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The newly released 2020 annual report for Scandion Oncology summarises what was a year of evolution for the company, but also foreshadows big things to come in 2021. BioStock spoke to Scandion Oncology’s CEO Bo Rode Hansen to get his thoughts on the changes happening at Scandion and on what to look forward to from the company in the coming months.

As outlined by Scandion Oncology’s 2020 annual report, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, 2020 was a fruitful year for the Copenhagen-based cancer drug resistance company. The end of 2020, in particular, saw Scandion Oncology begin a transformation from being mainly focused on R&D to becoming a more business-centric organisation. That transformation has continued into 2021, and over the last few months, Scandion Oncology has been able to better position itself not only in terms of overall organisation, but also in terms of pipeline, finances, as well as its international footprint.

Strengthened pipeline

Scandion Oncology’s main goal has always been to develop cancer therapies able to help patients overcome what is an all-too-common occurrence leading to death: cancer drug resistance. The company’s top candidate, SCO-101, has shown in multiple preclinical studies that, if given together with chemotherapy, it is able to counteract the resistance mechanisms typically observed in cancer cells.

During 2020, Scandion has initiated two clinical studies with SCO-101 in combination with chemotherapy: CORIST, a proof-of-concept (PoC) clinical phase II study with metastatic colorectal cancer patients, and PANTAX, a phase Ib study looking at the effects of SCO-101 in metastatic pancreatic cancer patients. For more details about the studies, read last week’s BioStock interview with Scandion Oncology’s COO and Head of R&D operations, Maj Hedtjärn.

Strengthened organisation

Being able to initiate two clinical trials with its lead compound, Scandion Oncology wasted no time to strengthen its executive team in order to be able to put focus not only on the continued clinical work but also on business development.

In October of 2020, Bo Rode Hansen began his tenure as President and CEO of Scandion Oncology, giving the company over two decades of international entrepreneurial experience within biotech and pharma. To strengthen the management team even further, the aforementioned Maj Hedtjärn was appointed as COO and Head of R&D operations in March of this year. She brings considerable leadership experience within R&D in Scandinavian as well as international biotech and pharma.

Additionally, most recently, the company added a valued member to it Clinical Advisory Board (CAB): Dr Richard L. Schilsky. Dr Schilsky is the former CMO and Executive Vice President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and a long-time faculty member of the University of Chicago, so he is a high-profile international leader in the field of clinical oncology that knows what it takes to bring new safe and effective cancer medicines from clinical development onto the market.

»There is currently no medicine on the market which is positioned to revert resistance towards cancer drugs – i.e., chemotherapy. There is a major unmet need in this space. Cancer is the cause of millions of lost lives every year and the majority linked to treatment-resistant tumours. Our aim is to build a pipeline of products that will help patients around the world with therapy-resistant tumours – spearheaded with our lead compound SCO-101. We will continue to build our pipeline on our learnings and thereby become the Cancer Drug Resistance Company« — Bo Rode Hansen, President and CEO of Scandion Oncology

Strengthened finances and international footprint

In late 2020, Scandion Oncology took an important step to strengthen its finances in order to keep riding on the positive momentum from its clinical work and build an organisation that looks to the future. Thanks to a rights issue, the company was able to secure approximately 236 MSEK before issue costs, which will primarily be invested in the clinical development of SCO-101.

As a key follow-up, in order to offer its share to more international investors, on February 3 Scandion Oncology shifted its listing from the more local Spotlight Stock Market to the more internationally visible Nasdaq First North Growth Market Sweden.

Comments from the CEO

Now, as Scandion Oncology approaches the first important interim read-out from its CORIST clinical study, the company is ready to broaden its horizons, both at the clinical level but also at the corporate level to secure a favourable commercial position going forward. BioStock contacted Scandion Oncology’s CEO Bo Rode Hansen to hear his thoughts on the 2020 annual report and what his vision is for the rest of 2021 and onwards.

Bo Rode Hansen, the 2020 annual report has just been released. Could you tell us what the main take home message is from the report?

 – 2020 was a landmark year. We are evolving Scandion Oncology towards a more mature and internationally-focused company. We are close to getting important results from our most advanced clinical study, we have strengthened the leadership in the company with experience from the pharmaceutical business space, brought in an international profile to our clinical advisory board and have secured a good financial position in order to become a leader in combatting cancer drug resistance.

