Home Interviews Spago Nanomedical’s CEO: “huge commercial opportunities are unfolding”

Spago Nanomedical’s CEO: “huge commercial opportunities are unfolding”


Spago Nanomedical’s CEO: “huge commercial opportunities are unfolding”

27 March, 2024

Last week we saw the USD 2 billion buyout of Fusion Pharmaceuticals by AstraZeneca to accelerate the development of next-generation radioconjugates to treat cancer. The deal showcases rising interest in the field of radiopharmaceuticals. BioStock got in touch with Mats Hansen, CEO of Swedish radiopharma company Spago Nanomedical to get his take on the deal and where Spago is in its development of lead programme Tumorad.

Radiopharmaceuticals are quickly becoming a valid alternative or complement to existing cancer treatments, especially in cases of aggressive cancers. The idea is to offer targeted therapy, delivering radiation directly into cancer cells, thus minimising damage to healthy tissues. Their capacity to target tumours with high efficacy and fewer side effects than traditional radiation therapy has led to a significant rise in big pharma activity and investor venture funding within the field.

Big pharma taking notice

Novartis leads the way with several deals made since 2017 to gain access to nanotherapeutic technology platforms and pipeline candidates. Read more. Last year, Eli Lilly entered into a definitive agreement to acquire POINT Biopharma for approximately USD 1.4 billion, in a move designed to broaden its oncology portfolio with the addition of radioligand therapies.

Meanwhile, Peptidream and Genentech, a Roche Holding company, signed a deal worth up to USD 1 billion to discover and develop macrocyclic peptide-radioisotope (peptide-RI) drug conjugates.

Investors want in on the action

All of the big pharma activity is fuelling 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.

In 2023, US-based biotech Mariana Oncology closed off an oversubscribed USD 175 million Series B financing round. Several major investment firms participated, including Deep Track Capital and Forbion, both of which specialise in the life science sector.

Shortly thereafter, RayzeBio, also based in the US, greatly exceeded its IPO expectations when it raked in USD 311 million instead of an expected USD 210 million. This stirred a lot of interest and propelled the company’s market valuation to USD 1.4 billion. Then, late in the year, Bristol Myers Squibb announced that they will acquire RayzeBio for a total equity value of approximately USD 4.1 billion.

AstraZeneca’s acquisition of Fusion Pharmaceuticals

The radiopharma party is not showing signs of stopping. Just last week, AstraZeneca announced that it had acquired the North American clinical stage oncology company Fusion Pharmaceuticals. Fusion is focused on developing next-generation radioconjugates (RCs) as precision medicines for treating cancer. The company’s most advanced programme, FPI-2265, is a potential new treatment for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). The acquisition, worth more than USD 2 billion, marks yet another sign of big pharma learning hard into the radiopharma concept for cancer therapy.

The deal means a boost for the Swedish venture capital firm HealthCap, which owns about 5 per cent of the portfolio company. BioStock spoke with Founder and Managing Partner at HealthCap Björn Odlander to get his take on the transaction:

“HealthCap as an early investor has received a good return in Fusion. We were also early to invest in the new modality of radiopharmaceuticals. The first investment was in Algeta ASA which was sold to Bayer for USD 2.9 billion. HealthCap is now a partner in two other radio-pharma companies, Precirix and Ariceum.

Read the article here (in Swedish).

A closer look at Sweden – Spago Nanomedical

Staying in Sweden, a company focused on this field is Spago Nanomedical. The company’s Tumorad programme is aimed at developing a new radionuclide therapy for cancer. The drug candidate 177Lu-SN201 is currently being evaluated in a phase I/IIa trial, and the first patient was dosed late last year.

Then, in January, Spago announced receiving the approval for a dose-escalation study with 177Lu-SN201 with the aim of testing the candidate’s safety and tolerability. Read more.

Spago’s CEO comments on the AstraZeneca deal

BioStock reached out Spago’s CEO Mats Hansen to get his take on the AstraZeneca/Fusion deal and where things stand with Spago’s candidate.

Mats, why do you think there is such a big interest in the field right now?

– Radiopharmaceuticals have long been known to provide effective cancer treatment. The challenges has been to solve selective targeting to tumours (to spare non-target organs, especially the kidneys), radiostability of carrier molecules, isotope availability, and the logistical issues associated with production and clinical supply. As these issues have gradually been overcome, and success stories in the form of new approvals and availability of these drugs for effective use in major cancer indications have become more widespread, the huge commercial opportunities are unfolding.

Mats Hansen, CEO Spago Nanomedical
Mats Hansen, CEO Spago Nanomedical

What was your reaction to the AstraZeneca/Fusion deal?

– It is another example of a Big Pharma taking position in the field. I suspect more will follow.

Fusion Pharmaceuticals refer to their candidates as “next-generation radioconjugates.” How does this concept differ from Spago’s?

– Similar to many other approved or pipeline products, their lead candidate is molecularly targeted, mainly towards prostate cancer. They are using the isotope actinium-225, which emits alpha-particles (helium nuclei). In Tumorad, we use the beta-radiating (electrons) isotope lutetium-177 strongly bound to our patented polymeric material to form the candidate drug 177Lu-SN201. Lu177 is a readily available, logistically suitable isotope that is clinically validated by means of the approved drugs Lutathera and Pluvicto by Novartis.

Fusion’s lead candidate targets a specific type of prostate cancer. Are radiopharmaceuticals in general more suited for this type of cancer or is there potential to go into multiple cancer indications?

– With Tumorad, we are exploiting physiological accumulation of optimised particles in solid tumours. This provides for expasion opportunities and use in cancers that cannot yet be treated with radiopharmaceuticals. Our vision is to bring this type of effective treatment to patients with aggressive cancer, e.g. ovarian- or triple-negative breast cancer.

Finally, where is Spago in the development of the Tumorad project at the moment?

– The clinical trial Tumorad-01 with 177Lu-SN201 in cancer patients is progressing according to plan. The set-up in Australia is cost effective and, so far, we see a high interest among clinicians and good availability of patients. As the study progresses, we aim to expand the study into further sites and regions. In parallel to this, we are conducting a non-clinical study of 177Lu-SN201 and a selected group of standard cancer drugs in a model of triple-negative breast cancer. The aim is to provide data that can support positioning in this and other indications. We expect to provide a public update on the progress and results so far during Q2.

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.

Prenumerera på BioStocks nyhetsbrev