Oxford BioDynamics Webinar: 2021 – a year when the technology will be commercialised?
Following the full year results on 28th January, CEO Jon Burrows and Chair Matthew Wakefield, gave an update on corporate performance, the company strategy and prospects for the current year. A recording of the webinar is available here.
Matthew started the presentation with a brief introduction explaining how he was first introduced to the Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Alexandre Akoulitchev (Sacha), over 10 years ago. Since then, the development of the technology has progressed expansively, and its efficacy has been proven in many studies just as Sacha predicted. Matthew is clearly excited to have recently joined the firm as their new Chair and stated he was firmly of the belief that the company is on the precipice of the commercialisation of this brilliant technology. He also believes that the new CEO has a clear plan to deliver this commercialisation.
Jon Burrows, the CEO, joined OBD in March 2020. He was attracted to the company by the game changing technology he saw at OBD. His background is in chemistry and molecular biology where he worked for pharma companies in drug discovery, translation medicine and diagnostics. Over the years he has successfully helped to develop drug companies. He first encountered OBD when the company’s work in Immuno-Oncology was published and this convinced him there was a huge opportunity at the company.
Jon started with a brief introduction to the company and its focus on the study of 3D structure of the genome. This 3D structure, also known as a chromosome confirmation signature, is a key determinant of gene regulation. OBD has developed a proprietary technology platform, EpiSwitch, which analyses the 3D structure of the genome to understand gene regulation. It is then able to link the phenotype (the set of observable characteristics of an individual from the interaction of its genotype with the environment) with clinical outcomes. The tests are blood based, characterise the host response to disease, or response to a drug, are based on specific 3D biomarkers and provide binary and actional results.
The company went through a strategy pivot in 2020 moving away from research and development and expanding beyond the pharma and clinical trials work to commercialise the pipeline of opportunities in the diagnostics market.
The first diagnostics test to be launched is a Covid-19 Severity (CS) test which was developed between June and December 2020. In October 2020 OBD carried out some primary market research in the US with 140 healthcare providers and believe there is a huge market opportunity for this product.
As a result of the market research, the CS test is going to be launched through the Concierge Medical channel. This is a pay-as-you-go private medical service providing medical care to middle class Americans who pay for each provision as required. Over $3.6bn was spent through the Concierge Medical channel in 2019 by 10m patients. For most of the patients at a Concierge Medical centre the doctor at the practice is their primary physician. Private medical insurance can cost $20k/year for a family of 4 with a $5,000 excess so a lot of people choose not to take out insurance and just pay for medical services as they are required.
In response to later questions about the price for these CS tests, Jon wasn’t able to provide exact numbers for commercial reasons, but it is not unusual for diagnostics tests to cost hundreds of dollars. With the launch due by the end of the first quarter, data will soon be available on how the roll-out of this test is progressing. In response to a question Jon confirmed that FDA approval is not required for the launch of this test.
Following on in the third quarter of this year, the company will launch an IO diagnostic test initially in the US. The company is starting to see an increased appetite for this test as cancer patients who had avoided hospital visits during the first stages of the pandemic are now seeing their doctors once again. The IO test is a blood-based primary diagnostic test. The company believes these IO tests will show how patients will respond to particular drugs and help doctors prescribe the most appropriate treatments.
The company is also planning to launch the EpiSwitch platform as a research and development tool. The 3D genome biomarker platform will be sold to academic and pharma labs. This will be supported by access to the analytical tools via the OBD portal. To further raise the profile of the company they have applied for two separate grants from the National Institute of Health and the Department of Defence and for both grant applications they have moved through to the second stage. The grants are for work in Autism and Scleroderma and results of the grant application should be know in the first half of this year.
Jon then explained the EpiSwitch platform in terms of showing the process from initial blood samples through to identifying 5-15 specific biomarkers. In the example shown of the CS test, which is a pre-infection test, OBD’s results are shown to be 94% sensitive and 92% specific which is an incredibly accurate test.
Jon explained the rationale for paying for a CS test. Some 10m people in the US cannot be immunised and an estimated 46m people in the US have indicated they do not want the vaccine. For this pool of people, knowing how severe Covid-19 would be for them means a test would be the most appropriate option to help them manage the uncertainties of daily life during the pandemic and enable the vast majority to return to work safely taking necessary precautions. In addition, physicians have commented that knowing the likely outcome of an individual’s response to Covid-19, for example, is good for improved mental health and is likely to either put the patient at ease or change behaviour so individuals can take appropriate precautions.
Jon then highlighted the potential of the molecular diagnostics market which is worth $8.3bn in the US and is growing at 9%pa. OBD has a pipeline of potential tests in many therapeutic areas which are ready to go and they plan to roll them out between 2022-2025. These include Rheumatoid Arthritis, ALS (Motor Neurone Disease), Multiple Sclerosis, Veterinary Medicine and many forms of cancer. The ALS test is currently being used in the Mitsubishi study work which has just restarted as samples are now being provided to the labs.
There was also an update on some new work which is being carried out in the prostate cancer field. It is widely accepted that the current Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is not as accurate as it should be. OBD has just published the results of its study with Imperial College London which show that 3D biomarkers can be used to identify prostate cancer and stratify disease risk among patients.
As the presentation was drawing to an end, we were reminded of the broad protection the company has through existing patents, manufacturing know-how, trade secrets and trademarks. Jon is excited by the growth plans for 2021 and investors can expect more regular updates. There has been a lot of progress made during 2020 but if this is the year of commercialisation for OBD we should hope for a lot more progress in 2021.
The recording of the webinar is available here.