Last month, Scandion Oncology took an important step in its transformation from early-stage biotech to a mature clinical stage company by appointing Maj Hedtjärn as new COO and Head of R&D operations. Hedtjärn is the latest addition to the company’s executive leadership team, and her extensive experience within R&D operations is an excellent fit for Scandion Oncology, which is aiming to build value as a clinical stage company. BioStock reached out to Hedtjärn to ask her about her role at Scandion Oncology and her vision at the company.
Last year, Danish biotech Scandion Oncology made significant progress at both the clinical and preclinical level with its lead drug candidate against cancer drug resistance, SCO-101. In the clinic, the company put two projects in development: the CORIST study, where SCO-101 is being tested in combination with chemotherapy (FOLFIRI) in metastatic colorectal cancer patients, and the PANTAX study, which tests the candidate combined with standard first line chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer patients.
With these studies, Scandion Oncology has established the cornerstones in the strategic direction towards becoming the company developing the first drugs that can revert resistance towards chemotherapy.
By taking these big steps forward in clinical development, the company, which often refers to itself The Cancer Drug Resistance Company thanks to its compelling work within the field, saw an opportunity to strengthen its executive leadership in order to prepare for potential commercialisation. The first big move came in October 2020, when Scandion Oncology appointed Bo Rode Hansen as President and CEO. Hansen has two decades of corporate experience within the life science sector, both in Europe and in North America, including a position as President and CEO of Genevant Sciences, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, developing nucleic acid therapeutics and delivery mechanisms for new treatments and a position as Global Head of Roche RNA Therapeutics & General Manager of Roche Innovation Center Copenhagen.
New COO appointed
Then, after being approved for listing on Nasdaq First North Growth Market Sweden on February 3 of this year, thus shifting from the more local Spotlight Stock Market to offer its share to more international investors, Scandion Oncology picked up another major addition to its executive team in the form of Maj Hedtjärn as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Head of R&D Operations.
»Cancer is a devastating disease that affects many people and their families around the world. There are more than 9 million cancer deaths every year, and there is a huge unmet medical need. I find Scandion Oncology to be on a very important mission in their effort to attack cancer drug resistance as a solution to this challenge« — Maj Hedtjärn, COO and Head of R&D Operations at Scandion Oncology.
Hedtjärn has more than 15 years of solid R&D and leadership experience from both Scandinavian and international pharma and biotech companies, including Lundbeck, Santaris Pharma, and Roche. She has headed more than 50 projects across various disease areas, including oncology, infectious diseases, rare diseases and neurodegenerative diseases and has helped secure important milestones. As Scandion Oncology progresses steadily with its clinical programs, the company saw the value of having someone with a proven track record of advancing R&D programs and building portfolios in a strategic and professional way, both through internal research activities and alliances with external pharmaceutical partners.
Maj Hedtjärn talks to BioStock
BioStock got in touch with Maj Hedtjärn to learn more about her new role and her ambitions at Scandion Oncology.
Maj, could you tell us a bit more about your background and why you are a good fit for Scandion Oncology as COO and Head of R&D Operations?
– I am a scientist by training and have a PhD in neuroscience. For the last 15+ years I have had various leadership positions within R&D in Scandinavian and international biotech and pharma. I have extensive experience in drug discovery & development, program leadership, building portfolios across different disease areas, big pharma partnerships, alliance management and developing and implementing scientific and business strategies. I believe that my skills will be valuable for Scandion Oncology, as we are evolving from an early-stage biotech to a mature clinical stage company.
What attracted you to Scandion Oncology in the first place?
– Cancer is a devastating disease that affects many people and their families around the world. There are more than 9 million cancer deaths every year, and there is a huge unmet medical need. I find Scandion Oncology to be on a very important mission in their effort to attack cancer drug resistance as a solution to this challenge. Moreover, the strong team at Scandion Oncology and the financing, together with important upcoming clinical milestones during the year, made Scandion Oncology a very attractive option to me.
What is your main goal at Scandion Oncology?
– One of my main priorities is to professionalise the R&D operations and ensure that timelines are kept. I will make certain that we efficiently balance the use of resources and focus our R&D activities to the priorities of the company. Biology is complex but the structure around R&D can be managed. I will also make sure that we get the organisation ready for interaction with the outside world by securing proper data packages around our assets. Another priority is to establish the framework for building the pipeline, with the goal to become The Cancer Drug Resistance Company. I will also be establishing and overseeing strategic collaborations, research contracts and intellectual property.
What can you tell us about the current state of the clinical projects at Scandion Oncology?
– We are progressing according to the set plans. In the CORIST phase II study, which is the first clinical study with our first-in-class lead compound SCO-101, we have completed the first 12-patient cohort of the study. In January, we received the green light from the Data Safety Monitoring Board to move forward with the next treatment cohort. The primary objectives in this first part of the study have been to optimize the dose for treatment of colorectal cancer with SCO-101 in combination with FOLFIRI and to understand the safety and tolerability. In the PANTAX phase Ib study, we are establishing the agreements to internationalize the recruitment of patients.
Finally, what are some of the upcoming milestones we should expect within both the CORIST and the PANTAX projects?
– We have stated that our CORIST phase II study is expected to deliver data from the first part of the study in Q2, 2021. This is an important milestone for us at Scandion Oncology. The CORIST study is expected to continue into the effect study part immediately after the interim data read-out.
– The PANTAX phase Ib study which tests our lead candidate combined with standard first line chemotherapy in pancreatic cancer patients, is expected to read-out in Q3-Q4, 2021.