On September 1, Per Norlén took on the role of CEO of Targinta, Xintela’s oncology subsidiary, which is being prepared to be spun off from Xintela in 2021. Norlén plans to develop Targinta to become an independent and self-funded cancer company, which he talks more about in an interview with BioStock.
Xintela develops medical products in the fields of stem cell therapy and targeted cancer therapy based on the company’s marker technology XINMARK. The company has developed targeting, therapeutic antibodies that reduce tumour growth in animal models of both glioblastoma and triple-negative breast cancer. Based on these positive preclinical results, the cancer projects are continued in Xintela’s wholly owned subsidiary Targinta.
Targinta has recently launched its website – click here to enter the website.
Spin-off in 2021
In the half-year report for 2021, Xintela’s CEO Evy Lundgren-Åkerlund announced that now is the right timefor the spin-off of Targinta:
»The oncology projects have also reached several important milestones and we believe that the time is now right to spin-out our subsidiary Targinta, which we expect can take place in 2021«
An important step towards the spin-off was the recruitment of Per Norlén, who has now taken on the role of CEO of Targinta and also as Chief Medical Officer of Xintela/Targinta.
Interview with Per Norlén
Per Norlén is a physician, board certified in clinical pharmacology, and associate professor in clinical pharmacology. Most recently he was CEO of the immuno-oncology company Alligator Bioscience. Norlén has extensive experience and knowledge in management and development of antibody-based cancer drugs, which makes him well suited for the role of CEO of Targinta. BioStock contacted Per Norlén to find out more about his plans for Targinta.
Per, how does it feel to take over the overall responsibility to lead Targinta and its development forward?
– It feels amazing. Both leading Targinta and becoming part of a welded team that aims for a common goal. Targinta is in an exciting phase where the discovery of a unique target protein on cancer cells, integrin α10β1, is now being translated into the development of antibody-based drug candidates.
»Targinta is in an exciting phase where the discovery of a unique target protein on cancer cells, integrin α10β1, is now being translated into the development of antibody-based drug candidates«
– The target protein is selectively formed in certain cancers, including the intractable brain tumour glioblastoma, and has been shown to be crucial for the growth of the cancer. In addition, there is theoretical support that it is crucial for the cancer’s ability to spread, which is evaluated and can hopefully soon be confirmed.
– Targinta has every opportunity to be the first to develop a drug for this target protein. This is an extremely stimulating position to be in, where we can both contribute to better treatment for a vulnerable patient group and at the same time create value for our owners. We will now push further to nominate and select drug candidates as soon as possible. After that, the construction of a clinic preparation preclinical data package and intensified activities in identifying partners for further clinical development begin.
On July 1, you also took on the role of CMO in Xintela/Targinta. How has this first period in the company been?
– It’s been an intense start. And great fun. Partly with the ongoing preparations in Xintela for the planned clinical study with the stem cell product XSTEM in knee osteoarthritis, and partly to familiarise myself with the extensive research data that forms the basis of Targinta’s antibody products.
What do you think will be the most important factors in successfully developing Targinta into an independent and self-funded company?
– Targinta’s strength is the unique target protein integrin α10β1. Having your own patented target in oncologyputs Targinta in a unique position, especially for partnership discussions.
– And of course, the team is crucial. That was one of the factors that I put the most emphasis on when I decided to take the step to Targinta. On the one hand, we have a strong management team, where I can mention Evy Lundgren-Åkerlund as CSO, which allows us to use decades of groundbreaking integrin research, and Thomas Areschoug as CBO who has already established relationships with several potential future partner companies. And then there is a well-oiled operational team that thrive together and that effectively drives the development of the new cancer antibodies forward.
»And then there is a well-oiled operational team that thrive together and that effectively drives the development of the new cancer antibodies forward«
Do you plan to enter into partnerships for the further development of Targinta’s targeting antibodies? If so, how can your past experiences and your network of contacts be useful in probing potential partners?
– Absolutely. Partnerships will be a crucial part of Targinta’s strategy, and I believe that after more than 10 years of partnership discussions on antibody drugs in oncology, we will benefit from my network and experience in business development. And not least good experiences of entering into agreements with both smaller biotech and large pharma companies. The agreement with Johnson and Johnson that Alligator reached in 2015 stands out, with its total deal value of more than 5 billion SEK. Of interest from Targinta’s point of view is that that agreement was concluded based on preclinical data.
The spin-off of Targinta is expected to take place before the end of 2021. Can you tell us a bit more about what this could mean for the shareholders of Xintela?
– The board headed by Greg Batcheller has hired me to make Targinta an independent company and that process has now begun. One possible way is for Targinta to be made independently through the distribution of all of Xintela’s ownership to Xintela’s current shareholders, but that is just one of the scenarios we are looking at. Then the company will also be financed, but I will get back on this issue as soon as I have had time to familiarise myself with the business and received the board’s approval for our plans.
»The board headed by Greg Batcheller has hired me to make Targinta an independent company and that process has now begun«
What does Targinta’s agenda look like for this autumn?
– We will choose our first drug candidate during the fourth quarter, thereby passing a crucial milestone on theway to clinical studies. We will also increase the workforce to further increase the research capacity. With the choice of a drug candidate, our assets become even more concrete. This will be a vitamin injection for our business development that will also intensify during the autumn.
If we look a little further ahead, what milestones do you hope Targinta achieves within the next five years?
– After two days as CEO of the company, I will need to make a reservation because I may revise my predictions for the future, but, having said that, I expect that we have managed to enter into a crucial partnership within 2 years. In doing so, we may be able to start the clinical phase within 3 years, and within 5years have evaluated our first drug candidate both in terms of safety and efficacy in the first clinical phase I/IIa trial in cancer patients.
– A partnership will also give us the capacity to evaluate more cancer indications and broaden our product portfolio, and there are already promising ideas, but here and now all the focus is on our antibody candidates aimed at integrin α10β1.
»A partnership will also give us the capacity to evaluate more cancer indications and broaden our product portfolio, and there are already promising ideas«
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