4873 English

Scandion Oncology befinner sig i en allt mer intensiv fas i sitt kliniska utvecklingsprogram med huvudkandidaten SCO-101 i metastaserad kolorektal cancer och kan nu börja planera inför nästa utvecklingssteg, kliniska studier. Ett viktigt steg i den riktningen togs nyligen när Bo Rode Hansen utsågs till vd. BioStock kontaktade Hansen för att få veta mer om vad som väntar Scandion Oncology under de kommande månaderna.

En av de största utmaningarna med dagens cancerbehandlingar är att cirka 50 procent av patienterna utvecklar resistens. Det danska bioteknikbolaget Scandion Oncology har antagit utmaningen att bekämpa cancerläkemedelsresistens genom att utveckla läkemedel som kan häva resistensen och återställa cancercellernas mottaglighet för behandling.

Att nå fas II och generera investerarintresse

Bolaget grundades 2017 som en spin-out från Köpenhamns universitet och ett annat bioteknikbolag, Saniona. Sedan dess, och under ledning av Scandion Oncologys grundare Nils Brünner, har bolaget utvecklat tre läkemedelskandidater som uppvisat den lovande egenskapen att kunna motverka cancerläkemedelsresistens: SCO-101, SCO-201 och SCO-301.

Tre år efter grundandet testas nu bolagets toppkandidat i en klinisk fas II-studie i patienter med metastaserande kolorektalcancer. De första patienterna erhåller behandling med SCO-101 i kombination med den vanliga kemoterapin FOLFIRI, i syfte att fastställa korrekt dos av SCO-101.

Parallellt har fler kandidater i Scandion Oncologys pipeline gjort betydande framsteg. I synnerhet har viktiga prekliniska resultat erhållits med SCO-201. Resultaten, som nyligen publicerades i den internationella vetenskapliga tidskriften Cells, visade att SCO-201 är en specifik och potent läkemedelskandidat med förmågan att blockera effekten av ett protein som spelar en nyckelroll i cancercellernas förmåga att motstå kemoterapi.

Det arbete som Scandion Oncology har gjort sedan grundandet, och i synnerhet sedan sommaren 2019 då bolaget erhöll ett kapitaltillskott på 29,3 Mkr plus 12,2 Mkr i teckningsoptioner i en nyemission, har genererat betydande intresse från investerare som ser ett bolag med stor potential. Faktum är att bolagets aktie har varit en av de som presterat bäst på den svenska aktiemarknaden under det senaste året med en ökning med över 520 procent.

En ny fas för Scandion Oncology

Med SCO-101 i fas II i metastaserande kolorektalcancer och med ytterligare kliniska studier i sikte har Scandion Oncology börjat utforska potentiella partnerskap för att ta kandidaten hela vägen genom de kliniska prövningarna och till marknaden. Då affärsutvecklingen nu hamnar i fokus, går bolaget över i en ny utvecklingsfas där man strävar efter att ytterligare stärka sin läkemedelspipeline. För att leda denna övergång har Bo Rode Hansen utsetts till ny vd och koncernchef för Scandion Oncology.

Hansen, som har suttit i Scandion Oncologys styrelse sedan den 27 maj, har två decenniers erfarenhet från life science-sektorn, från både Europa och Nordamerika. Efter en PhD i pharmaceutical sciences vid Köpenhamns universitet och en MBA i executive management vid Henley Business School var Hansen chef på Santaris Pharma A/S, där han spelade en viktig roll i att säkra allianser med läkemedelsjättar som Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb, Shire, Pfizer, Wyeth och GlaxoSmithKline.

Roche förvärvade Santaris och Rode Hansen blev då chef för Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen (tidigare Santaris) och Global Head of RNA Therapeutics på Roche pRED. År 2018 utsågs han till vd och koncernchef för Genevant Sciences, ett bioteknikföretag baserat i Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA som utvecklar nukleinsyraterapi och leveransmekanismer för nya behandlingar.

Evolution, inte revolution

Hansen tillträder sin nya roll idag den 1 oktober 2020 samtidigt som Nils Brünner blir ny Chief Scientific Officer. I den här rollen kommer Brünner att kunna lägga mer fokus på den kliniska utvecklingen av SCO-101 och övriga kandidater, som fortfarande utgör viktiga delar i Scandion Oncologys verksamhet. I ett nyligen publicerat pressmeddelande sa Brünner följande om ledningsrockaden:

I wholeheartedly welcome Bo Rode Hansen as the new CEO of Scandion Oncology. Bo has the needed business and scientific background to take Scandion Oncology forward. Personally, I am looking forward to getting the needed time to be fully involved with our preclinical and clinical teams. When I in 2018 accepted the position as CEO of Scandion Oncology it was a clear understanding that I wanted to be replaced as CEO when we had started the clinical phase II studies and initiated Business development. Scandion Oncology has now passed a number of significant clinical milestones and I think the time is perfect for Bo to take the wheel.

Som påpekades i samma pressmeddelande ser bolaget detta som en evolution snarare än en revolution eftersom man genomför dessa förändringar för att nå nästa nivå i utvecklingen av bolaget och pipelinen. Dessutom ger förändringen rätt balans och styrka i koncernledningen för att kunna ta sådana steg.

