Lee Jung-kue, CEO of Bridge Biotherapeutics, is making noticeable strides in the local bio-industry with a different strategy from most local pharmaceutical companies as his company focuses on “no research and development only (NRDO).”
“Bridge Biotherapeutics operates as an NRDO, a form of virtual biotech that is widely known overseas,” Lee said. “The company is committed to providing effective new innovative medicines in areas of high but unmet medical needs where patients have difficulty receiving treatment.”
In detail, Bridge Biotherapeutics differentiates itself from competitors by licensing in candidates at the initial clinical stage from external sources and quickly enters into clinical stages, Lee explained in a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review.
Such quick development has become possible because Bridge Biotherapeutics is a development-centered biotech firm with a small number of specialized development experts, which maximizes the possibility of receiving sales approval and treating patients, he added.
|Bridge Biotherapeutics CEO Lee Jung-kue explains the company’s drug candidates and its future goals, during a recent interview with Korea Biomedical Review at the company’s headquarters in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.|
According to Lee, the company is now researching four drug candidates -- BBT-401, BBT-877, BBT-176 and BBT-931.
BBT-401, found by Sungkyunkwan University and Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, is a gastrointestinal-tract restricted small molecule inhibitor of Pellino-1. The drug is in phase 2 clinical trials in the U.S., and the company plans to conduct clinical trials in Korea and China soon.
BBT-877 is a drug candidate discovered by LegoChem Biosciences for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The treatment has already received orphan drug designation from the Food and Drug Administration and has entered phase 1 clinical trials in the United States.
“The treatment has already won attention from U.S. patients and professional, given the frequent inquiries about the drug, and Pulmonary Fibrosis News, a U.S. news outlet specialized in the disease, has also reported on the substance,” CEO Lee said.
Multinational pharmaceutical giants have shown their interest in the drug candidate, and Lee had meetings with several companies during the 2019 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.
“After having discussions with us, some of the global pharmaceutical companies are already conducting due-diligence of the substance,” he said. “Amid the mounting interest, we will determine whether to sign a licensing out agreement after the phase 1 clinical trials or independently conducting phase 2 clinical trials before signing a contract.”
BBT-176 is a lung cancer treatment the company is planning to put into phase 1 clinical trials in both Korea and the U.S. by early next year, while BBT-931 is an immuno-oncology candidate that the company is currently running mode of action before putting into the development phase.
Bridge Biotherapeutics is mainly looking for drug candidates for licensing from domestic firms and research institutes, but Lee stressed that their licensing-in plans are not limited only to Korea.
“Now that we are reviewing drug candidates for major illnesses with unmet medical needs, we will actively consider bringing in substances from foreign pharmaceutical companies if it fits our strategy,” Lee said.
Asked about the company’s specific goals, the CEO said, “We give priority to candidates with high but unmet medical needs, and candidates with high potential of becoming a first-in-class drug.” The company primarily considers candidates in the early stages before clinical entry, he added.
Regarding the company’s focus on the U.S. market, Lee said, “As the U.S. has the world’s largest market, we plan to develop the treatment rapidly and commercialize our product in that market.”
Compared to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s investigational new drug application (IND) review, which takes a considerable amount of time, the FDA’s IND review takes only 30 days at the most, allowing applicants like Bridge Biotherapeutics to speed up the development process, he added.
Lee also stressed that the global pharmaceutical should look at Korea as an increasingly pivotal innovation base.
“While Chinese pharmaceutical companies licensed out five drug candidates to foreign companies last year, Korean pharmaceuticals licensed out 10 candidates,” Lee said. “Korea is one of the hot-beds currently leading pharmaceutical development worldwide, and its potentials are infinite.”
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