Poolbeg Pharma CEO on a very productive year and spending lightly (LON:POLB)

Poolbeg Pharma plc (LON:POLB) Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Skillington caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss financial and operational highlights from interim results and the outlook for the company.

Q1: Poolbeg Pharma announced interim results for the six months to the 30th of June. Could you just talk us through the financial and the operational highlights?

A1: Financial, we finished the end of six months, to the end of June, with £18.9 million pounds in the bank, and this is after our IPO last year of £25 million in July. So, we’ve said from the outset, from the get-go, that we’d be a capital-light model, we want to get early human clinical data, but not spend heavily doing that so we’re adhering to that strategy right now. So, again, we have a strong balance sheet and strong cash balance and that’ll take us forward many, many years. I’ll talk a little bit about the business model later on how we recoup investments, let’s say to our main programmes.

On the operational front we’ve been quite busy and quite productive advancing our products as well as our platforms so I can speak a little bit about that. Our lead programme POLB 001, again, stating at IPO last year that we planned to be in the clinic in the summer of 2022 and we’ve achieved that. Again, a great milestone for the company to be entering into clinical trials and this is an immunomodulatory therapy for severe influenza. So, we started an LPS challenge study, it drives the inflammatory response in humans, we started this in July and that’s progressing well with volunteer recruitments.  Data will be coming out before the end of the year, which again demonstrates the speed of execution, but also the speed of data generation, which is critical for our business models. We’ll get that early human data and partnering thereafter. So that was, as I say, a good I wouldn’t say start to the summer, it was kind of mid-summer but again, hitting our milestones is great and that was on the back of us  getting a US patent granted on POLB 001 back in May. So again, a good milestone for the company and for that programme, we are expanding potentially beyond severe influenza looking at other disease indications where POLB 001 can play a role, and again, that adds value to the programme. So that’s our starting point, let’s say POLB 001,  our lead programme.

We’ve got others coming behind it, the other products, POLB 002, we said we’d in licensed that  for the University of Warwick early this year so that’s advancing again, hoping to push that through manufacturing that into the clinic in the not too distant future. POLB 003 then where we have an option for this vaccine against the bacterial disease called Melioidosis and we’re transitioning that now into a full license after doing due diligence.

So again, very happy with the progress of our programmes, but as I say, spending lightly, given that the £18.9 million still left at the end of June, we know we have a long runway there.

On the platforms, we’re progressing as well and we’ve got multiple products out of these. We have two artificial intelligence collaborations to analyse our clinical trial challenge data and that’s a deal with OneThree around RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus –  and we’ll have results from that by the end of the year so potentially new targets and new drugs for RSV. With CytoReason, we’re identifying new targets for influenza and that’ll be pushed into 2023, but again, making good progress on this very unique data set. Lastly, as you can tell, there’s a lot going on, a lot of positive activity but we’ve licensed technologies around oral vaccine delivery from colleagues at AnaBio so again, progressing that into the development stage.

So, a very busy year, but a very productive year and as I say, spending lightly.

Q2: Now, I know that you’ve strong financial resources available and that you’re looking to capitalise on new opportunities as you identify them, but how do you see the outlook for Poolbeg Pharma?

A2: When we started last year, we had assets that we’d acquired, let’s say we inherited from hVIVO/Open Orphan when we spun out and we’ve actively in licensed two products as I spoke to 002 and 003, as well as expanding AI collaborations and vaccine or vaccine delivery.

We’re still looking, we still want to expand the pipeline looking for other products to bring in, because again, with the capital-light model, it’ll be multiple shots on goal so we want to bring in products that are close to the clinic, get that early clinical data and then partner with pharma. So we are being opportunistic filling out our pipeline from there. We have a number of opportunities we’re  actively doing due diligence on right there.

I think a key point of this, again, linking back to the capital-light model is that a number of programmes are looking at our contenders for non-dilutive funding, indeed our own pipeline are contenders for non-dilutive funding so we hope to supplement our £18.9 million with other funding,  non-dilutive, as I say from a share standpoint.

So, there’s plenty of opportunities in the infectious disease space for that so again, we we’re quite active in that space as well, building out a pipeline externally.

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