Cizzle Biotechnology plc (LON:CIZ) Executive Chairman Allan Syms caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the MoU with St George Street Capital and what the company is looking to achieve over the coming months.
Q1: You’ve announced the signing of an MOU of St George Street Capital for Cizzle Biotechnology to develop a companion diagnostic. Can you just explain for us a bit more about what that is?
A1: First, I should say we’re really pleased to do this deal with St George Street Capital, it’s great opportunity for the company to broaden its product offering.
A companion diagnostic, the clues in the name really, it’s a companion diagnostic to a therapeutic. It differs from just doing an ordinary blood test against somebody’s disease state in that it’s actually tied directly to the use of a treatment.
The best way to describe this is that we’re all quite different so, in a way, the whole of the pharmaceutical industry is moving toward a more personalised way of treating you. This means if you’re going to have a drug, and ideally you want to know that you are likely to respond to that drug, obviously drugs can have side effects so it’s really very good if you could avoid giving a drug to somebody where the drug has no effect on them.
A companion diagnostic provides the ability to link the diagnostic directly to the pharmaceutical so that you have the best way of making that patient have the right treatment with the right effects and minimal side effects.
So, this is an extra dimension to the type of diagnostic tests we already are developing within the company.
Q2: So, the MOU is with St George Street Capital. Can you tell us a bit more about them and what they do?
A2: This is something that’s happening across the world really is that the big problem we have with totally new drug development programmes is they take a long time, can take up to 10 years for example, and can cost a lot of money, and by that, I mean several billions of dollars.
There is a great failure rate along the journey of development, as your listeners may or may not know, drugs go through this very intense regulatory approval system, through phases one, two, three and then into the marketplace. Of course during that journey, many drugs don’t make it through to production and into the market for patients for lots of reasons. Not just because perhaps the drug is not particularly effective or not because it’s toxic or anything like that, it just may be that a drug doesn’t meet the particular strategic goals of a big pharmaceutical at that time. So drugs basically get parked, in fact, the vast majority don’t make it through to the marketplace.
So, St George Street Capital has viewed large pharmaceutical groups drugs that have, if you like, being left on the shelf, those that are perhaps at phase two, they’ve been through proven to be safe, but perhaps don’t fit strategically with a pharmaceutical company’s direction. St George Street Capital are looking at repurposing those drugs, in other words, using those drugs which seem to be safe for use, but using them perhaps to cure something different than they were originally designed for.
There’s been quite a bit in the press with St George Street Capital of late, where they’ve done exactly that, to bring a new drug for the treatment of COVID-19, where it was not designed to do so in the first place. So, that’s a really good example of them repurposing a drug and this particular arrangement is for them repurposing drugs for autoimmune diseases.
Q3: What would this proposed commercial agreement cover and what will it mean for the company?
A3: There’s two aspects to this, we’ve mentioned about companion diagnostics so in the first instance, this is us developing a new companion diagnostic. That’s great because we already have a programme that we’ve told the market about in terms of developing a test to detect early lung cancer and to, if you like, keep people that have been falsely told that they have a lung cancer, keeping those people out of hospital because they don’t actually have that particular disease or at least early stage lung cancer. Then, if you like, at the other end of the spectrum, something we’re going to do in the future, which is a doctor’s office test, which is to detect those people that don’t know they have a cancer. Then you have this area in the middle, which is the companion diagnostics, where you’re actually trying to tie a particular therapeutic to a specific patient profile.
So, we are developing a companion diagnostic, which gives us, if you like, a third dimension of product development within the company and for that, SGS are going to pay us £1 million to develop that particular test. We’ll then obviously have the ownership, the knowledge, the intellectual property that arises from that.
Very excitingly, as part of this arrangement, is that we’ve also been given the opportunity to buy in to the actual drug itself. In other words, we will get a royalty from the deployment of that drug later in its life, when it actually becomes a drug that’s in the marketplace of up to £5 million. So, that is a very, very significant development for the business that we have this potential royalty stream available to us.
Q4: Just looking forward, you state that your focus remains on developing a test for the early detection of lung cancer. Can you summarise then what Cizzle Biotechnology is looking to achieve over the coming months?
A4: This is all about timing. What we said very clearly in our prospectus when we came to the market, in fact, not very many weeks ago, was that our very early efforts are going to be developing this ELISA assay for hospitals to detect those patients that have got, or that are false positives, in terms of lung cancer. So, the very early part of our business is to ensure that we have the right reagents in place, that we’ve got the right partners in place and so all of our efforts right now are about delivering exactly what we said in our prospectus.
We’re making good progress in that and obviously we’ll come back to the market and give a shareholder update when that’s appropriate, but we’re making good progress in that direction.
We will start to do the work on companion diagnostics later in the year, after we’ve achieved some of those key milestones that we’ve already said we need to do. Obviously, as we go forward over the period of the next three to six months, in particular, we will be making good progress on developing that hospital test and obviously, hopefully back here talking to you about the progress we’ve made in that respect.