Radiopharmaceuticals is a hot and emerging area that has attracted great interest from big pharma and investors in 2023, with several successful capital raises, IPOs and deals. A Nordic company within the field is Oncoinvent, based in Oslo and with lead candidate Radspherin in clinical development for the treatment of metastases in the peritoneal cavity from ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer.
Radiopharmaceuticals are medicinal products that contain radioactive substances for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. In therapeutic applications, radiopharmaceuticals are used to deliver targeted doses of radiation to treat cancer cells. Their capacity to target tumors with fewer side effects than traditional radiation therapy has led to a significant rise in big pharma activity and investor venture funding within the field.
Radiopharmaceuticals – hot area in oncology
Both Novartis and Eli Lilly have invested significant cash and resources into the space. On October 3, Eli Lilly announced a USD 1,4 billion acquisition of Point Biopharma, a radiopharmaceutical company with a pipeline of clinical and preclinical-stage radioligand therapies for the treatment of cancer.
Another significant deal this year was the co-development agreement worth USD 1 billion between Roche-owned Genentech and Japanese PeptiDream for the development of peptide-based radiopharmaceuticals.
Looking into the Nordic region, Nordic Nanovector announced an agreement to acquire Thor Medical in June. Additionally, Curasight signed a USD 70 million partnership agreement in May with Curium, a global leader in radiopharmaceuticals.
Big investments made in the area
All of the big pharma activity is fueling interest among investors. According to GlobalData, venture capital financing in US-based radiopharmaceutical companies has grown 550 per cent from USD 63 million in 2017 to USD 408 million in 2023.
Notably, startup Mariana Oncology secured USD 175 million in Series B financing in September for its radiopharmaceutical development. The financing round was backed by Eli Lilly, Deep Track Capital, and Forbion, among others.
Adding to this trend, ARTBio recently completed a substantial capital raise of USD 90 million in an oversubscribed and upsized Series A financing. This round was co-led by Third Rock Ventures and an undisclosed healthcare fund.
The successful USD 358 million IPO of RayzeBio also stirred a lot of interest, propelling the market valuation to USD 1.4 billion. On December 26, Bristol Myers Squibb announced that they will acquire RayzeBio for a total equity value of approximately USD 4.1 billion.
In addition, radiopharma company Perspective Therapeutics recently announced that they aim to raise USD 60.0 million in a public offering and USD 20.8 million in a private placement.
Oncoinvent targeting peritoneal cancer
Another player in the field looking to raise capital is Norwegian Oncoinvent. The company develops Radspherin, an alpha-emitting micro particle suspension that delivers high power radiation with a short range (0,1 mm), making it well suited for local treatment of metastatic cancers in body cavities. The drug candidate is instilled in the targeted body cavity, which allows local radiopharmaceutical therapy without exposing healthy tissue to radiation, thus avoiding side effects.
Radspherin is currently being developed for peritoneal carcinomatosis originating from ovarian cancer and from colorectal cancer, but it can also potentially be used to other forms of cancers.
Progress in 2023
Throughout the year, Oncoinvent made significant strides in the development of Radspherin, with positive data from the ongoing clinical trials with the candidate. The 18-month follow-up in the phase I/IIa study in colorectal cancer patients show that no peritoneal recurrences occurred in those who received the recommended dose. Only 33 per cent of the patients experienced recurrences overall, which is expected to significantly affect the survival of these patients.
In addition, Oncoinvent has secured IND clearance for both its upcoming phase IIb clinical trials with Radspherin in patients with colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer.
Oncoinvent’s CEO regarding the emerging field of radiopharmaceuticals
BioStock reached out to Oncoinvent’s CEO Anders Månsson to learn more about the company’s progress during 2023 and its position on the radiopharmaceutical market.
First of all, what is your take on the advancements and deals made in the radiopharmaceuticals field recently?
– There is no question about the fact that radiopharmaceuticals has emerged as perhaps the “hottest” space in oncology right now with a substantial interest from professional investors, and also with some Big Pharma acquisition activity. That said, my guess is that a lot more of the oncology focused Big Pharmas will make a move into radiopharmaceuticals in the coming years as the sector is forecasted to expand rapidly and substantially.
»My guess is that a lot more of the oncology focused Big Pharmas will make a move into radiopharmaceuticals in the coming years as the sector is forecasted to expand rapidly and substantially.«
Why do you think there is such a big interest in the field right now?
– I think that development in the area has matured, development results are very promising, and the few radiopharmaceuticals that have already made it to market have demonstrated the ability to live up to promises of a high commercial potential.
What distinguishes Oncoinvent in the competitive landscape of radiopharmaceuticals?
– Oncoinvent has a unique approach to radiopharmaceutical in that our lead drug candidate, Radspherin, is “organ targeted” rather than “cell targeted”. It is instilled in a body cavity (the peritoneum) and radiolabelled microparticles make sure that radiation is concentrated in that cavity. This omits the need for systemic adminstration and the fact that we can use a cell receptor-independent approach, means that we can treat many different cancer types with the same product. It gives us a pipeline based on only one product and a possibility to treat many different cancer types that seed metastases to the peritoneum, and the same technology could probably be applied also to other body cavities susceptible to cancer like the pleura and perhaps the bladder.
How do you view the company’s progress during the year?
– In 2023, we have had excellent clinical read-outs on both safety and efficacy from our phase I/IIa studies. As we use short-range and short half-life alpha-radiation, we had already expected a very “clean” safety readout, but importantly this was also confirmed. On efficacy, we must say that we had better than expected results as the intermediary read-out from our study of peritoneal metastases from colorectal cancer revealead not a single local recurrence after 18 months. This is quite extraordinary as the median progression time for the current standard of therapy is 12 months.
»In 2023, we have had excellent clinical read-outs on both safety and efficacy from our phase I/IIa studies […] On efficacy, we must say that we had better than expected results as the intermediary read-out from our study of peritoneal metastases from colorectal cancer revealead not a single local recurrence after 18 months.«
– These results mean that we are now fully committed to clinical phase IIb trials, in peritoneal metastases from both ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer. These studies will commence in Q2 of 2024. They will be run both in Europe and the USA, and we have already obtained the IND clearence for both studies.
Looking at 2024, what can we expect from Oncoinvent?
– Importantly, everybody can expect a much higher degree of visibility, which I think has become clear already in the second half of 2023 since I joined. It is certainly my ambition that every single stakeholder with an interest in the radiopharamceutical segment, should know about Oncoinvent and our unique, receptor-independent, approach to treating metastatic cancer in body cavities, preventing cancer recurrence, and thereby prolonging patient life expectancy.
– This will be important in the long-term as we engage in dialogue with potential Big Pharma partners in the advent of phase III and commercialisation, but also in the shorter-term, as we approach the investment community to seek the funding necessary for the clinical phase IIb and manufacturing scale-up steps that will be initiated already in 2024.
Having just returned from the JP Morgan 42nd Annual Healthcare Conference, what valuable experiences or insights did you gather during your time there?
– Our view of radiopharmaceutcals as an area of high interest to investors was certainly confirmed and we had a fully booked meeting schedule with VCs and Investment funds, a schedule that continued also in the weeks after the conference with digital meetings. We have now solicited interest with a fair number of international investors, which is instrumental for us as the journey ahead with clinical phase IIb studies in both the US and Europe will require a sizeable investment.
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.
»Our view of radiopharmaceutcals as an area of high interest to investors was certainly confirmed and we had a fully booked meeting schedule with VCs and Investment funds, a schedule that continued also in the weeks after the conference with digital meetings.«