Let’s take a quick look back at 2020 and the early part of this year. Scandion has gone through quite a big transformation, especially at the executive management level.  How would you describe this “new” Scandion Oncology?

– Many things happened in 2020 in line with the overall strategy for the company. What you call a transformation, we call a natural evolution and a tribute to having matured Scandion Oncology to a certain stage company. I think it is necessary and expected that competences are brought on board when a company has managed to go from concept and preclinical data to becoming a Nasdaq First North-listed clinical stage company. It requires different skills at the different stages, and right now we are getting ready to position Scandion Oncology internationally with a very important medical contribution addressing chemotherapy resistance.

Bo Rode Hansen, President and CEO of Scandion Oncology

In the annual report, you mention the aim of becoming the Cancer Drug Resistance Company. What do you mean by that?

– There is currently no medicine on the market which is positioned to revert resistance towards cancer drugs – i.e., chemotherapy. There is a major unmet need in this space. Cancer is the cause of millions of lost lives every year and the majority linked to treatment-resistant tumours. Our aim is to build a pipeline of products that will help patients around the world with therapy-resistant tumours – spearheaded with our lead compound SCO-101. We will continue to build our pipeline on our learnings and thereby become the Cancer Drug Resistance Company.

What would you say has been the most important milestone for Scandion Oncology since you have begun your role as CEO last October?                                     

– I think there have been some important events like getting financed for the coming years, progressing our clinical trials through the ongoing pandemic but also getting the right people on board for the continued evolution of the company. At the end of the day, it is people who transform science and data into medicines and create value for patients and shareholders.

Scandion has successfully initiated two clinical trials with its top candidate SCO-101, the CORIST study in colorectal cancer and the PANTAX study in pancreatic cancer. Can you give us more specifics on the timelines of these studies and when we can expect data updates?

– CORIST, where we dose SCO-101 together with chemotherapy (FOLFIRI), is close to read-out from the first part of this phase II study. We are expecting to report this read-out in Q2 2021. The endpoints of part 1 are safety and tolerability. We will continue directly to part 2 of the study which is an effect arm (PoC). The read-out for part II is expected in Q1-Q2 of 2022. In the PANTAX study, we are giving SCO-101 together with chemotherapy (Nab-paclitaxel and gemcitabine) in pancreatic cancer patients in a phase 1b study. This study is expected to read out in Q4 2021 and will form the basis for a phase II study.

Thanks to the rights issue from late last year, Scandion Oncology is ready to take SCO-101 to new heights. Besides the current indications (colorectal and pancreatic cancer), what’s in store for your lead candidate?

– Right now, we are focusing on the current indications and actually, I think it is quite impressive to have two ongoing trails for a company like Scandion Oncology. That said we are evaluating, based on our science, data and market assessments, which trial should follow the first two – both with focus on SCO-101 and also other candidates for our pipeline. I am looking forward to communicating more about this at upcoming events – e.g., at our capital markets day planned for this autumn.

The pandemic has obviously impacted biotech companies quite heavily, some more than others. How has it impacted Scandion, and do you expect any delays to your clinical trials in the months to come? 

– No doubt, there has been an enormous pressure on our healthcare systems, and it has been impossible to avoid impact on our clinical development. It has also been an additional challenge to deal with for patients. At Scandion Oncology we have been satisfied with our progress during this ongoing crisis. It has impacted us with uncertainties, and we have encountered delays to previously expected timelines. We have communicated that as we had clarity and will continue to do so in the future. We are more prepared this year compared to last year and accept the situation as a condition we have to deal with as our colleagues in the biotech industry.

Can you tell us more about your strategy for generating shareholder value throughout the rest of the year?

– By delivering on our clinical trials, internationalizing our clinical footprint and by ensuring a market driven positioning of our pipeline assets.

Finally, what will Scandion Oncology look like a year from now?

– A year from now, we are aiming for a strong clinical validation, several ongoing clinical trials, a growing pipeline, a commercial path for our products and a stellar team to carry it all forward in our pursuit of becoming the Cancer Drug Resistance Company.

The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.

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