A biotech company with multiple technology platforms and pharmaceutical deal opportunities.

EXOPHARM (EX1.ASX)

Exopharm (ASX: EX1) is a company at the forefront of developing transformative medicines using exosomes (EVs).

Exopharm was founded in 2013 by Dr Ian Dixon, a successful entrepreneur in the cell and cell-derived therapy space. Ian co-founded the ASX-listed stem cell therapy developer Cynata Therapeutics, and was a director of Cell Therapies, which produced adult stem cells for the ASX-listed stem cell company Mesoblast.

Latest Exopharm News

KEY INVESTMENT INSIGHTS

Clear Business Strategy

Exopharm has a strategy focused around commercialising its technology platforms, LEAP, LOAD, EVPS and Exoria. Exosome or EV-based medicines face the operational challenges of purifying and characterizing EVs to a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards and being able to produce sufficient at scale and at a low cost. Exopharm’s LEAP technology and associated know-how places Exopharm at the forefront of this emerging field worldwide. They are currently the only company globally known to have a technology which can achieve this. US patent 11202805 was granted in December 2021 for the proprietary LEAP exosome purification technology. This patent positions Exopharm as a global leader in producing exosomes at the commercial scale needed to enable new exosome medicines. The granting of this patent reinforces the considerable potential for out-licensing of LEAP and the other technology platforms owned by Exopharm.

Exopharm also has an opportunity to develop its own medicines such as Fortrexo against COVID type viruses or assist other pharmaceutical companies to commercialise so called “stranded assets”” which are new medicines whose development have been halted because of a lack of an effective delivery mechanism. Major deals potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been completed by  Codiak (Nasdaq: CDAK) and EVOX. Exopharm already has the technology platforms to complete similar deals.

Significant Investment Upside

Success in developing a new medicine for a condition with an unmet need or for which there is currently no treatment available will deliver considerable licensing fees and royalties. These royalties will deliver a significant upside in the current valuation of Exopharm.. Deals negotiated by Codiak and Evox have upfront fees in the many tens of millions of dollars as well as future milestone payments potentially in the billions of dollars.

Another potential source of significant revenues for Exopharm could be fees from licensing technology platforms such as LEAP which will be critical for the company being able to produce enough purified exosomes to produce medicines at the scale needed to treat people all around the world.

Scalable Business Model

Exosomes are emerging as a potential new frontier of medicines which may be capable of treating a wide variety of diseases and conditions in humans with major unmet needs. The increasing interest in exosomes is evident by the increasing number of scientific papers which have been released during the past few years. The size of the markets for medicines which treat the types of conditions which Exopharm is interested in such as those effecting the central nervous system, mobility and sensory are extremely large and in some cases there are no current treatments available.

Exopharm’s proprietary technology platforms such as LEAP make their business model highly scalable globally.

Successful Management

Dr Ian Dixon, the founder and CEO of Exopharm has a track record of success when it comes to developing new technologies such as LEAP as well as leading companies such as Cynata Inc. to success. Ian has been successful in translating technology challenges into valuable businesses and respected intellectual property.

Jason Watson, Non Executive Chairman has extensive experience in developing intellectual property (IP) protection for companies using patents. He also has expertise in relation to negotiating complex transactions, including establishing multi-party engagements, research and consultancy contracts and negotiating and implementing clinical trial, licensing, assignment, manufacturing, shareholding and other commercial arrangements which will be critical for Exopharm to be succeed.

High Barriers To Entry

Exopharm has patents or patents applications or patents pending over all technology platforms owned or in-licensed by the company. These patents will act as a barrier to deter others from infringing on any components of the companies technology. The company also has in house knowledge or knowhow which isn’t covered in patents. This can potentially provide an added layer of protection because an external party having knowledge contained in patents doesn’t mean that they can replicate a process like LEAP or other technology platforms.

Introduction to extracellular vesicles (EVs).

EVs (short for extracellular vesicles, also known as exosomes) can be used in two main ways as new medicines – as precision medicine delivery vehicles (‘engineered EVs’) and as regenerative medicines (‘naïve EVs’) to mimic the power of stem cells without the problems associated with cell-based therapies.

Listed on the ASX in December 2018, Exopharm was the first publicly traded pure play EV medicine company in any major capital market and now has a market cap of around A$98m [as at 12th February 2021]. Engineered EV company Codiak Biosciences recently listed on the NASDAQ and currently has a market capitalisation of US$470m (A$610m) [as at 12th February 2021]. Like Codiak, Exopharm is a platform technology company, not a single product company. Exopharm has invented and inlicensed multiple EV technologies. Using these technologies, Exopharm’s aim is to do multiple deals across technologies and products, enabling multiple shots at goal and the prospect of becoming cashflow positive in the near term.

At present there are no approved EV medicines; however a handful of EV companies are pushing a variety of EV products through clinical trials and towards registrations and sales. EVs are being tested to treat diseases with unmet therapeutic need such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, various forms of cancer, wound healing and osteoarthritis.

