Lauren Hayes: Today we are talking with Arovella Therapeutics (ASX:ALA), market cap of $17m. ALA is a biotech company focused on oncology and conditions that affect the central nervous system. We’re joined by CEO and Managing Director Dr Michael Baker. Michael, welcome back to the studio. Michael, since last time we spoke, can you please give us a quick recap?
Dr Michael Baker: Yeah, absolutely, and thanks for having me on the program. So, we’ve had quite a busy few months. We’ve announced a strategic collaboration with Imugene (ASX:IMU). We’ve just had our European patent granted for our iNKT cell therapy platform. And we’ve completed a strategic review and made the decision that we’re going to focus all of our efforts onto our iNKT cell therapy program and we’re going to be winding down our Perth operations and our R&D facility.
Lauren Hayes: Michael, you announced this week the European patent grant for the iNKT therapy platform. What does this mean for Arovella?
Dr Michael Baker: Yeah, so let me just describe what it is exactly. So, our iNKT cell therapy platform is the technology that we are using or developing to treat a range of different cancers — initially blood cancers, but also now, in collaboration with Imugene, tackling solid tumours. So, the patents are a very important step in the process because that’s ultimately where we derive commercial value for the platform. So, having it now in a position where it’s going to be granted in Europe is a really big milestone for the company, and with a fairly large population, it’s a big step forward. And, of course, now looking forward to proceed to grant in other territories like the US, China, Australia and Hong Kong.
Lauren Hayes: Arovella recently announced the closure of the Perth R&D facility. Can you please shed some more light on this for us?
Dr Michael Baker: Yeah, absolutely. So, the Perth R&D facility was primarily up and running for the development of our oral spray technology, which enabled us to reformulate drugs into oral sprays. And, following a strategic review with the board and senior management group, we determined that the iNKT cell platform is the platform that we’re most interested in in terms of impact for both patients but also returns for shareholders. So, we’ve made the decision to close down that facility, and once it’s closed, all the resources in terms of capital and so forth will be dedicated now to our iNKT cell therapy platform.
Lauren Hayes: Can you talk more to the Imugene partnership?
Dr Michael Baker: Yeah, absolutely. So, that’s something that we’re quite excited about. Imugene is certainly one of the real success stories in the biotech sector in Australia. And I think what sets them apart is really the platform technologies that they’ve acquired from outstanding institutes like the City of Hope. And so what that means for us is we’ve got our iNKT cell therapy platform from Imperial College London. Imugene have their platform from City of Hope. And the idea is we’re actually going to combine the two independent technologies, because we think there’s great synergies for both to work together to tackle solid tumours. So, certainly looking forward to getting some data from that partnership in the near term.
Lauren Hayes: And lastly, Michael, what can investors look forward to next?
Dr Michael Baker: Well, in the short term, we’re continuing to advance the manufacturing for our lead program, ALA-101, or the CAR19-iNKT cell therapy. So, looking forward to providing updates on the manufacturing process for that program. And, in collaboration with Imugene, of course, we’re looking to get data both in vitro, so in the test tube, but also in animal studies early next year. And also we’re looking to get more data from the technology we’ve licensed from the MD Anderson Cancer Center. So we’re expecting a busy end to the year and a good start to 2023.
Lauren Hayes: Michael, thank you for your time.
Dr Michael Baker: Thanks very much for having me, Lauren. Appreciate it.
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