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Antibe Therapeutics CEO Dan Legault on why the multibillion-dollar NSAID market needs disruption

The Toronto-based biotech company is aiming to build a new generation of NSAIDs to compete against the Bayers and Pfizers of the world

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Antibe's lead drug ATB-346 is a naproxen-derivative that has been shown to deliver pain relief with less gastrointestinal damage

As a biotech company focused on developing safer, non-addictive drugs for pain management, Antibe Therapeutics Inc (CVE:ATE) (OTCMKTS:ATBPF) is at the forefront of shaking up a US$11 billion industry with a revolutionary new product that provides the relief of opioids without the resulting gastrointestinal damage. In this interview with Proactive, CEO Dan Legault talks about the skilled minds behind the company, the company’s investment proposition and the importance of providing an alternative pain solution.

Can you give us some background on the company’s origin? How and why was it founded?

Antibe is rooted in fundamental discoveries about the nature of inflammation. The company arose because of a pair of inflammation-centered discoveries by our founder and chief scientific officer, Dr. John Wallace, who identified the mechanism through which NSAIDs cause gastrointestinal damage. John and his colleagues discovered that beyond its nerve-signaling role, hydrogen sulfide is one of the body's key anti-inflammatory mediators. He and his team did further research to identify and refine a drug platform molecule and identify specific drug candidates for further development.

Today, Antibe has the largest base of published animal and human data amassed for an NSAID-based drug, bigger than anything developed by Merck (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Bayer (ETR:BAYN) or anyone else. We've built a game-changing drug platform, and we're doing the science to prove it.

READ THE DEEP DIVE: Antibe Therapeutics is poised to disrupt the global pain management industry

Why is it important to you to put a new pain relief drug on the market?  

It's hugely important to give people a chance to achieve pain relief without the risks that come with the current analgesic drugs. Doctors, patients and policymakers are asking for solutions. It's a big problem made more urgent by the opioid crisis, and it has a long history. More than 90% of Americans have taken one of these drugs, and some take them every day. But NSAIDs can create ulcers and bleeding in the digestive tract and raise people's blood pressure, which can lead to cardiovascular problems.

Despite these widely known issues, there are no good alternatives to NSAIDs. The world requires safer and clinically tested therapeutics for pain and inflammation because billions of people need them.

What’s unique about your company and drug platform?

There are a lot of things that are unique about our company, including the depth of scientific, clinical and partnering resources, and the amount of data we have collected on our pipeline drugs. One of our differentiators is that Antibe isn’t dependent on high prices to drive our business model. We’re developing drugs for pain and inflammation, and therefore the potential is in the hundreds of billions of doses per year.

All of our drugs are based on a single optimized chemistry, meaning Antibe has a true drug platform from which to build a new generation of NSAIDs. Our drugs use a natural anti-inflammatory mediator used throughout the body, hydrogen sulfide, in molecular combination with a base NSAID, which is itself an already-proven pain and inflammation medicine.  Of course, we know that NSAIDs also cause ulcers and bleeding, especially when taken regularly. But our new drug doesn’t, and our Phase 2B safety trials really bear this out.

What we set out to achieve in 2009, to ensure the digestive tract is protected, has been strongly shown in last year’s Phase 2B for safety. Whereas naproxen caused ulcers in 42% of test subjects, our drug caused them in only 2.5% -- that's a 94% reduction.  We’re building a best-in-class NSAID with a once-a-day dose.

Is it your goal to compete against the Bayer’s and Pfizer’s of the world when it comes to NSAIDs? If so, how do you plan on doing this?

We’re building a new generation of NSAIDs to compete in this market. Our strategy is simple -- best-in-class safety and efficacy, together with once-daily dosing -- people really like the ‘one-a-day’ aspect.

Our goal is to give patients, doctors and policymakers access to safer medicines for pain and inflammation. Our drug platform addresses today's unmet needs in the US$11 billion NSAID market and those of the broader pain market too, which is US$25 billion worldwide for oral therapeutics alone.

What are the next steps in the clinical trials and how quickly do you envision ATB-346 to be commercially available?

Once our Phase 2B dosing and efficacy trial is completed this summer, we'll be a Phase 3 company from the perspective of global partners. We're getting ready for partnering with a variety of scientific and business initiatives that will be announced shortly. We're also preparing for our end-of-Phase 2 FDA meeting, which is an important milestone, especially for the partnering process. We’ve already partnered in 22 countries, including Canada, Israel and South Korea.

What’s your long-term vision for Antibe?

Medical science increasingly understands inflammation as a key driver of non-communicable disease, while inflammation has its role in the healing process, inflammation goes wrong a lot, especially as we age, but in younger people's illnesses too. What we’ve learned in nearly 20 years of research is that the body's natural anti-inflammatory hydrogen sulfide has the potential to alter our ability to cope with pain and inflammation. Longer term, we see developing drugs to treat digestive diseases, autoimmune disorders, and even diseases like Alzheimer's. Our long-term vision is to develop drugs and build partnerships to lead the charge in tackling inflammation-driven disease.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results of our current trials, and upcoming global partnering discussions, as we unlock the value of our drug platform. Secondly, we just announced that our second drug will target post-operative pain, a US$9 billion market that is right at the center of the opioid crisis. Finally, Antibe is now traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, which we’re delighted about as more European biotech investors learn about our story.

Contact Angela at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @AHarmantas

Quick facts: Antibe Therapeutics, Inc.

Price: 0.425 CAD

TSX-V:ATE
Market: TSX-V
Market Cap: $116.52 m
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