What is it about the NVP015-project that keeps generating out-licensing deals? This question came to the fore when, at the beginning of 2019, NeuroVive Pharmaceutical initiated a commercial partnership with Austrian Oroboros Instruments that might generate up to 50 000 Euro annually. This deal was preceded by another partnership concerning NeuroVive’s research compounds; this time with Fortify Therapeutics and potentially worth 60 million USD. BioStock contacted NeuroVive’s CEO Erik Kinnman for a comment.

In June 2018, NeuroVive Pharmaceutical out-licensed molecules from their NVP015-project for a targeted treatment of Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) to BridgeBio Pharma’s subsidiary Fortify Therapeutics, which was created to develop the project further. Fortify’s ambition is to further develop the chemistry from in-licensed NVP015 in order to establish a therapy for LHON.

LHON is a disease caused by mitochondrial DNA mutations resulting in dysfunctional oxidative phosphorylation and ATP production. This leads to degeneration of the retinal ganglion cells and loss of central vision. LHON most commonly affects men between the ages of 20 – 40. The disease tends to debut with seriously reduced vision in one eye; the condition worsens and can lead to blindness. Within a few years the other eye will be similarly affected. The prevalence of LHON in Europe is between 1:30,000-1:50,000.

A deal with Oroboros Instruments within mitochondrial medicine

Oroboros Instruments, a global player in mitochondrial research technology, is a world leader when it comes to development and supply of analytical instruments and reagents for use in mitochondrial biology and mitochondrial medicine research and development.

In February, NeuroVive announced that they had entered a commercial partnership with Oroboros Instruments regarding research compounds in mitochondrial medicine; these compounds also originate from NeuroVive’s NVP015-programme.

The deal means that NeuroVive will license and supply two of its first generation succinate/malonate prodrugs as research tool compounds to Oroboros. These cell-permeable compounds, which can stimulate and inhibit Complex II of the respiratory electron transfer system in living cells, will provide researchers with more tools to evaluate the role of mitochondria in diseases.

The counterpart has now begun commercialisation and distribution of the compounds following completed internal evaluation. When the news was announced, Eskil Elmér, NeuroVive’s founder and CSO, gave a statement saying:

»We are excited to be able to supply compounds from our succinate prodrug family designated exclusively for research use to the scientific community. Oroboros Instruments is the perfect partner to reach thousands of scientists in the field. «

BridgeBio filled its coffers and is aiming for the stock market

In January, privately-owned BridgeBio announced that they had raised almost 300 MUSD, circa 2,8 billion SEK, in a new financing round. The intention is to use the new capital to support BridgeBio Pharma’s existing research programmes in order get its candidates to market faster. In theory, this could enable further investments in NeuroVive’s molecules in the NVP015-programme for LHON. On May 24th, BridgeBio announced that it had applied for listing on Nasdaq Global Market.

»The project offers an innovative possibility to circumvent the first step in energy production in mitochondria. This first step is the one most often involved in a number of diseases and poisonings where the mitochondria do not function as intended.« – Erik Kinnman, CEO, NeuroVive Pharmaceutical

The value of the deals surpasses NeuroVive’s current market capitalisation

The deal with Fortify and BridgeBio entailed an initial financial commitment of 20 MUSD and a total value of circa 60 MUSD, circa 558 million SEK, provided that milestones are reached. The deal with Oroboros Instruments might generate up to 50 000 Euro annually (circa 535 000 SEK annually), a somewhat more limited potential monetary outcome. This can be compared to NeuroVive’s current market cap, which was circa 219 million SEK on the 13th June.

The repeated NVP015-deals raise the question of why this particular programme is so interesting to other pharma companies. BioStock contacted NeuroVive’s CEO Erik Kinnman to find out what he thinks.

According to you, what is it about your NVP015-project that has impressed your two licensing partners the most?

Erik Kinnman, CEO, NeuroVive Pharmaceutical.

– The project offers an innovative possibility to circumvent the first step in energy production in mitochondria. This first step is the one most often involved in a number of diseases and poisonings where the mitochondria do not function as intended. This can be geriatric disorders, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and genetic mitochondrial diseases, as well as overdoses from prescription drugs and effects of chemical gases used in warfare. So, there is a great potential to affect disease and to better understand disease mechanisms.

»The deals provide expert input regarding the valuation of a relatively small part of the NVP015-project, which should be reflected in how the market views the total valuation of this project.«

For now, we are waiting for the potential incomes from these deals. What is your take on the market’s valuation of NeuroVive in relation to the conditions of these two deals?

– The deals provide expert input regarding the valuation of a relatively small part of the NVP015-project, which should be reflected in how the market views the total valuation of this project.

If we compare the two deals there is a significant difference in terms of the potential financial outcome. In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of entering these types of partnerships if we look at them in terms of attracting attention to NeuroVive’s work and the possibility of placing yourself on the global research map for mitochondrial medicine?

– Both deals draw attention to our work within the research area and they validate the quality of the NVP015-programme. Furthermore, these partnership deals shine a light on what is potentially the most interesting molecule in the project, NV354, which is on its way to clinical development.

Does NeuroVive see potential for further deals within the NVP015-programme?

– We are also discussing the possibility of a deal with a suitable partner in our important NV354-project in order to maximise the resources as this very promising project enters a more resource-demanding phase.

»For a long time we have had significant successes across the portfolio. This means that the interest in our portfolio from potential partners is increasing at the same time as the need to create partnerships is also increasing.«

In addition to this programme, you have a broad portfolio of projects. Can you tell us something about the interest in your other programmes and how you are working to reach deals in these programmes?

– It is true that we have a promising portfolio in addition to NV354. Moreover, for a long time we have had significant successes across the portfolio. This means that the interest in our portfolio from potential partners is increasing at the same time as the need to create partnerships is also increasing. We make sure to attend the most important partnering conferences as these provide great opportunities to meet interested companies and to follow up on previously established contacts. We are also in continuous contact and discussions with potential partners.

Finally, can you tell us what you most look forward to during the rest of 2019 and next year?

– Continued successes in the KL1333-project in the ongoing phase Ia/b-study, as well as preparations for a phase II efficacy study in patients expected to start next year, are very important to us. When it comes to the NV354-project we look forward to report successful milestones on the road to entering clinical phase with this project during next year. For NeuroSTAT, which has shown very promising results, the most important thing is to find financing and/or a partner that enables commencement of the planned efficacy study in patients. Finally, there is intense activity ongoing to identify a suitable partner for NV556, our project for fibrosis in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

 

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.