Malmö-based Cyxone develops immunomodulating drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Under the new CEO Tara Heitner, the company has stepped up their activities and has among other things recruited a Head of Development and hired new scientific advisors.
Increased focus on the therapeutic development
In August, Cyxone announced Christin Arrhenius Bokedal as Head of Development, a role that means she will be leading and coordinating the company’s preclinical and clinical development programmes with a focus on T20K, the MS-candidate.
Arrhenius Bokedal has a master’s degree in pharmacy from Uppsala University and has vast experience from different aspects of drug development processes, e.g. Regulatory Affairs, Quality Assurance and Medical Affairs.
»We see that Christin will bring great extensive experience to the company thanks to her broad expertise in project management, preclinical and clinical studies and her solid experience in medical information, regulatory affairs and quality assurance. Her broad knowledge in drug development together with her ability to get things done with remained high quality and focus will be a great asset for Cyxone, which is currently in an incredibly exciting development and growth phase« – Malin Berthold, COO Cyxone
New scientific advisors
During summer, Cyxone also announced the signing of Dr Maarten Kraan and Professor Rikard Holmlund, as new senior scientific advisors for the development of the company’s clinical pipeline. The first meetings have been held and the advisors have started their new assignments.
Maarten Kraan is a clinical immunologist and rheumatologist with extensive experience within the field of RA. His academic career started at Leiden University, the Netherlands, where he also obtained his doctoral degree. He has held a number of leading positions in preclinical and clinical development projects for several companies in Europe and the US.
During the last decade Maarten Kraan has also held positions in Sweden as Head of development of drugs for respiratory, inflammatory and autoimmune conditions at AstraZeneca in Mölndal. Furthermore, he was appointed adjunct professor of reumathology at Göteborgs universitet. Since 2018 dr Kraan has been a board member of the listed companies Toleranzia and Vicore Pharma. BioStock contacted Maarten Kraan to hear his view on his new role.
»There is still a considerable need for novel interventions with other mechanisms of action and I believe that Rabeximod is such an opportunity for the patients and physicians.« – Maarten Kraan
Maarten, you have a vast experience from several positions and companies within the biotech and pharmaceutical industry including experience from Sweden. What made you interested in being part of the scientific advisory board of Cyxone?
– The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has been revolutionised over the past 3 decades from a rather passive approach to slow down disability to aggressive control of inflammation. This has changed the perspective for the patients completely and although we still cannot cure RA we can offer some patients an almost normal quality of life. This has been achieved partly because of structured disease monitoring and management but largely because of the development of very potent novel and innovative treatments by the pharmaceutical industry.
– This has also demonstrated that the disease is very heterogenous and different treatments have different levels of efficacy. So, there is still a considerable need for novel interventions with other mechanisms of action and I believe that Rabeximod is such an opportunity for the patients and physicians.
What expectations do you have on the Rabeximod project and what will this project potentially contribute with to the RA field?
– As mentioned previously we have had a revolution in the treatment of RA that started with the development of leflunomide and the TNF-blockers, this has taught us that we can achieve a very high level of disease control but has also taught us that we need different treatment options since not every patient responds the same and frequently patients become unresponsive during this lifelong disease. With Rabeximod we have demonstrated signs of efficacy in earlier clinical trials. I want to support Cyxone in their quest to bring Rabeximod to the RA patients that need it.
– Rabeximod has a unique mode of action compared to the currently available treatments for RA and the non-clinical data point towards inhibition of inflammatory macrophages. During my academic period I have learned that these macrophages are very important in the signs and symptoms of RA or, maybe even more importantly, are involved in the destruction of the joints. Hence stopping these cells should have a significant effect on the pain but also prevent disability.
How will Cyxone benefit from your experiences from big pharma and also as board member in smaller companies as Toleranzia and Vicore Pharma?
I have had the opportunity to work with the many stakeholders that are needed to take a new medicine for the treatment for RA from conception to market in both academia and industry on a variety of medicines. I have learnt a lot about what was successful and of course what was not and I believe that I can support the Cyxone team in their journey with Rabeximod.
– As a board member of two small publicly traded biotech companies, I have learned to appreciate the differences with big pharmaceutical companies and am planning to use this knowledge to support the Cyxone team in creating a development path for Rabeximod that is effective and efficient for both them and a potential future partner.
Finally, you have also been involved in clinical research to treat the SARS-COV-2-virus, can you tell us more about that and could you apply that on your work with Cyxone?
– From the early days of my training as clinician I have been curious about how viruses manipulate the immune system. I have worked in the industry on some HIV/AIDS drugs, so since SARS-COV-2 emerged and changed our lives I have been following the emerging science very closely with great interest. This was further enhanced by what we have learnt from Vicore which has an active clinical trial in patients with SARS-COV-2 patients.
– When these trials were designed by the team there was a very close interaction with the scientific committee. As the chair of the committee, this allowed me to learn a lot about how the understanding of the SARS-COV-2 infection grew rapidly, as well as how the treatment landscape and measurement of the impact of the various treatment options evolved exponentially. Soon the very exciting step will arrive where we will have data to analyse the impact of the treatment on the clinical manifestations of the infection.
– So, I believe I will also be able to assist and advise Cyxone on the running of a SARS-COV-2 trial.
Professor Rikard Holmdahl grundade Medical Inflammatory Research vid Lunds universitet 1993 efter att ha bedrivit forskning inom immunologi och autoimmuna sjukdomar vid Uppsala universitet och utomlands. Under 2008 rekryterades Holmdahl och hans team till Karolinska Institutet och har fortsatt att forska inom fältet sedan dess. BioStock talade med Rikard Holmdahl för att få hans syn på Cyxones verksamhet i hans roll som Cyxones nya seniora vetenskapliga rådgivare.
»Cyxone has taken up several projects that deeply interest me and that I would like to see realised as a treatment to benefit people with different kinds of inflammatory diseases« – Rikard Holmdahl
Rikard, you have an extensive academic record, but have also been appointed scientific advisor in several companies – what attracted you to Cyxone?
– Cyxone has taken up several projects that deeply interest me and that I would like to see realised as a treatment to benefit people with different kinds of inflammatory diseases.
Cyxone finalised the acquisition of Rabeximod in 2018 from OxyPharma, a project that you were part of developing in the early stages. Cyxone is currently preparing the candidate for another phase II clinical study, what makes Rabeximod stand out compared to existing therapies?
– It seems to target a critical cell and critical time phase in the development of arthritis that is not covered by current treatments. This makes it a unique therapy that might offer a novel treatment option preventing the damage caused to joints in arthritis.
Can you tell us more about your work in the early phase and your view on the project at this point?
– I became involved in this project to investigate its mechanism of action and possible applications. Rabeximod had been characterised mainly through a large number of in vitro experiments but these did not reveal how it actually worked in vivo in an organism. Our approach was to study its effect in well-defined animal models and by doing this we could show its therapeutic efficiency, when it exerts its effect and the cells that are targeted.
– Our results showed that very basic mechanisms which are highly conserved between species were affected. The use of animal models was clearly critical for this project and opened the door to going further with clinical trials.
Finally, you will also be advising Cyxone regarding T20K, the MS drug candidate, what are your general views on the field, what medical needs do you think are the most pressing to fulfil regarding MS?
– MS is a disease that for long time has lacked efficient treatments, but more recently several more specific antibody-based treatments have been introduced. A common problem here are unexpected side effects mainly related to virus infections due to the immunosuppressing effect of the treatments. Efficacious therapies with higher safety profiles are needed and T20K may offer efficacy with reduced side effects compared to current options.
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.