New blood a boost for biotech firm
Congrats to Breath Easy in securing a high profile Chairman, demonstrating the power of angel investment to provide critical connections and contacts.
Tech industry veteran Gary Pace appointed to lead board of Breathe Easy Therapeutics.
New Zealand’s Breathe Easy Therapeutics has made a high-profile addition to its board as it advances plans for medical trials of its cystic fibrosis therapy. The company, which is in the middle of a Snowball Effect equity crowdfunding campaign, has appointed Gary Pace – a more than 40-year veteran of the technology world – as independent chairman.
Pace, a San Diego-based Australian, also sits on the board of ASX-listed medical device maker Resmed and Nasdaq-listed pharmaceutical firm Transition Therapeutics. Breathe Easy’s Citramel therapy is administered via inhaler for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a genetic illness that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 75,000 people worldwide. The drug is being positioned as a core therapy to improve lung function and potentially enhance the effectiveness of other therapies such as antibiotics. Citramel’s potential market is estimated at US$1 billion ($1.33 billion).
The Snowball Effect campaign, which had successfully raised $374,818 by yesterday afternoon and closes on Monday, is part of a $2 million funding round. In addition to the crowdfunding cash, more than $1 million has been raised from local angel investors, investment firm Pacific Channel, and the Government-backed New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.
“With that [$2 million] capital we should be able to demonstrate the clinical feasibility of the product,” Pace said. “It would take it through the initial clinical trials [in New Zealand].”
Early signs of efficacy have been shown in a patient who has been on Citramel for close to two years. Pace said it would cost at least $50 million to get Citramel to market. “We’re designing the [clinical feasibility] study to make it attractive to potential larger groups that could fund it or buy it, such as a venture capital company or a mid to large-sized pharmaceutical company that’s active in the cystic fibrosis area.”
That next stage of investment would probably come from the United States, Pace said. New Zealand was well placed to run clinical trials of locally developed therapies, but moving into the US market was key to success. “There’s been a strong resurgence of investment in the biotech industries in the US with last year showing the highest levels of investment in 14 years,” Pace said. “Kiwi companies are known globally for their ability to innovate and while they seem to understand that US commercialisation in life sciences is key to success, I haven’t seen many make any real impact in this space.” He said the US biotech industry received US$8.6 billion in investment last year.
“It’s the US’ second biggest sector for investment so this market is key for any New Zealand firm with international aspirations,” Pace said. “What Kiwis need is a clear US focus from a clinical, regulatory and business perspective, and for that you need people on the ground here with experience. Breathe Easy has that potential.”
Paul Tan, the former chief science and medical officer of ASX-listed Living Cell Technologies, has also joined Breathe Easy as chairman of its scientific advisory board. Living Cell’s treatments for diseases including Parkinson’s involve transplanting pig cells into humans.