Hemispherian is a Norwegian pharmaceutical company focused on developing a novel class of small molecule drugs (GLIX) that target the TET2 enzyme. Lu Rahman spoke to Zeno Albisser, CEO, to find out more about the company’s expertise.
LR: What it does Hemispherian do?
ZA: We are focused on developing a novel class of small molecule drugs (GLIX) that target the TET2 enzyme. This represents a first in class epigenetic therapy for particularly aggressive cancers. Hemispherian’s lead compound, GLIX1, is currently in preclinical development as a treatment for glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly cancer of the central nervous system. Additionally, Hemispherian’s development pipeline includes a companion diagnostics tool that will support patient selection for an optimal therapeutic response to GLIX1.
LR: What is the company currently focussing on eg the collaboration with the Vilhelm Magnus Laboratory at Oslo University Hospital that will refine its targeted approach to treating glioblastoma multiforme?
ZA: In collaboration with the Vilhelm Magnus Laboratory at the Oslo University Hospital, Hemispherian is working to identify a clinical biomarker. Using such a biomarker will allow for a more targeted approach by identifying patients that are likely to respond well to treatment with GLIX1 and tailoring the therapy accordingly. This will also avoid superfluous treatment of patients who are biomarker negative and will improve chances for clinical success.
LR: What areas should the research sector be looking at in regards to brain cancer in order to find new treatments?
ZA: There is a range of new treatment options and technologies presently being researched and tested that show potential. Some treatment options are only effective for a subgroup of the patient population. It therefore seems likely that a combination of several new treatment options will be needed. Hemispherian is focusing on small molecule drugs that are non-mutagenic. Small molecules are desirable for glioblastoma multiforme treatment because these compounds are likely to pass the blood brain barrier.
Hemispherian’s small molecule drugs exploit a new mechanism of action that provokes the DNA damage response specifically in cancer cells; this extensive DNA damage response activation inevitably leads to cancer cell death. As these drugs have a very limited impact on normal cells and tissues, we anticipate that these drugs will be well tolerated in patients.
LR: What are the challenges in this field?
ZA: With its poor overall survival and prognosis, glioblastoma multiforme is currently and historically among the most challenging cancer indications to treat. Given that early diagnosis is difficult, glioblastoma multiforme tumours are often large and well established before medical intervention. Another major difficulty in treating brain tumours is the presence of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier acts as a separator between the circulating blood and the extracellular space of the brain. It is highly selective in letting substances cross from the bloodstream into the brain and it can also actively transport substances out of the brain. For some drugs it is therefore not possible to reach the target compartment in a sufficiently high concentration to reach their therapeutic window.
LR: What do the clinical advisory board (CAB) appointments mean for the business and how will they help the company’s novel class of small molecule drugs (GLIX) move into clinical trials?
ZA: Hemispherian’s CAB is made up of leading experts in the fields of oncology and neurosurgery. Their experience in advancing pharmaceuticals for clinical applications will provide the Hemispherian team with advice, guidance and support. Research conducted by the members of the advisory board has pushed the field of neurosurgery and glioblastoma multiforme treatment to its current state. The clinical advisory board will ensure that Hemispherian’s pharmaceuticals have an effective route to clinical applications.
Volume 22, Issue 4 – Fall 2021