Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL) CEO Dr Jackie Fairley discusses the company's dendrimer portfolio, collaborations and agreement with AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN).
Jessica Amir: Hello. I’m Jessica Amir for the Finance News Network. Joining me from pharmaceutical company Starpharma Holdings Limited (ASX:SPL) is CEO Dr Jackie Fairley. Dr Fairley, welcome.
Dr Jackie Fairley: Thank you very much.
Jessica Amir: So, first up, can you give us an introduction to Starpharma and your products for those who aren’t familiar with the company?
Dr Jackie Fairley: Starpharma’s listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. We have a market capitalisation of just shy of $350 million. And we have a range of products which are all founded on a common technology base, which is a kind of highly branched polymer called a dendrimer. And with those dendrimers we do a number of things. We have one program, which is that we have a group of products – three products - which are based on an antimicrobial or antibacterial and antiviral dendrimer. And we also have a series of programs in development using our dendrimers to deliver cancer drugs more effectively - both some internal products that we’re developing ourselves, but we also have licensed the technology to the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN).
Jessica Amir: Now to your VivaGel product in more detail. You've just received some results from your phase three trials. What were the findings?
Dr Jackie Fairley: So, this is a really exciting development for us as a company. Starpharma is one of a handful of Australian companies that have successfully completed phase three trials. So that in itself is a great achievement, but the phase three trials are for a particularly important application. It’s for a condition called bacterial vaginosis, which is the world’s most common vaginal infection. It affects around 30% of women in the US, and the problem is that it’s a very recurrent condition. And so these trials are for the use of the product to prevent the recurrence of this condition. So we’ve met all of the primary end points for the trials, as well as five additional secondary end points of efficacy, and we’re now putting together all of the information that you need, and we’re going to be submitting that to the FDA and to other regulatory authorities within the next few months.
Jessica Amir: And, Jackie, what’s the significance of it commercially?
Dr Jackie Fairley: So these phase three results obviously add a lot of value to the product, and it feeds directly into our very active partnering discussions. So we’re not going to sell this product ourselves. Our business is one that creates new technology and then licenses it to other pharmaceutical companies to actually sell the product. And so these trial results open up a very significant additional market, so in excess of $1 billion. This will be a first-in-class medication, and we are currently negotiating the commercial rights to it. So it feeds into those commercial negotiations.
Jessica Amir: So, further to the VivaGel product, what other products do you have?
Dr Jackie Fairley: So, what we call the DEP technology. 'DEP' stands for 'dendrimer enhanced product'. We’re using our dendrimer technology to improve the delivery of existing drugs, or to improve the delivery of drugs that otherwise couldn’t be developed because they’re either not sufficiently efficacious - so not effective enough - or they’re too toxic. And what the dendrimer technology does is we take these highly branched polymers, the dendrimers, and we attach to them the drug molecule. So we have multiple drug molecules attached on the surface of a dendrimer. And what that does is it creates a nanoparticle, so a particle of a specific size, which then alters the distribution of that molecule in our bodies.
Commercially, the advantage of the DEP technology is that in addition to those benefits obviously for patients, for the companies that actually access these products, you’ve got improved characteristics in terms of efficacy and reduced toxicity, but you’ve also got the benefit of additional patent life. So, the dendrimer conveys 20 years' new patent life to drugs that might otherwise be generic.
Jessica Amir: So, where are you at in terms of your agreement with AstraZeneca?
Dr Jackie Fairley: So, AstraZeneca’s a partnership that we signed a couple of years ago, and it’s a very exciting program for us. AstraZeneca, of course, is a global multinational company which is one of the top five pharmaceutical companies in the world. And they’ve selected our technology, our DEP delivery technology, to improve the performance of some of their really exciting new cancer drugs. So what they’re doing is we’re using our dendrimer delivery technology to improve the performance of those drugs through reducing toxicity and improving efficacy. And what it means for us is that Starpharma actually will earn royalties off every single vial of that drug that’s sold and used in patients for the duration of the patent, so a 20-year patent life as well as milestones.
Jessica Amir: Further to that, you’ve announced a sale of your agrochemicals business for $35 million. What does that mean for the company?
Dr Jackie Fairley: That was the culmination of a deliberate strategy that we embarked upon a number of years ago where we applied our technology, the dendrimer technology that we’re using in the pharmaceutical area, but we applied it to our various products that are sold in the agricultural areas - so, used to kill weeds and other things in a farming setting, so agrochemical products. And we developed a number of those formulations to the point that they were highly attractive to agrochemicals companies selling those kinds of products. And so we were able to sell that technology to Agrium Inc (NYSE:AGU) back in June for $35 million.
Jessica Amir: Last question now. What’s your ambition for the next 12 months and longer term?
Dr Jackie Fairley: The next 12 months is a particularly exciting time for us as a company. We’ve now with the completion of the phase three trials, we’ve really sort of de-risked our portfolio significantly. We’ve completed that last hurdle in terms of development of a pharmaceutical product, which is, you know, one of a very small number of companies in Australia ever to manage that. We will be submitting to the FDA for approval of our two VivaGel products within the next few months. We’ll be signing up a partnership, be it a combination of regional partnerships or global partnerships, for the VivaGel product. We’ll see further approvals and launch of the VivaGel-coated condom in other geographies.
Jessica Amir: Well, Dr Jackie Fairley, CEO of Starpharma, thanks so much for the update.
Dr Jackie Fairley: Thank you.