What it does
Faron Pharmaceuticals Oy (LON:FARN)(NASDAQFIRSTNORTH:FARON) is a Finnish drug discovery firm focusing on two programmes: Clevengen and Traumakine.
Immunotherapy treatment Clevegen is in a phase I/II trial (MATINS) for metastatic cutaneous melanoma as well as hepatobiliary/hepatocellular, pancreatic, ovarian and colorectal cancers.
Tumour cells are adept at creating a shield around themselves to evade detection by the immune system, therefore staving off destruction.
Clevegen has been designed to recognise cancer and break the tumour's protective shell.
The treatment is an anti-Clever-1 antibody which causes changes in the immune environment of solid tumours by switching Clever-1 positive immune suppressive macrophages to immune active macrophages.
Ultimately, if it is successful, this new breed of treatment will be used in combination with PD-1 inhibitors to tackle the killer disease.
Faron was also given the green light to broaden the scope of its phase I/II cancer trial after a review of the interim data.
The MATINS study of the immunotherapy Clevegen will now take in seven further strains of the disease besides the two already assessed - colorectal and ovarian.
In June it confirmed the generic name, bexmarilimab.
Traumakine has been rejuvenated following the disappointment over its phase III trial result.
As a treatment for lung inflammation condition ARDS its missed its target with no benefit against the placebo.
However, since then Faron has identified that it was steroids used alongside the drug that led to the unexpected result.
Traumakine is an interferon-beta that helps to stop lung inflammation and has come to the fore as a way potentially to help severe coronavirus sufferers.
The latest development has seen Traumakine admitted to a large-scale global programme (REMAP-CAP) that will assess its potential in treating severe pneumonia, including patients with coronavirus (COVID-19).
Faron said its interferon beta-1 formulation will be delivered intravenously, which the company reckons offers the best “delivery route” for critically ill patients.
It will also be compared in the study with other treatments, including hydrocortisone medications. These steroid-based interventions, used in patients in respiratory distress, were seen as the potential root cause of a failed Faron phase III study of Traumakine.
It was also added to the HIBISCUS ( Human Interferon Beta In Severe CoronavirUS) trial will focus on intensive care patients with ARDS caused by viral infection such as coronavirus and influenza.
The phase II/III pivotal, randomised, placebo controlled study aims to recruit 350 patients over six to eight months throughout the US with “many significant hospitals participating”.
How it is doing
In June Faron received €2.1mln low-interest rate loan from a Finnish state agency to initiate a new state of the art process for the manufacturing of interferon beta-1a, alongside a €2.5mln grant as part of the European Innovation Council Accelerator pilot scheme to support its phase I/II MATINS trial.
In May Finland awarded the AIM-listed firm an €800,000 grant as part of Cancer IO, a research and innovation consortium to integrate immune-oncology activities between Finnish universities and hospitals.
These new funds came on top of a placing in April, were Faron raised £12.18mln by placing shares in both its listings.
What the boss says: Markku Jalkanen, CEO
“We are pleased today to be reporting the continued progress of our two development programmes. Confirming the generic name, bexmarilimab, for our lead immunotherapy [Clevegen] is an important milestone for this programme which is rapidly advancing and has shown exciting clinical activity. The positive data seen so far for bexmarilimab gives us the confidence to pursue ambitious future clinical expansion plans for this potential therapy."
"The scientific community is currently focused on discovering new therapeutics to treat [coronavirus] and we are very pleased to be supporting these efforts, now with three trials investigating the potential of Traumakine in severely ill patients."
"We continue to believe in the potential of Traumakine as a future treatment for ARDS and one that could have significant impact on the intensive-care burden from COVID-19."