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Néovacs will present the results of its research on lupus to the Congress of the American College of Rheumatology, in Chicago next November 8. The company's CEO Guy-Charles Fanneau de la Horie gives us a preview of his current projects and hopes for the future.
What does Néovacs do?
We’re a biotech company specialized in developing products that could be described as therapeutic vaccines, designed, not to prevent, but to treat auto-immune disorders. These medications have no effect in and of themselves, but cause a patient’s own immune system to work harder. This is a very innovative approach, which only we use and develop for these pathologies right now.
Could you give us a quick history of your company?
Néovacs was founded in 1993 by Professor Zagury of Pierre and Marie Curie University. For the first ten years of its existence, the company functioned as a research lab. After 2003, when the venture capital fund Truffle Capital acquired shares in the firm, we transitioned from a pure research laboratory to a research & development company, with the goal of clinically testing our products to eventually bring them to the market. In 2007, two additional venture capital funds, Novartis' investment fund Novartis Venture Fund and OTC asset management, joined Truffle Capital for an increase in equity.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
We're currently developing two potential medications. The first, TNF-Kinoïde, is for treating two very well-known diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, which have a major impact physically and socially on those who are affected and significantly lowers their life expectancy.
The second potential medication, called alpha-Kinoïde interferon (IFNα-Kinoïde), targets lupus. This disease primarily impacts women who exhibit a broad range of symptoms including joint pain, kidney disease and cardiac, pulmonary or neurological damage. It also lowers the patient's life expectancy. No new treatment for lupus has been found in 50 years. We have just collected the results of our second wave of clinical tests, which are very promising, so we've been asked to present them to the international congress of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in Chicago next November 8. Our results were also chosen to be presented at the press conference organized the same day by the ACR, which shows the level of interest this prestigious organization’s scientific committee has in them.
What exactly does this invitation mean for you?
It’s a great endorsement of our work. Our business model is based on being able to design and develop our medications, and then create partnerships with large pharmaceutical laboratories to distribute them. With our credibility in the scientific community strengthened in this way, we gain an additional negotiating advantage.
The media impact is also huge, giving us direct access to all of the international scientific press.
You have been listed on NYSE Alternext since August 2010. How does this listing benefit you?
We had reached a point where the clinical development of our products was speeding up, and required additional funding. The stock exchange seemed like the best solution. We raised €10 million in April 2010 from private investors. This spring we carried out a new operation with institutional investors. These funds allow us to continue and accelerate our development, with 85% of our budget devoted to R&D. The listing has also given us greater visibility among major pharmaceutical laboratories.
What are your biggest short- and medium-term objectives?
Our primary goal today is to form a partnership with a large pharmaceutical company to carry out phase III clinical development and marketing of at least one of our two potential medications. We also want to continue research to design additional Kinoïdes.