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Saniona strengthens its board of directors

Saniona strengthens its board of directors

27 September, 2021

Recently, financial expert Robert E. Hoffman was added to the board of directors of the biotech company Saniona. Hoffman, a seasoned financial executive with an extensive track record in the biotechnology industry, is expected to bring additional expertise in fund raising, corporate governance and deal making to the company. BioStock reached out to Hoffman to discuss his experience advising U.S.-listed biotechs and how he believes the company can realise shareholder value.

Saniona is developing its lead candidate Tesomet for the treatment of patients with the serious rare diseases Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) and hypothalamic obesity (HO). The company aims to start a phase IIb study in each indication before year-end, and provided the data are positive, to continue development through registration and commercialisation.

Besides Tesomet, which is the company´s most advanced treatment candidate, Saniona is also developing two earlier stage proprietary programs: SAN711 (in phase I clinical development) and SAN903 (in preclinical development), molecules derived from Saniona’s proprietary ion channel discovery engine.

New member of the board sees big untapped potential

Robert E. Hoffman, styrelseledamot Saniona

Robert E. Hoffman was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of Saniona. BioStock reached out to Hoffman to get his take on Saniona’s opportunities and potential. We also learn what experiences he brings to the board after nearly 30 years in biopharma, where he has led and advised US-listed companies on corporate finance and investor relations.

Robert, to start out with, can you present yourself to the BioStock audience?

– I´d be glad to. I currently sit on the board of directors for three publicly traded companies with market capitalizations ranging from U.S. $30 million to $300 million (ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, Kintara Therapeutics and Antibe Therapeutics). I serve in multiple key roles such as chairman, audit committee chair and audit committee financial expert. I also serve as a board member of the Association of Bioscience Financial Officers and of FibroBiologics, Inc., a private biotechnology company.

– In my most recent operating role, I was Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of San Diego-based Heron Pharmaceuticals, a Nasdaq-listed, commercial-stage drug developer with a pipeline of acute pain therapeutics. During my tenure at Heron, the company successfully raised funding and launched its second commercial drug product.

– My career in the biotechnology sector began in 1997 at Arena Pharmaceuticals, where I was a member of the founding management team. I rose to become CFO and held that position for ten years. While at Arena, I was involved in its Initial Public Offering (IPO) and financings. I was the financial lead in two Arena acquisitions, including a Swiss manufacturing facility, and I became managing director of the facility upon the closing of the transaction. I also was an advisor to the Financial Accounting Standard Board (FASB) between 2010 and 2020, advising the United States accounting rulemaking organizations on emerging issues and new financial guidance.

What attracted you to join the board of directors of Saniona?

– I have a passion for helping biotech companies evaluate their strategic financial options and maximize their ability to advance medicines for patients while at the same time maximizing value for shareholders. Saniona caught my eye because it is and has long been a leader in the discovery of highly specific ion channel modulators. In addition, many clinical as well as organizational achievements have been made since Rami Levin took on the role of President and CEO – the company is starting to make a name for itself, particularly in U.S. circles. At the same time, this is a company that has so much potential to create even more value as it advances its rich pipeline. I very much look forward to joining the experienced Saniona team and helping in advising them on strategic finance, corporate governance and investor relations.

The company has eyed a possible listing of its shares on Nasdaq USA, in addition to the already existing listing on Nasdaq Stockholm. What are the benefits of a listing in the US, in your opinion? 

– Saniona is evaluating multiple options aligned with its strategy of positioning the company to access U.S. patients, physicians and the U.S. capital markets. Listing its shares on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange is one such option, and it could benefit the company by providing increased visibility and access to a greater number of potential healthcare investors. In particular, the U.S. is known for its large institutional healthcare investors who invest heavily in biotechnology, and many of these types of investors are more interested in companies that are listed in the U.S. Given my experience as a CFO and board member for U.S.-listed biotech companies, advising Saniona on how to optimize its timing and approach to a potential U.S. listing in order to maximize value is one of my top priorities and one of the main reasons I joined the board.

Saniona is currently valued by the market at approximately 96 MUSD (SEK 840 million), which is lower than the valuation of your American peers at the same stage of development and comparable pipeline. What do you assess is the reason for this discrepancy, and do you think Saniona should be valued higher?

– I certainly do see the discrepancy between the way mid-stage biotech companies are valued in the U.S. and the way they are valued in Sweden, and I think that is also a reason for Saniona to evaluate a U.S. listing. I do think a U.S. listing could help resolve this value discrepancy, but it must be done at the right time and in a way to benefit both the company and investors. I will also say that I have seen some of the feedback we have received from investors and I understand they are frustrated by the share price.

– As a company representative now of course I cannot comment on this – but I can say that I see the expertise and the work going on with this team, and I am very encouraged. Developing a drug takes many years and costs many millions of dollars – but when it succeeds, it creates tremendous benefit for patients and shareholders. I have seen this time and again, and I am confident it will be the case for Saniona.

To wrap things up, where do you envision Saniona to be in five years from now and what will you focus on to get the company to that point?

– The ultimate goal is to transform Saniona into a fully-integrated biopharmaceutical company with the ability to discover, develop and commercialize our own innovative treatments for rare disease patients around the world. To be able to succeed we have to keep executing on our strategies, in line with our mission and vision, advancing our programs and building value doing so. A big part of that is of course to keep meeting with our different stakeholders, including investors, analysts, banks etc to ensure that the Saniona story and opportunity is understood. In five years from now I hope we will have brought our first, out of many, medicines to market and have a pipeline of other products advancing through clinical development.

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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