BioStock hade nyligen privilegiet att gästas av såväl Rode Hansen som Brünner i BioStock Studio för en exklusiv intervju rörande ledarskiftet. Se intervjun här. BioStock kontaktade Bo Rode Hansen igen för att lära känna honom bättre och för att få veta mer om vad som händer i bolaget.

Bo Rode Hansen, how does it feel to have been appointed to CEO of Scandion Oncology?

– It feels very good and energizing. I always felt strongly for making a difference for patients struggling with cancer. Most people unfortunately experience encounters with cancer in their life. My family actually returned to Denmark because of cancer in the close family – so it feels very rewarding to join and take the helm at Scandion Oncology and try to make a difference. I feel humble but also well equipped to take the company to the next stage of its life.

You were on Scandion Oncology’s board for a short while before taking on this position. Before then, how familiar were with Scandion and/or did you have any links to the company?

– I know Scandion from my work at the board. Also, having experience in the Scandinavian biotech scene, I have followed the interesting journey of Scandion emerging. I also knew some of the central people involved at Scandion from the past, but I was not in close contact with anybody at Scandion until Dr Peter Høngaard Andersen (Chairman of the company) reached out to me and portrayed his vision for the company.

Bo Rode Hansen, vd Scandion Oncology

What, specifically, about Scandion Oncology inspires you the most to be an effective leader?

– I am a big believer in collaborative and servant leadership as the most effective way to drive innovation. I see a strong balance between deep expertise in medical oncology, science, clinical development and life science business expertise in the leadership team and board at Scandion. This strikes a good balance for me to build upon. For me the most effective companies follow the science and stay focused so I will strive for that.

You have extensive international corporate experience within both biotech and big pharma. How much of that experience is within the oncology space, and, more specifically, within cancer drug resistance research?

– Honestly, I think Scandion is a treasure trove of experience in cancer drug resistance and oncology already. I am bringing a different complementary skillset. To answer the question, I actually worked on drug discovery of novel cancer drugs early in my career – and over the years I have overseen alliances with big pharma and biotech companies with aim at developing therapies for oncology. Finally, I was an executive leader in Roche where I was part of the governance of one of the largest oncology pipelines in the industry.

Considering your background and your corporate experience, how important is the “business intelligence” that you bring to the table as Scandion comes closer to the market?

– Scandion is now at a point where corporate development starts to be relevant. I have been in the industry for a couple of decades. I spent a substantial part of that being engaged in turning revenue from R&D partnerships and alliances, which have given me the fortunate opportunity to be connected to a lot of people across the business.

In the video interview you and Nils had with BioStock last month, you mention SCO-101 being the company’s top candidate, but that you’re also building a pipeline of drugs. Do you believe that pipeline will extend beyond the current pipeline with SCO-201 and SCO-301?

– I see Scandion developing a pipeline of drugs to reverse cancer drug resistance. Our technology platform DEN50-R is tailored for identifying new development candidates. It is important to say that our pipeline will emerge in a balanced approach. The focus now is on getting SCO-101 developed not only in metastatic colorectal cancer but also in further indications. We will receive regulatory approval any day to start a new trial in pancreatic cancer. Subsequently, we will build and expand our pipeline.  We have the two other compounds in our pipeline and as stated a technology base allowing us to identify even more development candidates when we get resources to do so.

»I am a big believer in collaborative and servant leadership as the most effective way to drive innovation. I see a strong balance between deep expertise in medical oncology, science, clinical development and life science business expertise in the leadership team and board at Scandion. This strikes a good balance for me to build upon. For me the most effective companies follow the science and stay focused so I will strive for that« — Bo Rode Hansen, vd Scandion Oncology

You also mentioned the great potential in Scandion’s drug pipeline and a vision for partnering with “big players in the pharma world” in the future. Could you expand on that, and maybe give us a timeline on when you expect that to happen? 

– In our BD efforts, Nils and the team have presented the project to a large number of pharma companies. We will now intensify this, and I don’t think it is unrealistic to assume that we will be in discussions to strike a deal on our lead compound within the next 12-18 months. As the data from our ongoing clinical development materialize, we are well prepared for conversation with potential partners.

Looking back at the first part of the year, what would you consider to be Scandion Oncology’s most important achievement so far in 2020?

– Well, our first phase II with our lead compound SCO-101 is running virtually according to the original plan, thus we expect to finish part I of this trial in November and right away roll into Part 2 of the trial. We have just received regulatory approval to commence our second phase II trial, which is in pancreatic cancer, and thus begin this now in October.

The company has attracted a lot of interest from investors over the past year. How do you plan on keep their eyes focused on Scandion Oncology in the months/years to come?

– By keeping our promises. Drug development is a bumpy and risky endeavor, but we managed to meet our milestones; only the coronavirus pandemic caused a minor delay. I understand the importance of focus and agility in the efforts of building value for patients and shareholders.

Finally, with Scandion Oncology having reached the clinical stage and preparing for the next level of development, how important is having a strong team dedicated to the company, and what will be your role in making sure the team strengthens even further?

– I would like to use this opportunity to thank our team at Scandion, they worked like crazy but without their hard work we would never have been at this stage where we are today. It is really a tribute to their success that the company is now entering the next phase of its lifecycle. I will now get into the saddle, so to speak, and allow myself to work with the team in the coming months to get fully embedded in Scandion. I will ensure that everyone in the team is allowed to spend their time where they bring most value and continue to build on competences as the company evolves.

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