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Saniona’s CEO: “Our development pipeline is stronger than ever”


Saniona’s CEO: “Our development pipeline is stronger than ever”

5 March, 2024

Saniona released its year-end report last week, with CEO Thomas Feldthus emphasizing the robustness of the development candidates, especially noting advancements in the epilepsy pipeline. We caught up with Feldthus to gain insights into the company’s plans ahead.

Saniona’s drug development platform revolves around the modulation of ion channels in the brain – proteins that play a major role in signal transmission between brain cells. Through this concept, Saniona has developed several drug candidates.

Saniona’s drug development pipeline

In 2023, Saniona’s pipeline in epilepsy started to take off. This pipeline features SAN711, a phase II-ready candidate drug targeting absence seizures, SAN2219 for acute repetitive seizures, and SAN2355 addressing refractory focal onset seizures.

Saniona has four clinical programmes aimed at collaboration efforts: Tesofensine is progressing towards regulatory approval for obesity in Mexico through a partnership with Medix, while Tesomet is ready for phase IIb, targeting rare eating disorders, SAN903 is ready for phase I in inflammatory bowel disease and, lastly, SAN2465 is set for preclinical development for major depressive disorder.

Potential revenue from collaborations

Partnering is a key part of Saniona’s business strategy. During the last years, Saniona has formed alliances with Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, Janssen, AstronauTx, and Proximagen. The collaboration with Boehringer alone has the potential to bring in EUR 76.5 million in milestone payments as well as royalties on worldwide net sales of resulting products.

Also, the company has made three spinouts including Initiator Pharma and Scandion Oncology, both listed on First North Stockholm, while Cadent Therapeutics was acquired by Novartis. Saniona still retains the potential for future milestones, royalties, and earnouts from several of these collaborations.

2023 – an eventful year

Saniona released its year-end report for 2023 late last week and it is obvious that the cost-saving programme that the company introduced last year, is starting to pay off. The Danish biotech reported increased revenues in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period last year, while operating losses have decreased.

What stands out in the report, however, is the research collaboration with the UK-based biotech company AstronauTx. This collaboration aims to identify new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions by modulating a novel, undisclosed ion channel target. A key feature of the collaboration is the use of Saniona’s proprietary platform, IonBase, for the modulation of ion channels.

Saniona may receive up to SEK 1.9 billion or USD 177 million in milestone payments, as well as royalties on worldwide net sales of resulting products under the collaboration. Saniona’s CEO Thomas Feldthus commented on the deal in an interview with BioStock. Later in the year, AstronauTx closed a USD 61 million series A financing, which Thomas Feldthus also commented on here.

Comments from the CEO

Thomas Feldthus, CEO Saniona

The developments surrounding AstronauTx are just a fraction of the news from Saniona over the past year. The company has also chosen two new development candidates and successfully concluded two financing rounds.

BioStock talked to CEO Thomas Feldthus again to get his take on the progress made during 2023, and to learn more about what is in the cards for the company during the rest of 2024.

Thomas, in the year-end report you stated that your development pipeline is stronger than ever. Can you briefly talk about the progress made within your drug development portfolio?

— We selected two new and unique candidates around year-end, SAN2355 for epilepsy and SAN2465 for major depressive disorders. I believe that they may provide unique treatment opportunities for the many patients who are not treated well with existing therapies.

— SAN2355 has the potential to become best-in-class among the hyped Kv7 activators for epilepsy. Based on its profile, we believe that it has the potential to be more effective and cause fewer side effects than competing pipeline programmes. It also shows promise for indications beyond epilepsy. Furthermore, the development of an innovative drug like SAN2355 may provide new understandings about the function of the different types of Kv7 channels and thereby lead to new types of medicines in the future, things which have not been possible to investigate previously as SAN2355 is the first of its kind.

— SAN2465 was discovered together with Boehringer Ingelheim under a collaboration, which ended in 2020. Saniona has the commercial rights to the compound and all collaboration compounds. SAN2465 modulates neurons in a brain region called the limbic system, which among other things processes and regulates emotion, motivation, memory, and learning. It could represent a new highly differentiated, rapid-acting therapeutic for depression. Due to its different mode of action compared to traditional antidepressive drugs it has the potential to treat patients who do not respond to existing therapies.

Your research activities are now funded through three partnerships, plus the proceeds from the recent share issue and the directed issue. Where will this take you in terms of development milestones?

— We will invest in our epilepsy assets as well as in studies, which support our business development efforts.

— We focus on SAN711 and SAN2355 because these assets will create the most value for the company in the short term. Although we did not get all the money we asked for, I’m pleased with the result of the rights issue as it allows us to move our development programs forward. We are now exploring a clinical development pathway for SAN711 in absence seizures, which will bring us as fast as possible to patients with the current financing. For SAN2355, we are initiating the pre-clinical development work to bring this compound into Phase 1.

— In addition to this we are planning to conduct external preclinical studies on specific assets to support our business development efforts. You can create a lot of value this way as illustrated with SAN2465, which came out of our collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim for schizophrenia. All scientists and drug developers get impressed when they see this program and the compound. It is outstanding science. When Boehringer returned the schizophrenia program on SAN2465, we decided to look for effects in other psychiatric indications including depression. The data we generated in a well-recognized, predictive model for major depression came out highly positive and much better than we could have hoped for. This is now available for partnering and although it is early days I am quite pleased with the response so far.

What will be your main focus for the remainder of 2024?

— We will support Medix in their effort to obtain market approval. We will continue our work on establishing the next collaboration. We will progress our epilepsy assets. We will keep optimizing our operating costs to ensure that available funds will be used to create as much value as possible.

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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