June 2020
Vol 7 | Issue 320

Q&A with Jason Rifkin & Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., of PhageNova Bio

President and CEO & Chief Scientific Officer and Founder

Principal Series:

PhageNova Bio, Inc. is an early stage biotechnology company developing a unique approach to systemically administered targeted gene delivery for cancer. The core technology is based on engineered bacteriophage containing adeno-associated virus elements, that was developed at the MD Anderson Cancer Center by the Founders of the company, and is now being prepared to be part of a first-in-human clinical trial.

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How is PhageNova Bio different from other companies focused on cancer treatment?

PhageNova Bio's technology allows for preferential targeting of a gene therapy to a pre-determined specific location of the body, exclusive expression of the gene at that site, and without toxicities usually associated with gene therapy. In the company's first iteration of the program, it is targeting the blood vessels that feed cancer, and expressing TNF exclusively at the site of cancer. This all means that the company is targeting the gold standard of cancer therapy in a novel way by using a targeted gene expression technology to reach high efficacy at the site of tumor without off-target effects.

Does PhageNova Bio have competition?

There is no other company doing what PhageNova Bio is doing. The company will compete with gene therapy, viral therapy, and other biologic therapies. The key difference is that the PhageNova Bio technology is not associated with the same type of toxicity profile as those other programs, allows for targeted gene expression, and does not impact regions of the body that are not impacted by disease.

What are the risks of PhageNova Bio?

The company has always had two key risks as it entered development: 1) manufacturing and 2) clinical trial risk. Over the past year, the company has de-risked manufacturing by hitting key milestones with the support of its contract manufacturing organization. The clinical trial risk will be mitigated by proper patient screening and management, both of which the company is prepared to accomplish. PhageNova Bio's plan includes developing the program far enough so that a large biopharma company acquires the technology in multiple parallel paths to positively impact multiple indications. This includes the core technology supporting the P1 program for solid tumors, and de-risking, through bench studies, an entire pipeline of technology. The company intends to begin enrolling a P1 clinical trial in 2021, after which it will begin having strategic discussions.

Jason Rifkin & Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., of PhageNova Bio

Jason Rifkin, JD, MS, President & CEO has managed all aspects of early stage biotechnology company operations. Prior to his role at PhageNova, Jason was President of PreScience Labs, an early stage oncology company where he oversaw the build-up of a Phase I clinical trial program. Prior to joining PreScience, Jason held a number of executive clinical and commercial operations positions at Delcath Systems, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical and medical device company focused on oncology.

Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Founder with 20+ years of biomedical research experience and experience with phage technologies. Pasqualini is a tenured Professor of Radiation Oncology, Division Chief,  Radiation Cancer Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, and a Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey  Chancellor Scholar.

Contact Jason jrifkin@phagenovabio.com