In his keynote speech at BioSpain, Steve Burrill, CEO, Burrill & Company, commented, “With an increasingly aging population it will become more important to develop memory-enhancing drugs. Spanish biotechs should begin now, and they’ll have a market for them in 2020.”
This is exactly what Madrid-based Noscira, formerly Neuropharma, is doing. The company is a spin-off from Zeltia. Its focus is on using the library of marine compounds isolated by PharmaMar to look for compounds to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Using this library, Zeltia has isolated several promising drug candidates and currently has two (NP-12 and NP-61) in clinical development to treat Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Just as PharmaMar has found the anticancer treatment, Yondelis, we’re hoping to do the same for diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” said Alfonso Hurtado de Mendoza, CFO of Noscira. “There is a great need to find drugs that are effective at halting or stopping disease progression, as many new compounds are failing in trials. Additionally, with several current drugs on the market due to lose their patents in 2009, there will be a flood of generics. We should be developing new drugs for this market.”
According to Hurtado de Mendoza, NP-12 is the only GSK-3 enzyme inhibitor in trials. It has an innovative mechanism of action which works well to slow disease progression in all four transgenic Alzheimer’s Disease animal models the company has used.
“NP-12 essentially reduces tau protein phosphorylation to prevent neurofibrillary degeneration in the brain,” Hurtado de Mendoza explained. “It has just completed Phase I trials and is now entering the recruitment stage of Phase II studies. We intend to out-license U.S. marketing rights to NP-12 but would like to retain European rights to market this compound. Our intention to outlicense has triggered significant international interest, so we are hopeful that we can move forward with this compound. Since our other compound, NP-61 works to inhibit b-amyloid peptide secretion we have a well-balanced pipeline for Alzheimer’s Disease treatments,” concluded Hurtado de Mendoza.
Another Spanish biotech working in this field is Barcelona-based Oryzon, a spin-off from the Spanish National Research Council and the University of Barcelona. The firm, originally set up in 2000 as a biomarker discovery company, supplied these services to various pharma and biotech companies and became a revenue-generating business in 2005. Oryzon is one of the largest biotech companies in Spain with more than 60 scientists.
Carlos Buesa, Ph.D., CEO, commented, “We have a strong appetite for partnerships, so we have many clients. We are also lucky enough to have access to a large collection of primary tumor and tissue samples from Spanish hospitals from which we have identified biomarkers.”
“We are developing an NCE for neurodegenerative diseases as we have a number of good biomarker targets that we believe are unique,” Dr. Buesa added. “We’re using NCEs rather than mAbs due to the difficulty of getting a mAb across the blood brain barrier, but the new targets identified in our oncology biomarker discovery program are being targeted either by NCEs or by mAbs.”
The company intends to invest s20 million in developing therapeutics and associated diagnostics for oncology and neurodegenerative diseases, which they will take to Phase I and then outlicense, according to Dr. Buesa.