Home Interviews Annexin comments on acquisition and focus on ANXV in ophthalmology

Annexin comments on acquisition and focus on ANXV in ophthalmology


Annexin comments on acquisition and focus on ANXV in ophthalmology

28 June, 2024

Merck recently announced that they are acquiring the biotech company EyeBio for up to 3 billion USD, thereby strengthening its presence in ophthalmology. EyeBio’s drug candidate Restoret is being developed to treat diabetes-related eye diseases. Another active player in the ophthalmology field is the Swedish company Annexin Pharmaceuticals. BioStock reached out to the company’s CEO Anders Haegerstrand to get his comments on the acquisition and gain further insights into Annexin’s focus for 2024.

Stockholm-based Annexin Pharmaceuticals is developing the drug candidate ANXV, with the ambition to provide an innovative treatment for the eye disease retinal vein occlusion (RVO). ANXV is 99.5 per cent identical to the endogenous protein Annexin A5, which plays a crucial role in protecting blood vessel cells, fighting inflammation and reducing the risk of red blood cells clumping together – key factors contributing to the development of RVO. By administering ANXV intravenously, the company hopes to offer a more patient-friendly and effective treatment compared to current standard of care, which involves repeated anti-VEGF injections directly into the eye with limited effect.

ANXV is currently being evaluated in a phase IIa study, with topline data expected in the summer of 2024.

Focus on business development

This spring, Annexin has been very active in business development, attending several conferences and meetings in ophthalmology and engaging in dialogues with key stakeholders in the field. Recently, Annexin participated in Clinical Trials at the Summit in Utah, USA, which focused on market development for clinical studies in eye diseases. At the summit, Michael Singer, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center and RVO expert, presented phase IIa study data from the company’s study on RVO. About a hundred participants, including Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), analysts, and several decision-makers from major pharmaceutical companies, attended the meeting.

Annexin will continue to attend key events, including the American Society of Retinal Specialists (ASRS) annual meeting, which will be held from July 17–20 in Stockholm, Sweden. During the congress, the company expects to meet with several KOLs as well as other significant industry stakeholders. Annexin is actively seeking licensing and collaboration partners and has previously told BioStock that they are experiencing increased interest from potential partners. Read more here.

Increased business activity in ophthalmology

Another company that has noticed such interest is EyeBio, with Merck recently announcing its intentions to acquire the company. The deal is worth up to USD 3 billion, with EyeBio receiving an upfront payment of USD 1.3 billion and an additional USD 1.7 billion in future payments upon achieving commercial and regulatory milestones. EyeBio is developing Restoret, which has shown positive results in a phase Ib/phase IIa study in patients with diabetic macular edema and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The drug candidate is planned to undergo a phase IIb/III study in patients with diabetic macular edema starting in the second half of 2024.

However, this is not the only major deal in the field. In 2023, Astellas Pharma, Japan’s second-largest pharmaceutical company, acquired American Iveric Bio for USD 5.9 billion, giving Astellas access to Iveric’s drug candidate ACP for the treatment of the eye disease geographic atrophy. Another major deal in ophthalmology is Amgen‘s acquisition of Horizon Therapeutics for USD 27.8 billion. The acquisition was completed in October 2023, providing Amgen with the main product Tepezza, which is a treatment for the autoimmune condition thyroid eye disease. Additionally, Ani Pharmaceuticals recently announced an acquisition of Alimera Sciences, with two products in ophthalmology, for USD 380 million.

Comments from the CEO

Anders Haegerstrand, vd Annexin Pharmaceuticals

BioStock reached out to CEO Anders Haegerstrand to gets his comments on the acquisition of EyeBio and an update on current developments at Annexin.

We observe high activity in the ophthalmology market, exemplified by Merck’s acquisition of EyeBio, which operates in diabetic macular edema and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. How does Annexin view the acquisition?

– The acquisition is part of a market trend showing increasing interest in new and innovative treatments for retinal diseases, indirectly highlighting the potential of ANXV. The ophthalmology field is commercially active, and significant deals are typically made when companies are close to or have already received market approval for one or more products. However, what makes the EyeBio-Merck deal interesting is that it is based on data from fewer than 30 patients treated in a phase Ib/IIa study.

– Severe vision impairment or blindness associated with diabetes and macular degeneration are more chronic conditions than RVO and are therefore often considered to have a much larger market potential. The size of the deal should not be directly compared to the potential value of a deal for us within RVO, but it is nonetheless very exciting.

You recently participated in a meeting in the US where your phase II study in RVO was presented to Key Opinion Leaders. What are your takeaways from the meeting?

– The meeting was exclusive and invitation-only, with about 100 participants, but ophthalmologists and other professionals active in eye care could stream the event. We were invited to participate with a presentation of our ANXV study due to its level of innovation. A selected KOL, Michael Singer, who continuously evaluates the safety and efficacy data in the phase IIa study in RVO, presented our latest data and it was very well received. We are very pleased with this type of exposure at an important meeting with many key players active in the largest market.

ASRS has scheduled its annual meeting in Sweden this summer, where you will also be present. How do you plan to make the most of this meeting?

– It is really great that the American Society of Retinal Specialists has chosen Stockholm, Sweden, as the meeting venue. In conjunction with the event, we will meet with several KOLs as well as other significant industry players to discuss ANXV.

How do these events impact your ongoing dialogues regarding partnerships and licensing?

– These types of conferences are very important as they create natural meeting places and opportunities to drive ongoing discussions as well as initiate new conversations with potential partners. We currently have several ongoing discussions that we continuously follow up on. Our goal is to find a global partner for the continued development and commercialisation of ANXV, but we are also open to licensing agreements within specific territories.

Besides participating in similar events, what is Annexin’s current focus within the eye care field?

– Our primary focus right now is to complete our phase II study in RVO with expected top-line data later this summer and to continue our efforts in business development. We are planning meetings with regulatory authorities to get feedback on our plans for the phase IIb study design in RVO, which is valuable in business discussions as well. We know that ANXV has broader potential in the eye care field, so we are also working on how conceptual studies in diabetes and macular degeneration can be designed, and how ANXV can be administered to patients with more chronic conditions.

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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