Paul Hopper, the man behind Viralytics, Imugene (ASX:IMU) and Chimeric Therapeutics (ASX:CHM), is about to launch another biotech venture  – Radiopharm Theranostics – onto the ASX later this week.

Radiopharm Theranostics is pencilled in for a listing at 11am on Thursday just a few months after its pre-IPO funding round.

The company raised another $50 million at its IPO and will be 35.53% owned by Hopper. It has four platform technologies which are in five Phase 2 trials and two Phase 1 trials.

All of these utilise radiopharmaceutical technology which has been around for decades but up to this point rarely utilised to fight cancer.

Stockhead caught up with Hopper about how radiopharmaceuticals work, how firms make or break it in the biotech space and how he thinks his new venture will play out.


Tell me how you got into Radiopharm in the first place?

“I’ve traditionally been in the immunocology space – basically cancer drugs,” he told Stockhead.

“I was aware of the radiopharmaceutical or nuclear medicine for a number of year but apart from main pillars of nuclear medicine being MRIs and that sort of thing, the therapeutics side of it (that is the radiopharmaceutical side of it) had been in the doldrums.

“I noticed Chris Behrenbruch from Telix (ASX:TLX) did an IPO three years ago, he’s a smart guy, I thought liked the look of the sector.

“And then in ’18, 19 and ’20 there were really substantial deals done – for instance, Novartis for $3.9b [to acquire Advanced Accelerator Applications] and I thought something was happening here.

“I spent last year looking at the sector and I came to the conclusion I could build a company and that’s Radiopharm today.”


Your company specialise in radiopharmaceuticals – what’s different  about treating cancer this way?

“Nuclear medicine field – using low energy isotopes to see disease in the body – that’s been around for 50-60-70 years, it’s absolutely a normal part of treatments today.

“The idea that you could use radioactive isotopes to treat cancer has been relatively newer.

“What you do basically is you take a high energy particle, attach it to something like antibody or give it to a patient, and the antibody does what it does, it goes and find finds the cancer and drags the high energy particle with it… and effectively clings to the cancer, blows it up like a warhead.

“That’s what’s different to other areas of cancer treatment.”


So what are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months? Would you see a Viralytics style exit? 

“In small biotech the model has been very much get as much data as you can through to Phase II clinical trial and if you can show what is called efficacy – that the drug is working – you’re likely to be bought out by one of the big pharma companies.

“That’s a distinct possibility for Radiopharm as it is for any of my other companies.

“If you can provide evidence the drug is working then you become a target of one of the big pharma companies.

“We’ve got four different clinical platforms – technologies – and they’re in five Phase 2 clinical trials and two Phase 1 clinical trials so there’s a lot happening. Over the next 6-12 months we expect to generate good data.

“So to answer your question, I’m not sure what exit we’d take. If we develop the drugs right through to Phase 3 and have it approved by FDA or got a promising, attractive offer at Phase 2, we’d certainly consider it.”


Is it positive to have multiple assets?

“I have a very strong view that you need more than one platform, because in the biotech space if you have one technology platform, you put it into a trial and it doesn’t do what you think it would do, outcome is very vital.

“So I like to have risk relegation or insurance by underpinning the company with a number of technologies so if something doesn’t work you have a good number of platforms to keep moving forward.”


Would it be fair to say Phase 2 is the pivotal phase given so many small caps haven’t made it, but most large caps have made it past that step?

“In drug development there’s nothing like well-designed robust Phase 2 trial to prove the drug.

“So the Phase 2 stage is really the walk through the Valley of Death – that’s where you get sorted out. Where you find out if you have something or you haven’t.

“Phase 1 is just really a safety study and helping you pick what dose you’ll give patients in Phase 2.

“Phase 2 is if you look at if it’s working, so that is where (to be perfectly frank) most drugs fail because they don’t live up to expectation.”


And the FDA is important too?

“The largest pharmaceutical sector in the world is in the US and the gatekeeper I think of the world’s pharmaceutical industry is the FDA.

“So if you want to develop drugs and don’t have end game in terms of IND or another regulatory instrument you’re killing yourself.

“I think we have the TGA here and other agencies in Europe but from an investor end-point, an FDA-sponsored IND is the way to go.

“That’s not to say you can’t start anywhere else, but from my companies we look to getting the regulatory go ahead from the FDA.”


While I’ve got you, what are your other two ventures Imugene and Chimeric Therapeutics hoping to achieve in the next 12 months? 

“I founded Chimeric in Jan this year.  It’s a highly, highly exciting area of technology CART therapy – two platforms there, one in clinic and the other will go into the clinic next year.

“So I’m excited, for Chimeric’s future no question.

“I founded Imugene in 2013 and it was a $5m company then and now it’s $3.4 billion, so it’s the biggest biotech on ASX. I started Imugene with one program out of the University of Vienna Medical School and today we have three platforms.

“So it’s got a good range of diversity and risk mitigation in it but each of these platforms is promising. Two out of three in trials and we’re working rapidly to get the third into a clinical trial.

“There’s a lot of expectation around Imugene but it is a good company, it’s extremely well run by Lesley Chong the CEO and I have a good team there. The scientific founder, Professor Yuman Fong, is a scientific genius, we’re very fortunate to have him on our side that’s for sure.


Could we expect more biotech ventures from you in the future?

“Well, as it is I am working eight days a week and cramming it into seven!

“But there’s no reason to stop working, I enjoy it, it’s probably the most exciting industry to  be in.

“You meet brilliant people and imagine if one of these drugs works. It’s transformative to humankind so it’s a great sector.

“I get a lot of things that are offered to me but I think my plate is full. I am busy making sure Radiopharm and Chimeric are a great success.”