9 December 2021
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Therapeutics company primed for growth

Dr John Lambert
21 October 2021

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Many successful investors in healthcare have made money by patiently backing companies that are quietly and strategically trying to solve big problems, like Australian biotech company Amplia Therapeutics (Amplia, ASX: ATX).

Amplia is preparing to start a Phase 2 clinical trial using its lead drug, AMP945, in combination with the current standard of care to tackle one of the most challenging diseases; pancreatic cancer. If successful, it has the potential to significantly improve treatment prospects for patients facing this devastating disease.

According to a recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, pancreatic cancer is set to become the third biggest cancer killer in Australia by the end of this year – only three out of 10 people survive their first year after diagnosis, and the five-year survival rate is only 11.5%. This gloomy prognosis is because pancreatic cancer patients typically present with late-stage disease, by which point the cancer has surrounded itself with a resilient shield of fibrotic tissue, protecting it from both the body’s immune system and the drugs that are used for the treatment of advanced cancers. Many companies have tried to generate more potent drugs to treat pancreatic cancer, but these have only resulted in modest improvements. Standard chemotherapy is still considered the most effective approach.

Our team at Amplia is taking a different approach. Unlike most drugs being developed for cancer, Amplia’s experimental therapeutic – AMP945 – does not kill cancer cells on its own. Instead, it acts to disarm the pancreatic cancer by altering the surrounding environment and removing the fibrotic shield that protects it. By targeting the protein Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK), which has been implicated in fibrotic cancers such as pancreatic cancer, AMP945 renders the cancer more vulnerable to chemotherapy, effectively amplifying the effects of the treatment.

Recent preclinical data from world-leading researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney has shown that in animal models of pancreatic cancer, pre-treatment with AMP945 can make the tumours far more responsive to standard chemotherapy treatments.

AMP945 represents a new generation of more gentle and effective cancer treatments. So far, it has a very clean safety profile, which has positive implications for Amplia’s clinical development program. Because of this safety profile, a recent Phase 1 clinical trial of AMP945 was conducted in healthy volunteers, with no serious side effects. Having surmounted the first hurdle of clinical development, a Phase 2 clinical trial is being planned in newly diagnosed patients with pancreatic cancer as a first-line therapy, in conjunction with the standard of care treatment. This means it will be easier to recruit healthier patients, who are more likely to respond to treatment. If successful, and very quickly, this could become a game-changing standard treatment following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

Amplia has chosen to tackle pancreatic cancer in the first instance with AMP945, however, many diseases are caused by the inappropriate build-up of fibrotic tissue. The Company’s development pipeline is diversified and strong. Amplia is also looking at starting a Phase 2 clinical trial sometime in 2022 for a fibrotic lung disease called idiopathic lung fibrosis (IPF).

Backing Amplia’s R&D ambitions is a Board and management team with an impressive track record in successful drug development. As Chief Executive Officer, I spent many years at Biota, and then at Medicines Development for Global Health where I was directly involved in the FDA approval of moxidectin, a drug that is now approved for the debilitating condition of river blindness. Our Chief Scientific Officer, Mark Devlin, led the team that discovered AMP945 and our Chair, Warwick Tong, headed up the Cancer Therapeutics CRC where he negotiated multimillion-dollar deals with both Pfizer and Merck, while Director Robert Peach was one of the founders of Receptos, a company that was acquired by Celgene for US$7.8 billion in 2015.

It’s no surprise that Amplia is attracting attention and traction in the market. As the Company heads into Phase 2 clinical trials, Amplia has garnered interest from some of the most experienced institutional investors, such as Platinum Asset Management, Blue Flag (the investment vehicle for Allan Moss) and, most recently, Acorn Capital, all taking equity positions in the Company in the last capital raises.

While there is always risk in any drug development program, finding programs with a compelling story, that are backed by solid data and run by experienced people, is the best way to manage that risk. When a company like Amplia is armed with these essential elements and primed to tackle some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, the necessary ingredients are in place to convert these challenges into benefits for patients and opportunities for investors.

This article is sponsored content. The supplier of this content has a commercial arrangement with Switzer Financial Group.

The information contained in this article is not intended to be an offer for subscription, invitation or recommendation with respect to shares of Amplia Therapeutics Limited (“Amplia”) in any jurisdiction. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this document or opinions expressed in the course of this article. The information contained in this article is subject to change without notification. 

This article contains forward-looking statements which can be identified by the use of words such as “may”, “should”, “will”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “believe”, “estimate”, “intend”, “scheduled” or “continue” or similar expressions. Any forward-looking statements contained in this article are subject to significant risks, uncertainties, assumptions, contingencies and other factors (many of which are outside the control of, and unknown to Amplia, and its officers, employees, agents or associates), which may cause the actual results or performance to be materially different from any future result so performed, expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. 

There can be no assurance or guarantee that actual outcomes will not differ materially from these statements. The data and results pertaining to clinical subjects used in this article are illustrative of medical conditions and outcomes associated with potential applications of Amplia’s acquired product pipeline. Actual results from clinical trials may vary from those shown.

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