When the cancer therapy company WntResearch sums up the first quarter of the year, it does so with a reinforced team. During the quarter, Pernilla Sandwall was appointed as the new CEO, and the company has also nominated Christer Nordstedt as the new Chairman of the Board. BioStock contacted the sitting Chairman Gudrun Anstren for a comment on the past quarter and the additions to the team.
WntResearch’s goal is to offer cancer patients a better treatment through its drug candidate Foxy-5, a peptide that mimics the endogenous protein WNT5A. With Foxy-5, WntResearch aims to replicate WNT5A’s ability to reduce the risk of spreading cancer cells that can form metastases. The candidate is now undergoing the phase II study Neofox in Spain and Hungary, investigating its ability to reduce the risk of recurrence in patients with colon cancer.
Stabilised patient recruitment
In the report’s CEO statement, the company emphasises that the main focus of the quarter has been patient recruitment to Neofox. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and structural changes in the treatment of colon cancer in Hungary, the company has achieved a more stable patient recruitment.
In Spain, the company has added new centers to the study and during the first quarter 12 new patients were recruited to Neofox, which means that at the end of the quarter it had 112 randomised patients.
The company still expects to have enough data by December to conduct an interim analysis.
New recruitments strengthen competence
The most important news in the first quarter broke in February when the company announced that Pernilla Sandwall had been recruited as the new CEO. Sandwall comes most recently from the position of Chief Operating Officer at InDex Pharmaceuticals and took up the CEO role on April 29. She is, however, not the only person to reinforce the company.
WntResearch is working purposefully to strengthen the competence, and the Nomination Committee has now proposed two new members with solid experience to the Annual General Meeting in June – Christer Nordstedt and Jonas Bergh. Nordstedt is proposed to become the company’s new chairman of the board and his CV includes positions at pharmaceutical giants such as Roche and AstraZeneca. He comes most recently from Teva, where he was Global Head of Research. In Bergh, Professor of Oncology at Karolinska Institutet, WntResearch gets a member with solid experience of clinical studies and cutting-edge expertise in cancer research.
It is also worth highlighting WntResearch´s strengthened patent position. The company has filed a patent application for new compositions of Foxy-5 with better solubility and stability. It was also announced in April that the company had received a manufacturing patent approval by the EPO (the European Patent Office).
The patent means that when the time comes for WntResearch to manufacture the drug, this can be done at a lower cost and with better quality. Both the substance and the manufacturing process is now covered by longer patents, increasing the commercial potential of Foxy-5.
Chairman of the board comments
BioStock contacted WntResearch chairman Gudrun Anstren for a comment on the past quarter and what we can expect from the company going forward.
Gudrun, strengthening the management seems to be a theme for WntResearch in 2022 with new CEO, new chairman and new board member. What do you expect these new additions to bring to the company?
– Recruitment of the operational manager is always very important. I therefore feel safe with our new CEO Pernilla Sandwall. She has a solid background from drug development with extensive experience in clinical studies, regulatory processes, business development and financing in a life science company in a listed environment. Most recently, she comes from a role as Chief Operating Officer at InDex Pharmaceuticals, where she has been active since 2012.
– Furthermore, a Board of Directors with broad expertise is also a prerequisite for being able to make the right long-term strategic decisions for the company and also to support the management in the more operational decisions. I am therefore very pleased that the nomination committee has brought forward proposals for two highly competent members, one of whom – Christer Nordstedt – is intended to take over my role.
– My feeling is that Christer is a very good proposal for chairman of the board. He has a broad experience as responsible throughout the value chain, from research in the early detection phase all the way through clinical phases and on to the market – combined with a solid experience from leading roles.
– Jonas Bergh is also a very welcome addition to the board. Jonas is not only an internationally recognised oncologist. In his role as chair of the Scientific Council on Oncology and Hematology of the European Medicines Agency up until 2021, he also has great understanding of what is important in the development of a new drug.
If we take a closer look at the past quarter, what is the status of the Neofox study, now that patient recruitment seems to have stabilised?
– The plan remains firm for an interim analysis in December. However, recruitment in both Spain and Hungary has continued to be affected by the pandemic, which also affects the pace. However, the activities and measures that have been put in place to stimulate recruitment have resulted in a somewhat more stable patient flow, especially in Spain, where we have also started up new centres. We continue to have a close dialogue with both the clinicians and the trial leaders to continue to increase recruitment.