Saniona has recruited Wendy Dwyer to the position of Chief Business Officer. BioStock reached out to Dwyer, who played a key role in securing an 815 million USD license agreement with 85 million USD upfront for a preclinical immuno-oncology asset at Surface Oncology Inc. We also learn how she thinks business development can create value at Saniona and what her priorities will be during the coming year.
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.
In addition to this, SAN711 is currently undergoing phase I clinical trials, with possible applications in the treatment of rare neuropathic disorders. SAN903 is being developed for rare inflammatory, fibrotic and haematological disorders and is currently in preclinical development. A phase 1 trial with SAN903 is expected to begin in H2 2022.
New CBO hired
On September 15, the company announced the appointment of Wendy Dwyer as Chief Business Officer. BioStock reached out to Dwyer to learn more about her background, what attracted her to join the company, and what she brings to the company in terms of dealmaking.
Wendy, can you start out by talking about your professional background?
– Yes sure. I earned a master’s degree in business administration from Lesley University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Endicott College. Most recently, when serving as Chief Business Officer at Surface Oncology, in addition to securing the transformative $815 million transaction, I negotiated multiple highly strategic collaborative partnerships and served as a member of the executive leadership team., Prior to that, I served as Chief Business Officer at Portal Instruments Inc., where I secured the first partnership with a large pharmaceutical company for the Portal delivery device. I also served as Vice President, Corporate Business Development with Ipsen Bioscience Inc., where I managed the licensing/acquisition of synergistic marketed and late-stage products to bolster the company’s U.S. and Canadian presence. I have also held senior business development positions at AstraZeneca plc, Antigenics Inc. (now Agenus Inc.), Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Can you give our readers an overview on business development in general, and how you think business development can create value at Saniona?
– In general, business development is about maximizing value creation out of a company’s assets and know-how. The outcome and process can look very different depending on what company and sector you are in, but with the same goal; to grow the business, reach patients faster, and create value. Business development at Saniona will focus on finding ways to partner and out-license some of our assets in non-core markets and/or non-core therapeutic areas. For example, Tesomet could be the potential subject of a license deal in a geographical market where Saniona has no presence, and is not planning on having one in the near term, like Asia.
– For other assets, an out-license or partnership within non-core therapeutic areas, i.e., not rare diseases, could be of interest. These types of transactions can create value in a few key ways, including generating non-dilutive capital for the company (which may reduce the need to raise cash through dilutive means), global reach to patients, and an optimized strategy for our assets, as well as forming synergistic relationships with key industry partners. Separately, in the longer term business development may be used to in-license assets that help grow a company’s portfolio.
What potential do you see in out-licensing or entering into partnerships when it comes to Saniona’s assets?
– As I see it, there are a lot of possibilities and great potential. Saniona has developed an impressive pipeline of assets, including Tesomet and multiple programs emerging from the ion channel drug discovery engine. These kind of transactions and partnerships are of course not done overnight, however in a mid-term perspective I see potential of various opportunities as a significant source to continue to help fund the development of our core assets. This is the experience I bring to Saniona, and a key reason why I joined Saniona: I am very optimistic about Saniona’s future.
What would you say was the main factor behind you succeeding in securing the 815 million USD license agreement as CBO at Surface Oncology Inc.?
– We went through a very strategic process in reviewing the pipeline together with the market dynamics in the Immuno-Oncology space at the time. We focused on the market climate and interest in PVRIG and recognized the potential value of our early, novel asset. There was a strategic fit for PVRIG in combination for a select group of companies and we were able to present the opportunity and data to various management teams, including GSK to garner interest and ultimately close a mutually beneficial partnership.
You will be based in the U.S and serve on Saniona’s executive committee. What will be your main priorities at Saniona during the coming year?
– It’s indeed a very interesting time to be joining Saniona. During the first half of 2021 the company made significant progress on the clinical and regulatory fronts and by the end of this year we plan to initiate two phase 2b trials with Tesomet.
As with every clinical stage pharmaceutical company it is critical to ensure the company is well funded to be able to conduct and advance its clinical development programs. This can be done through a combination of dilutive and non-dilutive capital strategies. With the company’s knowledge and expertise within rare diseases, I believe there is significant unlocked value to optimize for some of these assets through partnerships, whether that be in the form of an out-license, a geographical partnership, a non-core disease deal, or more. One of my main priorities will therefore be to seek and close these strategic relationships to support the optimization of our cash position and the globalization of our programs.
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.