer gene, BRCA1. Having got fed up of pipetting at 3am I moved to a consulting firm first in Cambridge and then in London working across a number of sectors in private equity due diligence and corporate strategy. From there I moved into investment banking in the pharmaceuticals and biotech sector, covering big cap pharma companies to IPO’ing smaller cap names.

– But my goal had always been venture capital and having moved to a large London based fund after banking and gained significant operational and financing experience, I met the founders of Hadean and joined here as a partner in November 2018, re-locating to Stockholm to head up Hadean’s Swedish office.

»In our view, rare disease is a highly attractive area and mitochondrial disease particularly is a key area in which there is very severe unmet medical need, little competition and less risk than some may perceive.« – Roger Franklin

How do you think your background and experience can contribute to the work of Abliva’s board?

– As with all our portfolio companies at Hadean, I am looking forward to working proactively with Abliva to assist in as many ways as I can. Obviously the planning and preparation for the phase II clinical trial of KL1333 starting next year is really key for the company so I will be looking to use our network and my own experiences from multiple previous investments to make sure no stone goes unturned in making this as likely to succeed as possible.

– Clearly, as an investor, I am also in a position to leverage our network when it comes to making sure quality specialist investors are aware of Abliva, particularly given the recent M&A and venture involvement in the mitochondrial disease space. Overall I hope my blend of experiences across areas including trial design, regulatory and financing will prove useful to Abliva over the next period of the company’s life.

If we focus on Hadean Ventures’ decision to invest in Abliva, what first attracted Hadean Ventures to Abliva?

– In our view, rare disease is a highly attractive area and mitochondrial disease particularly is a key area in which there is very severe unmet medical need, little competition and less risk than some may perceive. So, this was a key attraction of Abliva.

– We also think the management team is strong and thus Abliva has the people to execute on the opportunity.

 Prior to investing in the company, Hadean Ventures conducted a thorough review of Abliva and its projects. Can you tell us what this review found?

– Of course, due diligence is an absolutely key aspect for a venture fund before making any investment. We conducted what in our opinion is thorough due diligence into Abliva and its assets, particularly KL1333.

– Without going into specifics, we believe there is a large market opportunity for KL1333, that the preclinical data is supportive of the potential of the mode of action and the molecule and that some of the clincal work done on non-drug supplements provides an element of de-risking that perhaps some do not realise. As such, whilst of course there is risk in any drug development programme, this risk may be lower than is sometimes thought in this disease area.

How does Hadean’s investment profile look like? Can you tell us anything about the scope of the funds in question and what kind of investors they have?

– Hadean is a life science venture capital fund backed by a strong group of international institutional and private investors from Norway, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Leading investors in the fund include Argentum, Saminvest and Investinor whilst the fund size is approximately €85m.

– As I said, we invest solely in the life science sector with a geographical scope that covers western Europe with a particular focus on regions that have been historically underserved by venture capital, including most particularly the Nordic region. Within the drug/biotech space, we are interested in backing companies with robust science, strong teams and assets where there is both a high unmet need and an element of de-risking from, for example, prior clinical work with similar modes of action. Our sweet spot in terms of stage is where an asset is ready for the clinic or already in early clinical development. While most of our portfolio is composed of private companies, where we see attractive opportunities we are able to invest in public companies as is the case with Abliva.

– As you would expect for a specialist venture investor, our senior team is highly experienced with backgrounds in medicine, medical research, finance/consulting and senior executive operational roles. As an aside, I am happy to share that we have already had our first exit from the Hadean fund with Themis Bioscience recently sold to MSD.

»Having too many programmes that distract attention is an error often made and we are pleased that Abliva is not going down this route and is instead laser focused on the lead programmes.« – Roger Franklin

What role did Abliva’s choice to focus on primary mitochondrial diseases play in Hadean Venture’s decision to invest?

– This was critical to our interest. For the reasons I have already mentioned, we think this is a very attractive area and we think Abliva is right to focus on it. Having too many programmes that distract attention is an error often made and we are pleased that Abliva is not going down this route and is instead laser focused on the lead programmes.

– More importantly, we are confident mitochondrial disease will prove to be a smart place to be positioned.

 What would you say are the commercial potential for Abliva’s two projects in primary mitochondrial diseases?

– I do not think I should give precise numbers. But certainly we think the sales opportunity in Abliva’s chosen end markets is in the blockbuster range given the number of patients and likely price point for a drug in this disease area. Given the M&A and venture activity in this area in the US of late, we do not think we are alone in this opinion.

 Finally, if we look further into the future, where do you see Abliva and the company’s projects in two years?

– The most important thing is designing the right study to prove out efficacy in the upcoming phase II study of KL1333 and have this report positive data. Then we believe the company will have an extremely valuable asset.

– We also think it will be exciting to get NV354 into the clinic so that this exciting compound is also adding meaningfully to the value of the company. In this industry there is no substitute for producing compelling data demonstrating value to patients. Then there will, in our opinion, be value for shareholders.

– In short, I think the next two years will be an interesting and I hope very rewarding time for Abliva and its shareholders.

 

Det finns tillfälle att lyssna och ställa frågor till Roger Franklin på Ablivas kommande virtuella kapitalmarknadsdag den 23 juni.

Innehållet i BioStocks nyheter och analyser är oberoende men BioStocks verksamhet är i viss mån finansierad av bolag i branschen. Detta inlägg avser ett bolag som BioStock erhållit finansiering från. 

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