SUDA Pharmaceuticals (ASX:SUD) on a new footing

Interviews

by Ortenzia Borre

SUDA Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX:SUD) CEO, Dr Michael Baker, talks about the company’s plans to develop Anagrelide, for the treatment of cancer, and to commercialise its lead product ZolpiMist worldwide.

Ortenzia Borre: Hello, I'm Ortenzia Borre for the Finance News Network, and joining me from SUDA Pharmaceuticals (ASX:SUD) is CEO Dr Michael Baker. Michael, welcome to FNN.

Dr Michael Baker: Thank you, Ortenzia. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Ortenzia Borre: Michael, for those who may be new to the company, could you please provide a brief background on SUDA Pharmaceuticals?

Dr Michael Baker: So SUDA Pharmaceuticals is an ASX-listed biotech company based in Perth, and we specialise, based on our exciting hydrotrope platform, in the conversion of drugs from a solid dosage form -- in the form of, say, a pill, a tablet or a capsule -- into an oral spray that's suitable to be sprayed into the mouth.

So I'd just like to step back and explain some of the benefits that we see from when we are able to dose a drug using an oral spray. And the first is that it enters the bloodstream much more rapidly than what you would see with a tablet, pill or capsule. Secondly, what we see is a drug is able to bypass the digestive tract, and that potentially results in an increased safety profile. And lastly, there's certainly cases where patients may not be amenable to taking a particular drug. So these might be cases where a patient's having a seizure or patients that are having difficulty swallowing, and certainly in the cases of paediatrics. So, we see big advantages here.

Ortenzia Borre: Now, Michael, you're new to the company. What attracted you to SUDA Pharmaceuticals?

Dr Michael Baker: So, my background initiated as a research scientist after completing a PhD in biochemistry, and that led me to a career in drug development, where I was working in the preclinical space, taking drugs from discovery through to clinic. And lastly I was working at a venture capital firm, investing in healthcare companies, working through the latest stages of the clinical program. So I saw the technology at SUDA as an excellent platform -- very exciting, given that it can be used across a number of indications and disease areas. And that ranges all the way from insomnia, migraine, in one of our later programs, through to cancer.

Ortenzia Borre: Now, could you tell me about the company's business model?

Dr Michael Baker: So the business model for SUDA is that we work with pharmaceutical companies and take the drugs that they've either had approved already or are currently under development, and we convert those from a solid dose form into an oral spray.

Through our business model, we're often working with drugs that have already been FDA approved. And so we actually can leverage a lot of the efficacy and safety data that has already gone into those particular drug products, and so we have a shortened timeframe for regulatory development.

We generate our revenue in three ways. The first is by upfront payments from the particular partner. The second is through milestone payments. And the third is through royalties once the drug has been approved and it's already available for sale.

In addition, we opportunistically survey the landscape to bring additional assets into SUDA. We've already had a couple that we've looked at and decided not to pursue, but certainly, moving forward, opportunistically reviewing the landscape to bring in additional assets will be a part of the business model.

Ortenzia Borre: Michael, can you tell us about the portfolio and the focus?

Dr Michael Baker: So, as I said, we have a pretty extensive portfolio, so I will limit it to just two of our products at the moment.

The first is ZolpiMist. So this is an FDA-approved oral spray version of the drug Ambien, which is used to treat insomnia. So we've finalised the development of that drug, and what we're doing now is creating licensing partnerships with a number of parties. So we've got a licensing and supply agreement with Teva (Teva Pharmaceuticals International GmbH) that covers Brazil, Mexico and Chile. And we've also got a licence and supply agreement with Mitsubishi (Mitsubishi Tanabe Singapore), and that covers the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. And so we're in active discussions with a number of other parties, and the plan for ZolpiMist is really to build out the commercialisation of the product worldwide.

We've got another exciting program which I'd like to discuss, which is Anagrelide. So, this was a product that was actually developed some time ago and approved, and it was for the treatment of patients that have increased platelet levels in their blood, and in these cases that can lead to clotting disorders. So what's been shown recently is that in patients that suffer from cancer, they also have increased levels of platelets, and that's been shown to have poor effects for the patients in terms of their overall survival. So what we're planning to do is to take the solid pill form and convert it into an oral spray. Now, why that's important is because the pill form of the drug, when it actually passes through the digestive tract and is metabolised, it creates a toxic by-product. So, if we're able to successfully create an oral spray version of the drug, we are potentially bypassing the generation of that product. So we'll still be able to reduce the levels of platelets in cancer patients without those unwanted safety effects.

Ortenzia Borre: Michael, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Dr Michael Baker: Yes, I'd just like to reiterate how excited I am to be joining SUDA and I'd like to convey that I'm absolutely committed to driving the projects and programs that we have forward and creating value for our loyal shareholders. So I'd just like to also focus on the fact that we've got an outstanding board chaired by Paul Hopper, who's a veteran of the life sciences and biotech space. We've got David Phillips, who has an outstanding background in business development and venture investing across healthcare. In addition to David Simmonds, who was a former partner at EY.

On that front, we've got a lot of objectives to achieve in 2020. It's going to be a very busy year trying to partner our portfolio of assets with various pharmaceutical companies, in addition to building out ZolpiMist globally, developing the Anagrelide project, and all this while we look for new opportunities to bring into the company as well as manage costs.

So, no doubt there'll be a lot of opportunities for 2020, and of course that will also bring numerous challenges, which I'm very excited to tackle with the team at SUDA.

Ortenzia Borre: Dr Michael Baker, thank you so much for joining us.

Dr Michael Baker: Thank you very much for having me, Ortenzia.


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