What are extracellular vesicles (EVs)?

Extracellular vesicles (also known as exosomes) are nano-sized vesicles naturally released by virtually every cell in the body. They are a key way that cells communicate and co-ordinate regeneration and homeostasis (balance). EVs carry various types of molecules (e.g. mRNA, miRNA, proteins, enzymes, lipids, DNA) to local and remote sites in our bodies.

In 2007, seminal work from Dr Jan Lötvall’s group at University of Göthenburg provided the first hint that EVs were more than inert, cup-shaped particles containing cellular waste. The researchers demonstrated that these membranous structures can shuttle functional mRNA and microRNA (miRNA) between different cells and ‘reprogram’ recipient cells.

It is also now known that EVs can target certain cell or tissue types – a phenomenon called ‘tropism’. Thus, endogenous (from our body) EVs are nature’s way to deliver specific messages to certain cells in our bodies, cells in the brain for example.

Companies like Exopharm are developing EV medical products to harness these unique and powerful attributes inherent to EVs.

Making EV medicines

EVs can be produced outside of the body in a biomanufacturing facility by purifying the EVs from the secretome of stem cells, or other cells. These exogenous EVs can then be used as EV medicines to either ‘top up’ missing EVs in the aging body to promote regeneration or can be engineered (i.e. loaded, modified or enhanced) to deliver therapeutic payloads to specific tissues.

EVs offer a new paradigm for the treatment of diseases, with EV medicines able to be grouped into Engineered EVs (EEVs) or Naïve EVs (NEVs).

Engineered EVs:

EEV products harness the powerful natural ability of EVs to efficiently target cells and transfer selected materials into cells and across barriers (e.g. the blood brain barrier). Such drug materials can be RNA (e.g. mRNA, siRNA, RNAi, miRNA), enzymes, large molecules or small molecules. Because of their cellular provenance, EEVs avoid critical limitations of other synthetic delivery vehicles such as liposomes and can be designed to treat a wide scope of medical problems including neurological diseases, infectious diseases, cancer and fibrosis.

Exopharm’s EEV products include Fortrexo™ for the treatment of viral infection, and Cognevo™ for neurological disease. These products use different engineering technologies that Exopharm licenses exclusively. Watch this webinar which explains, in laymans terms, how Exopharm has developed Fortrexo.

Naïve EVs:

Naive EVs (NEVs), which are the unmodified, naturally secreted EVs collected from adult stem cells, particularly mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), have demonstrated immunomodulatory and regenerative effects. NEVs may replace MSC therapies in the regenerative medicine field in the future.

Exopharm’s NEV products include Plexaris™ (blood platelet-derived EVs) for the treatment of wounds, and Cevaris™ (adult stem cell-derived EVs) for mobility and sensory applications including osteoarthritis and hearing loss. Plexaris is Exopharm’s most advanced program, with a Phase I clinical safety trial underway and expected to be completed in Q1 of CY 2021. Exopharm was the first company in the world to commence an in-human trial using EVs and is a leader in the NEV space.

Exopharm’s products are at different stages in the development cycle:

Exopharm’s pipeline

Exopharm’s manufacturing advantage

Despite the promise of administering exosomes as a new form of medicine, the development of therapeutic EV products has been held back by one key technological challenge: an efficient and proprietary EV purification technology that would enable the manufacture of EV-based medicines at clinical and then pharmaceutical grade and scale.

Exopharm’s LEAP technology solves this manufacturing problem with a key step in the downstream manufacturing process that has been demonstrated to isolate and purify EVs from a variety of cell sources. LEAP is a proprietary affinity-based purification method that works by selectively recognising and binding the surface of EVs. Affinity purification techniques are widely used by the biopharmaceutical industry and are demonstrably scalable.

As highlighted at the Exosome Based Therapeutic Development Summit in late 2020, Exopharm’s LEAP is the only technology globally which can purify EVs at scale using a fully proprietary step in an orthogonal flow-through process.

Exopharm’s LEAP technology is a leader in both operating cost and scalability

What do Exopharm’s Technologies Enable?

For emerging EV medicines, Exopharm’s technologies and know-how provide a palette of potential for Exopharm and its partners.

Exopharm’s TechnologyTechnology EnablesStatus and Ownership
LEAPEnables purification of EVs at scalePatents going through national phase in USA and 12 other countries, 100% owned by Exopharm
LOADLoads Ribonucleic Acids (RNAs) into EVs to be delivered as a payload to cells as part of a treatment regimeExclusive worldwide license of patent-applied-for technology
EVPSAdd proteins to EVs surface to customize which cells EVs enter – provides ‘tropism’ to EVsExclusive worldwide license of patent-applied-for technology
EXORIAProprietary fluorescent dye which tracks how EVs migrate and deliver their payload into cells. Can also be used in EV analyticsPatent application lodged in late 2020, 100% owned by Exopharm

Exopharm also has other know-how and IP that it protects.

