CombiGene’s new Chairman of the Board talks about the future visions for the company

This is an article from Ingeneious number 3 2020.
Read the whole Ingeneious here >>

At the gene therapy company CombiGene’s Annual General Meeting in June, Bert Junno was elected as the new Chairman of the Board. With extensive experience in the biotechnology industry and having founded five companies in the sector, Junno will be a valuable addition to the company’s continued development. BioStock contacted Junno to learn more about his past experience and how he will make his mark on the company, which in its pipeline has a drug candidate for epilepsy and a project to develop a drug candidate against partial lipodystrophy.

With a background as Ph.D. in physics and technology for semiconductors and M.Sc. in physics from Lund University, Bert Junno has a long experience of management and board work for a number of companies active in biotechnology in both Europe and the U.S. Bert Junno has, in cooperation with others, founded several biotechnology companies, such as WntResearch, Galecto Biotech, Gabather, Aptahem and Cyxone. In addition to being CombiGene’s Chairman of the Board, Junno holds the same assignment in Cyxone. He is also a board member of Accequa and Accequa GmbH. In addition, Junno has held board assignments in Taurus Energy, Cardiovax llc., Galecto Biotech, Aptahem, and has been CEO and board member WntResearch and Gabather and board member of Patent & Registreringsverket (PRV) transparency council between the years 2010-2019.

New Chairman of the Board comments

BioStock contacted Bert Junno for a comment regarding his new role as new Chairman of the Board in CombiGene.

Bert Junno, you have founded several biotechnology companies and have a long experience of board work. How do you intend to make your mark on CombiGene’s business?
I am very impressed with CombiGene’s development of its unique projects so far. The epilepsy project CG01 has continuously delivered according to plan. In addition to deliver our projects according to plan, it is my ambition that we will create additional shareholder value by developing the company’s intangible assets such as patents and know-how and through good communication with the market and the many shareholders who have invested in CombiGene. The market’s confidence in CombiGene is strong, as was shown in the recently closed subscription period for TO3 where the subscription rate was an impressive 97.25 percent and contributed just over SEK 17 million to the company.

What attracted you to accept the position as Chairman of the Board and do you see, based on past experience, any special challenges in the position where CombiGene is today??
One thing that is attractive about CombiGene is the enormous opportunities in gene therapy for the treatment of diseases where no effective therapy currently exists. It will be very exciting to follow the development of gene therapy in general and CombiGene’s development in particular in the coming years. CombiGene’s projects are unique and offer new opportunities that can help a large number of patients with severe medical conditions. This also means that additional values can be built using new intangible assets.

“It will be very exciting to follow the development of gene therapy in general and CombiGene’s development in particular in the coming years.”

A clear shift in a company like CombiGene is usually the transition from development to commercialization phase. What is the company’s strategy regarding business development, for example in terms of partnerships, industrial partnerships, out-licensing, etc.?
For projects that are developed for broad indications, such as the epilepsy project CG01, the ambition is to take the project into clinical phase and then form some kind of partnership with a large pharmaceutical company that can take the project throughout the clinical program and on to commercialization. I know that CombiGene has an ongoing dialogue with several major pharmaceutical companies that follow the development of CG01 with great interest. For projects that are developed for rare diseases, the ambition is to take them all the way to the market with internal recourses. Pharmaceuticals developed for small patient populations have a good prospect of receiving orphan drug designation, which brings significant benefits in terms of lower development costs and attractive pricing. This also means that smaller companies such as CombiGene may have sufficient internal resources to handle this type of project on their own.

Finally, what are you looking forward to in terms of future milestones for CombiGene?
In the semi-long term, I look forward to the first studies in humans for CG01. Going into clinical studies is always a significant milestone. In the shorter term, I look forward to the milestones that are closer in time, such as getting all the parts of the production process in place. This is a comprehensive work where it is important to meet all regulatory requirements. In addition, we will make sure to establish a production process that can deliver in sufficient volumes, at the right cost and quality throughout the product’s life cycle. When all parts of our production are in place, we will produce materials for the final preclinical studies, including the very important toxicology and biodistribution studies. In short, CombiGene has a lot of exciting things to look forward to both in the short and long term!