Interview with Member of the Board

Malin Almgren

Tell us a little about yourself and your background and when you were elected to CombiGene’s board! 
“I was entrusted to join CombiGene’s board in May this year and hope and believe that my background is well suited to support the company. I have a master’s degree in biochemistry from Stockholm University and a PhD in medicine from Karolinska Institutet. During my two decades in academia, I have had the privilege of doing research at prominent institutions such as Karolinska Institutet and UCSD (University of California San Diego). My focus has been in epigenetics, i.e., how the environment can affect gene expression and I have applied this in areas such as immunology, neuroscience, and oncology. One of my first projects as a PhD student involved viral vectors to adjust the level of brainderived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in a mouse model, a valuable experience of how potent virus vectors are as tools, but also one in a series of failed experiments.”  

“After many years in preclinical research, I switched to the world of finance, where I have, among other things, worked with strategic partnerships regarding sustainable investments at a fund manager. In addition, I have worked as a financial advisor, where I have collaborated with many development companies in the Life Science sector with capital raisings and M&A. This has given me a deep understanding of challenges and opportunities within these types of companies. Today I have the privilege of serving as CEO of a company that works with health data and have also in recent years been entrusted as a board member of three companies.”

What are your impressions of CombiGene after almost four months as a board member?  
“My overall impression of CombiGene is very positive. I am impressed by the company’s clear and ambitious business concept that focuses on developing effective gene therapies for serious diseases that currently lack satisfactory treatment options. I think the company has a smart strategy where they collaborate with a network of external researchers to utilize expertise and ideas, which can then be developed further to preclinical or clinical proof of concept.”

“Furthermore, I think about the company’s strength when it comes to commercialization. CombiGenes focus on co-development and commercializing of drug candidates through strategic partnerships shows an understanding that collaboration and partnerships can be crucial to achieving success on a broader spectrum. I also had the pleasure of meeting CombiGene’s competent team to get a crash-course of the exciting ongoing projects.” 

What are the key milestones in the company’s development as you see it?  
“Continued identification and evaluation of new promising projects, positive results from preclinical studies, identifying gene therapy candidate within the lipodystrophy project CGT2 and success in the independent evaluation of the potential of COZY01 that is ongoing at NIH where the substance will be tested in a behavioral model and in different pain models are all important potential milestones. Overall, I think that these milestones could be critical to maintaining a strong pipeline of gene therapies and securing the future of the company.”  

How do you see the potential of the COZY pain program?  
“The COZY program is really exciting and focuses on developing effective treatment options for severe chronic pain. This is of great importance because the conventional treatments used today often have side effects and may be insufficient to effectively manage the pain. The great potential is that COZY is based on new biological mechanisms of action that are expected to reduce or eliminate the side effects that are common with today’s treatments. Perhaps the greatest potential of the COZY program is the ability to offer pain relief without being addictive and may be a promising alternative to opioid-based treatments that have been shown to be associated with substance abuse problems and serious side effects.” 

How do you think CombiGene will develop over the next three to five years?  
“Over the next three to five years, we can expect that CombiGene has started to interact more with regulatory authorities such as the FDA and EMA to discuss plans for clinical trials and the approval process. In particular, COZY01 could be in or near the phase of clinical trials. This is a strong value-up that would further increase interest from potential partners, investors, or larger pharmaceutical companies. In summary, I am convinced that CombiGene has a strong foundation and strategy to make a real difference in gene therapy.”

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