Based: Copenhagen, Denmark
The Scoop: Santaris has been breaking new ground with its advancement of a microRNA therapy into the clinic in late May. A successful proof-of-concept trial for hepatitis C is being billed as a potential medical breakthrough, offering a key to modulating networks of genes.
What makes it Fierce: Before Regulus was born last fall, Santaris was already making headlines in the microRNA space. Its oligonucleotide drugs target both messenger RNA and microRNA. In '06 and '07 the Danish biotech inked deals with Enzon and GlaxoSmithKline which start small and wind up big. On top of that there was a $30 million Series C last December, which followed a $48 million Series B.
The company is moving fast, given the complexity of the work. Santaris launched the first clinical trial of a microRNA therapy--SPC3649--in late May, with the same target, microRNA-122 for hepatitis C, that Regulus has focused on with its lead program.
And the company is aggressively pushing forward into a Phase II trial of 2996 for Rituximab-relapsed lymphoma.
Santaris now has three products in the clinic and expects to add a fourth by the end of this year, says CEO Keith McCullagh. Add to that two programs in preclinical development and 10 or 11 in discovery and you have a full plate for the more than 100 employees of the company.
"Every drug is targeted at a precise RNA sequence in messenger or microRNA," says McCullagh. For McCullagh, the whole field offers an opportunity that can one day rival monoclonal antibodies. And that message has not been lost in the pharma world.
"We are always talking to big pharma and other companies about collaborations," says McCullagh. "I'd be disappointed if we didn't do another deal this year. No biotech company can fund this work out of its own resources. Alliances are an important way to build that pipeline." A deal like the one they struck with Enzon also reserves marketing opportunities for the company. "We would love to do similar deals with other companies."
What to look for: New collaborations are in the works. Phase II data will be a major milestone for Santaris as it advances a variety of trials.