Why is Exopharm a Leader in the EV Medicine Field?

Exopharm is unique amongst the emerging companies in the EV field as it has combined:

  • multiple regenerative medicine NEV products from both platelets and adult stem cells;
  • multiple precision medicine EEV products using its exclusive LOAD and EVPS technologies; and
  • a proprietary purification technology using patent-applied-for affinity ligands (LEAP technology)

Exopharm is unique in having each of proprietary EEV targeting technology, EEV protein loading technology, EEV RNA loading technology and proprietary scalable manufacturing (purification) technology

What is the potential of Exopharm?

Exopharm is one of a handful of companies with comprehensive technologies in the EEV medicine field – and large deals with pharmaceutical companies are already being done for EEV technologies.

EEVs are interesting to pharmaceutical companies that have invested in potential products but have seen delivery problems with these assets, for example unable to cross the blood-brain barrier (‘stranded assets’). Partnering with an EEV company could be a way to rescue stranded assets – using EEVs to overcome limitations such as crossing the blood-brain barrier, stability in the body and the need for tissue targeting.

Exopharm is one of three companies that have announced proprietary platforms for EEV product development – and the other two companies have done significant partnering deals over the past 24 months

Codiak Biosciences Inc. listed on NASDAQ in 2020 (CDAK) and has a market capitalisation of around A$610m at 12th February 2021. Exopharm’s market capitalisation is around A$98m as of 12th February 2021. The other main EV company, EVOX, is unlisted.

Exopharm’s strategy is to enter into multiple partnership/out-licensing deals with partners – deals that typically involve upfront fees, milestone fees and royalties on product sales.

Exopharm is actively discussing product and technology deals.

Exopharm’s technology platforms place the company in an ideal position to do multiple deals on multiple products with companies interested in developing EVs as new medicines. Its near term goal is to become revenue generating and then cash flow positive.

Producing EVs at the clinical scale

November webinar

The Team

Exopharm has a team of 41 people dedicated to its programs and technologies. The team is based at the Baker Institute (Commercial Road, Melbourne) as a commercial tenant.

The team covers all aspects of biotechnology, including commercial (deals), finance, manufacture and process development, analytics, innovation and product innovation & operations.

In addition, Exopharm has:

  • An Advisory Board of international experts covering commercial, scientific and transactions
  • Expert consultants experienced in biologics manufacture, biologics manufacturing infrastructure etc.

KEY PEOPLE

  • Dr Ian E Dixon

    Founder and Managing Director

    PhD, MBA, MAICD

    Dr Ian Dixon has a PhD in biomedical engineering from Monash University, an MBA from Swinburne University and professional engineering qualifications.

    Ian has been successful in translating technology challenges into valuable businesses and respected intellectual property.

    Ian is a co-inventor of Exopharm’s LEAP manufacturing technology, a co-inventor of Fortrexo and a co-inventor of Exoria.

    Ian brings to Exopharm an extensive technical, commercial and entrepreneurial background.

    Before founding Exopharm in 2013, Ian co-founded Cynata Inc, the owner of the Cymerus stem cell technology now being commercialised by ASX-listed clinical-stage Cynata Therapeutics Ltd (ASX:CYP).

    He is also non-executive director of NYRADA Inc. (ASX:NYR), co-inventor of Nyrada PCSK9 inhibitor drug NYX-330, and founder and investor of Cardio Therapeutics Pty Ltd.

    Ian was previously a founding director of Sydney-based Noxopharm Ltd (ASX:NOX) and non-executive director of Melbourne unlisted company Cell Therapies Pty Ltd.

  • Jason M Watson

    Non Executive Chairman

    LL.B, B. Comm

    Mr Jason Watson has board and advisory experience acting with small and medium-sized enterprises, research institutes and listed companies in the life sciences and other sectors. In particular, he has assisted companies in developing, commercialising and transacting technologies through significant biotechnology licensing deals.

    Jason is principal of Elementary Law, a legal practice based in Melbourne, Australia. His practice focuses on assisting clients to achieve the best outcomes for their patents and innovations, including through corporate fundraising, protection strategies, licensing and commercialisation. In this capacity, Jason has been recognised in the Intellectual Asset Magazine Patent 1000 independent list of The World’s 1000 Leading Patent Professionals.

    Jason has expertise in relation to complex transactions, including establishing multi-party engagements, research and consultancy contracts and negotiating and implementing clinical trial, licensing, assignment, manufacturing, shareholding and other commercial arrangements.

    Jason has a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and a Bachelor of Commerce.

  • Elizabeth McGregor

    Non Executive Director and Company Secretary

    BA (Hons), MBA, FGIA

    Elizabeth works for the Automic Group and is Company Secretary for a number of ASX listed entities. She has experience in various industries including investment management, e-commerce and biotechnology.

    She is a Fellow of the Governance Institute of Australia, a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a NSW Justice of the Peace.

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