Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tekmira- A Liposomal Delivery Company No More?

Recently, I have begun to wonder whether being known as a liposomal ‘delivery company’, a company that delivers the payloads of others, is starting to hold back Tekmira’s valuation all the while high-quality RNAi Therapeutics advance towards marketing approvals in the field.  Similarly, as SNALP potency has dramatically improved over the years, particularly for gene knockdown in the liver, the effort of improving its potency may have reached a point of limited returns (~1000-fold improvement from 2004-2009, ~3-fold improvement from 2009-now) when aggressively competing with Alnylam, Arrowhead, and ISIS on the already available targets may be more important.

Consistent with such thinking, Tekmira this week announced a re-organization that goes to the core of the company.  Most importantly, former CSO Dr. Ian MacLachlan will cease to be in charge of the overall scientific direction of the company.  It has been his work on developing the various applications of liposomal delivery that defined the company.  Instead, he will now serve as the Chief Technology Officer with a particular focus on the development of medical countermeasures as exemplified by Tekmira’s Ebola program which has just moved into pivotal human safety trials.  I could imagine that with flu being an obvious target in addition to Marburg, some of his liposomal development efforts will be spent on SNALP knockdown in phagocytic cells and aerosolized LNPs for the respiratory epithelium.

Unclear to me is where this move leaves SNALP technology for oncology applications where Tekmira had indicated that they made progress in over TKM-PLK1 which is based on ~6 year-old technology.  This would offer obvious TKM-PLK1 life-cycle management and new target opportunities.  Perhaps MacLachlan will be responsible for oncology platform development as well in the form of business development initiatives just as in mRNA and AgBio that I believe represent exciting partnering opportunities.

The other half of the former CSO position will be filled by former Director Mike Abrams as the Chief Discovery Officer.  This move is clearly consistent with the company’s focus on rapidly expanding its product development pipeline with 2 INDs for new candidates planned in 2014 (HBV, alcohol use disorder) on top of TKM-PLK1 and TKM-EBOLA already in clinical development, and a series of opportunities in the rare and orphan disease space being actively pursued.

Congratulations to Ian MacLachlan for making himself redundant as the CSO and having the integrity to continue to serve in the best interest of the company and shareholders.  


Anonymous said...

Great analytical commentary! This move should improve Tekmira share price, efficiencies in r&d and market focus.

Thanks, Dirk

Anonymous said...

I'd like someone to comment on all of the new companies starting up with RNAi.. Its taken Tekmira and other early adopters 10 years to get to this point with not only delivery mechanisms but also clinical trial. Where these new guys are just starting out I'd expect that the amount of time for them to get to the same place would be at least the same 10 years.. yet because they are new there is a great deal of fanfare and market buzz for these companies. The guys that soldier through the difficult times like tekmira do not appear to have the respect for their knowledge and experience by either the market or their peers.

Robert Zack said...

Benitec - not new, but tbe trial is new. Who else has single dose ddrnai?

Anonymous said...

The question you asked is the wrong one. Should be, who else has single dose cure for disease?

RGLS is working on a single shot cure. RA Capital, despite being a BLT investor, is a bigger investor in RGLS and talking up their book while selling down BLT.

What's BLT compared to RGLS? No brainer really.

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