Q&A with Pankaj Mohan, PhD, MBA, of Sonnet BioTherapeutics
Founder and CEO
Founded in 2011, Sonnet BioTherapeutics is an oncology-focused clinical stage biotechnology company with a proprietary platform for innovating biologic drugs of single- or bi-specific action. Known as FHAB™ (Fully Human Albumin Binding), the technology utilizes a fully human single chain antibody fragment (scFv) that binds to and “hitch-hikes” on human serum albumin (HSA) for transport to target tissues along with enhancing half-life. . FHAB™ is the foundation of a modular, plug-and-play construct for potentiating a range of large molecule therapeutic classes, including cytokines, peptides, antibodies and vaccines. Download Report to access executive summary.
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What is the opportunity and how does the company address this opportunity?
"Cancer is one of the most prevalent causes of un-natural deaths. In US alone
there were 1,735,350 new cases of cancer in 2018. Several Therapies for Cancer has been developed but the survival rate is merely 20% of the Cancer population. The focus in medical community and society is to increase the survival rate for which several research and development in underway. A new area that is showing promise that has recently help increase the survival rate to 20% is Immuno-Oncology. One such drug that the founder and the Chief Scientific Officer has been involved in is Opdivo – from BMS – a multibillion dollar drug today. Immuno-Oncology is recruiting/strengthening once own immune system to fight cancer.
One of the focus in creating the next generation cancer drugs is to deliver the immune-oncology drugs to the cancer tumor – thus creating significant enhancement of effectiveness in killing cancer and have lower side-effects. Sonnet has developed such a proprietary Immuno-Oncology Platform after 7 years of discovery and development - called FHAB – Fully Human Albumin Binding Platform.
Sonnet’s FHAB construct attaches to albumin in the bloodstream, resulting in significantly enhanced Half-Life (remains longer in the body). It naturally accumulates at sites of inflammation, including tumors, thus delivering the therapeutic payload in a targeted fashion. Our platform has demonstrated a 10-fold increase in half-life, in vivo, and 30+ fold increase in efficacy as, compared to recombinant interleukins without FHAB, in a cancer model. The versatile platform can generate a large immune-oncology pipeline, including combinations two therapeutic Cancer products into one synergistic product. The Sonnet platform is differentiated in that FHAB utilizes a fully human sequence, with a human glycosylation profile that can be manufactured using a standard CHO process."
How does the Market and Industry value such a technology?
The Public Market Comparable for a similar stage Oncology based Biotechnology Company for several recent IPOs is an average of $ 400 Million. Further, a technology peer with more advanced pipeline was acquired for $ 4.8 Billion in 2018. Thus, there is significant market interest in Oncology based Biotechnology Company. It is customary as a first step in progression of a Biotechnology Company is to partner with a Large Pharmaceutical Company for licensing followed by a strategic transaction at a later stage. There is significant Industry interest in Sonnet whereby two large Pharmaceutical Companies have already executed CDAs and are in active discussions for licensing. Three additional large companies (CDA pending) are in active discussions as well. Sonnet anticipates that the Company will have a partnership with a Large Pharmaceutical Company in place within the next several months. Such partnership will provide significant capital to the Company in Upfront and Milestone payments. The technology was also presented in key Oncology Conferences and was well received.
What is the Shareholder Exit Plan?
Sonnet has begun a process to go public in order to set the stage for large Pharma Partnerships, attracting Capital to Develop its asset and to provide liquidity to it’s Shareholders. Sonnet has selected a large multibillion-dollar investor group with a Commitment to fund upto $ 100 Million once public. A Cross-Over Round has just being initiated to bridge to IPO, this round has been made especially attractive - to bring together accredited investor who want to participate in a near term liquidity event with optionality of holding long term to potentially fully benefit from a Biotech based Oncology Company. The valuation for this round is $ 148 Million which is 38% discount to the valuation provided by the Strategic Investor ($233 Million) and is 20% discount to the projected IPO price ($ 186 Million). Further the Market Comparable for such an Oncology based Biotech Company is $ 400 Million. Along with Common Shares at a discounted valuation, 50% Warrants are also provided so that the investor can participate in long term expected success of the Company. Both Common Shares and Warrants would be registered securities so that they are freely marketable as soon as the company goes public. Further to reduce the risk , Sonnet will allow full Ratchet in the unlikely event of the Share Price dropping below purchase price in the first week of Trading by issuing balancing shares and warrants to match the original purchase price. The future inflection points is expected to include Partnering Assets with Large Companies, Progression of Assets into Clinic and eventually a Strategic M&A Transaction.
Pankaj Mohan, PhD, MBA, of Sonnet BioTherapeutics
A successful biotechnology entrepreneur with unique combination of start-up, academic, large biopharma and government experience. Founded Oncobiologics (now Outlook Therapeutics) in 2011 and led it to a successful Nasdaq IPO in 2016. Founded Sonnet BioTherapeutics as a Oncology Company with Proprietary Platform developing multiple Oncology Products.
Previously, spent more than 20 years in key technical and business roles at Genentech, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Served as an Assistant Professor at University College London, an academic center of excellence in bioprocess engineering and author of an industry reference book on bioprocess operations (McGrawHill). Contributed to the successful development and manufacture of blockbuster biopharmaceutical drugs, including Belatacept, Orencia, Opdivo, Avastin, Rituxan, Herceptin, Lucentis, Xigris, Human Growth Hormone and Insulin. Email Pankaj