International Biotechnology Trust (IBT) 31 Aug 2002 Page 7
Esperion Therapeutics (£0.1m investment) is a US-based company with a broad pipeline of
clinical and preclinical drug candidates for the treatment of cardiovascular and metabolic
diseases. The focus of the company is to enhance the effects of HDL (high density lipoproteins,
the so-called good cholesterol) and several different drug candidates have been developed to
mimic and enhance naturally occurring biological processes that remove excess cholesterol
from the walls of arteries and transport it to the liver where it is eliminated from the body.
Traditional management of elevated cholesterol focuses on reducing levels of LDL (low density
lipoproteins) and uses statins in an outpatient setting, which are good at reducing LDL but may
increase HDL in some cases. There are few drugs on the market for the treatment of low HDL
and the drug candidates in development at Esperion have been designed to act as
complementary therapy with the current agents for cholesterol therapy. Specifically, two
products are in Phase II trials, one is entering Phase II and an IND is expected to be filed for
another by the end of the year.
Esperion has a seasoned management team with impressive depth. The management team
includes several members from major pharma companies, such as Parke Davis, Pfizer and
Bristol-Myers Squibb, who have had prior success with development and launch of several
cholesterol management medications in use today. The CEO Roger Newton was the co-
discoverer of Lipitor, a statin with sales of $6 billion in 2001.
Since 31 August 2002, a further £0.7m has been invested in the company, increasing the total
invested to £0.8m.
As detailed in the previous Annual Report a commitment was made in August 2001 to invest
£5.3m in Essential Therapeutics and this was completed in October 2001. Essential now has
an emerging pipeline of product candidates in the anti-infective and haematology/oncology
areas. Since the investment, there has been a broadening of the management team and the
pure research capability has been significantly cut back in order to focus resources on
preclinical and clinical development. In March 2002, Essential announced the acquisition of
Maret Pharmaceuticals bringing in a Phase I stage compound. This may have uses in the
prevention of thrombocytopenia, anaemia and infection in patients following chemotherapy or
bone marrow transplantation and three Phase II trials are planned. The company has also
entered into a new collaborative agreement with Fujisawa Pharmaceutical in the area of novel
antibiotics, and J&J has initiated Phase I clinical trials with Essential's cephalosporin candidate.
The final three new investments were described in the interim report - Crucell, Alexion
Pharmaceuticals and 3-Dimensional Pharmaceuticals ("3DP").
Crucell (£1.9m investment) is a Dutch biotechnology company focused on the discovery and
development of novel antibodies and vaccines. It has announced a number of smaller
partnerships and licences since the investment was made but a partner for its flu vaccine
program or another interesting antibody deal is required to drive the share price higher.
Alexion Pharmaceuticals (£1.8m investment) is a US-based company focused on the
development of a novel class of anti-inflammatory compounds known as complement inhibitors.
The lead compound is in Phase III trials for the reduction of complications during coronary
artery bypass graft surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass, and Phase II myocardial infarction
trials. Data in the latter indication is expected later this year.
3DP (£1.9m investment) is a chemistry-focused drug discovery company based in the USA.
3DP uses its drug discovery platform to find orally available small molecule drug candidates.
The interesting product pipeline is at very early stage and the share price should be driven
higher as the pipeline broadens and matures.