In the spring, the Malmö-based research company WntResearch paused the patient recruitment for its phase II study with candidate Foxy-5 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In early October, the company announced the hiring of Anders Rabbe as acting CEO. His first assignment will be to ensure recruitment for the ongoing study. BioStock has spoken with the new CEO to get his view on his new role and what awaits WntResearch.
WntResearch is developing the drug candidate Foxy-5 for prevention of the formation of metastases in cancer patients. The candidate mimics a protein that is found naturally in the body called WNT5A, which has the ability to bind to the surface of all cells. Up to half of all patients suffering from colon cancer have low levels of WNT5A, which has been shown to increase the risk of the cancer spreading. The company’s goal is to have Foxy-5 help prevent this.
The company is currently in a highly active period. Last week, Anders Rabbe joined the as a new acting CEO. Rabbe has past experience as the CEO of another listed research company, Isofol Medical. BioStock took the opportunity to talk to him about his new role and how he sees the potential of WntResearch.
»I have been CEO and held key positions in several different companies in various industries, thereby driving capitalisation processes and listing several companies.«
Anders Rabbe, you have previously been CEO of, among others, Isofol Medical and have experience in taking companies from academic research to phase III. Would you like to tell us a little more about your background?
– As you say, I had the opportunity as CEO for a 10 year period at Isofol to be part of a fantastically exciting and educational journey that resulted in the company now being in the final stages of a phase III study with its drug candidate and hopefully succeeding in meeting a large medical need.
– In my early days, I had an ambition to become a doctor and studied science but realised that I was probably not meant to become a doctor. So, after studying economics and business administration at university, I worked in the finance industry for about ten years and later also gained a good insight and understanding of the process of starting up and financing businesses.
– I have been CEO and held key positions in several different companies in various industries, thereby driving capitalisation processes and listing several companies. The biotech industry is my latest experience and now the journey continues with WntResearch with the ambition to hopefully be able to contribute to meeting more medical needs. I also sit on several boards in smaller and listed companies and I am driven by developing projects and people.
What made you take on the role of CEO of WntResearch?
– Above all, I think that research conducted on the importance of WNT5A for the spread of cancer is very interesting. Foxy-5, with the ambition to counteract the spread of cancer cells and thereby metastasize in the body, I see as a completely new type of drug candidate in the fight against cancer. The competitive landscape seem to be very limited right now, which would mean that Foxy-5 could, in documented activity, form the basis for a completely new class of cancer drugs.
– The company is currently in a development phase that I have good experience of building on and thereby creating the conditions to be able to implement a successful development plan of Foxy-5.
»Potentially, as mentioned, Foxy-5 could become a completely new type of drug to successfully treat several different cancers «
What do you think of the company’s focus project Foxy-5 and its future potential?
– Potentially, as mentioned, Foxy-5 could become a completely new type of drug to successfully treat several different cancers by reducing the spread of cancer in the body and/or keeping the disease in check. Of course, a lot needs to be shown and documented before the company or a partner collaboration gets there.
– But if the ongoing Neofox study in the future indicates that patients treated with Foxy-5 have reduced the appearance of circulating tumour cells and thereby a reduced risk of recurrence, then the company has a very interesting position from which to continue the development.
What is the most important thing you bring from previous experiences into WntResearch?
– My ambition is primarily to use my latest experience to take a company from early research to a registration-based phase III study in colorectal cancer. In my opinion, a key to succeeding in this is to run the right processes at the right time, be extremely proactive and to implement this way of thinking in the company. A small company, especially within biotech, must prioritise and at the same time be able to run processes in parallel, which is a challenge that I believe I have the ability to handle.
A few weeks ago, the company announced that it was advancing the analysis of circulating tumour DNA in the NeoFox study due to the Covid-19 situation in Spain. Is there any update to give there?
– It is a great challenge to start up and carry out a comprehensive oncology study in Europe as a small Swedish company with limited resources. Unfortunately, for WntResearch, the Covid pandemic has further complicated the process. All in all, this has meant that it will take longer than planned for the company to be able to include patients in the Neofox study and consequently longer time to reach a sufficiently large data base to be able to carry out a reliable analysis.
– But our absolute focus is to, within the company’s financial framework, create the best conditions for recruiting patients for the study and to be able to effectively analyse the data. The measures we are now taking to be able to achieve this and what this may mean for possible new activities and updated timelines will be communicated to the market.
What activities do you see as most important right now, given the situation with the NeoFox study?
– As I said, I have initiated a process with the board and other key people and suppliers around the company to evaluate various measures that could counteract the negative effect the Covid pandemic has had for the recruitment of patients. We will of course communicate the results of this work and other activities to strengthen the company as a whole.
»The company’s strategy, as communicated, has been that results from the Neofox study will form the basis for the continued development plan and possible collaboration agreements with partners in order to be able to take Foxy-5 to market registration.«
If we look ahead a little, what do you envision once patient recruitment has started again?
– The company’s strategy, as communicated, has been that results from the Neofox study will form the basis for the continued development plan and possible collaboration agreements with partners in order to be able to take Foxy-5 to market registration. I see the outcome of the Neofox study as a first clinical platform to build a regulatory and commercially viable clinical development plan for Foxy 5 around. To achieve this, the company primarily needs to work on strengthening the scientific platform around WNT5A, Foxy-5 and its operating mechanisms.
– This work should form the basis for being able to get input from doctors and opinion leaders in the areas of therapy for which Foxy-5 could meet a medical need. I look forward to working with these processes and to eventually be able to contribute to more cancer patients receiving improved treatment.
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.