Our strategic partner Panorama Research Inc.
Taking the CANxx project to the preclinical phase
In 2017, Cantargia decided to launch a new project, CANxx, based on other IL1RAP-binding antibodies than CAN04. The CANxx project is focused on developing an antibody for treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Panorama Research Inc. (Panorama) was identified as a strategic development partner. To be able to move the CANxx project effectively to the preclinical and clinical phases, Cantargia entered into an agreement with Panorama in summer 2017.
Panorama was founded in 1991 by Jim Larrick, one of the pioneers in the development of antibodies for medical purposes. Panorama is a biotech incubator that identifies, initiates and incubates novel biomedical projects. Panorama has incubated more than 20 biotech projects that have led to the establishment of the Panorama Institute of Molecular Medicine and more than a dozen companies. To date, Panorama-initiated projects and/or companies have led to six IPOs and numerous successful acquisitions.
“We are a translational institute that takes project to the preclinical phase. Some confuse us for being a CRO (contract research organisation) but they normally step in at later stages. We are 15 scientists and drug development specialists located in our 45,000 square foot lab in Sunnyvale, California in the heart of Silicon Valley, California. We service both smaller biotech companies as well as the big pharma companies like Amgen, Merck and Boehringer Ingelheim,” Jim Larrick, founder and Managing Scientific Director of Panorama, says.
The Panorama team have developed a diverse and innovative portfolio of drug candidates that address unsatisfied treatment needs in cancer as well as autoimmune, cardiovascular, neurological and metabolic diseases.
“One of the first projects that we worked on was the initial development of memantine together with Merz and Forest Labs to alter the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. The product is marketed as Namenda. This was the first FDA-approved drug in this area and produced sales of USD 1.5 billion yearly before the patent ran out and generics were introduced in 2015,” Jim continues.
Panorama uses the proven Protein Design Laboratory antibody humanisation technology. More than 400 monoclonal antibodies derived from mice have been humanised using this technology, resulting in more than a dozen FDA-approved products. Humanised antibodies are designed at Panorama with minimal sequence modification and without reducing the strength of the binding of the antibody, known as affinity, as normally happens when other approaches are used. Far more important is that the humanised antibody amino acid sequence is unique and can therefore be patented.
“In recent years, we have humanised about 15 murine antibodies. The majority yielded affinities greater than the parent antibodies. Half of these antibodies have successfully entered human clinical trials,” Jim says.
Cantargia has provided a patented antibody to Panorama. Drawing on its extensive and well documented experience of optimising and humanising monoclonal antibodies, Panorama is optimising the antibody to achieve the desired properties. Panorama will also develop a cell line for production of the antibody. Once Panorama has designed and optimised the humanised antibody, Cantargia will take responsibility for GMP production in order to take the next step to clinical studies of the product candidate.
“We really enjoy working together with Cantargia and we have been able to push the project forward according to plan. Cantargia is a well-managed company with a lot of integrity. They also have a good project portfolio and I think that the molecular target IL1RAP has good prospects as an essential part of cancer treatment in the future. My experience is that science-driven companies often have a better prospect to succeed than companies lacking the scientific angle,” Jim continues. While Panorama continues to develop the antibody prototype that was originally identified by Cantargia, Cantargia is studying various immunological models with the aim of identifying the diseases that are best suited for this product candidate.
“We were looking for a highly skilled partner and way to kick-start the CANxx project. We are very pleased to have a found that in Panorama. Our work together has been very constructive and has been running according to our original timetable. This has enabled us to reduce the risk while securing the progress and financing of our portfolio,” Göran Forsberg, Cantargia’s CEO, says.
Panorama has invested in the project by contributing its knowledge and labour in exchange for a share of future revenue. Panorama’s share in the project is proportional to what they will be contributing over the life of the project (see also Note 25).
“In order to be successful, the ‘secret sauce’ is being able to surround yourself with great people and do the job properly. I would also, once again, stress the importance of integrity. In my opinion, too many biopharma projects have failed due to the fact that people wouldn’t stand up for what is the scientifically most rational basis of the biotech project,” Jim concludes.
About Jim Larrick
Jim is a pioneer of the biotechnology industry with vast experience from cytokines, therapeutic antibodies, molecular biology, and pharmaceutical drug development. In the course of his 35-year career, he has authored or co-authored nine books and over 250 papers/chapters, and has contributed to over 50 patents. He has also served on the editorial boards of six journals. His work on therapeutic antibodies and other protein therapeutics has spanned the whole development chain for biopharmaceutical product development, from identification of molecular targets for drugs to process science and advanced clinical trials. Jim has also served as chairman of the biomedical screening committee of investment group Life Science Angels.
Jim holds M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the Duke University School of Medicine, where he was a Medical Scientist Training Program scholar. He completed his education in internal medicine at the Stanford Medical Center, where he was later given a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford Cancer Biology Research Labs working on therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies for cancer and infectious diseases.
He is currently linked to Panorama and Life Science Angels and is a director of several biotech start-ups. He also supports the hospital in Turmi in the South Omo Valley, Ethiopia as well as a number of medical outreach programmes in Bhutan, Indonesia and Ethiopia, and serves on the boards of two non-profit organisations: the Sustainable Sciences Institute and the Sankofa Center for African Dance and Culture, which provides education, diagnosis and therapy of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Ghana.
“In order to be successful, the ‘secret sauce’ is being able to surround yourself with great people and do the job properly.”
JAMES LARRICK, M.D., PH.D.