Sotio AS, a biotechnology company owned by the richest Czech, Petr Kellner, is considering starting clinical tests of an immunotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer based on its own scientific research.
“We see a potential there to widen our portfolio,” Chief Executive Officer Ladislav Bartonicek said in a July 18 interview at Sotio’s facilities in Prague.
With a treatment using a patient’s own cells to fight against cancer and autoimmune diseases, known as DCVAC, Sotio is central and eastern Europe’s only company that’s entered final-phase testing of immunotherapy treatment for cancer. In May, the Prague-based company entered a Phase III clinical trial in the European Union and the U.S for the therapy on prostate cancer patients.
It’s also in Phase II clinical trials, the middle of the three stages of tests usually required for approval, for ovarian cancer therapy. The company plans to start testing a lung cancer treatment by the end of this year.
“PPF sees Sotio as an entry into the world of biotechnology,” said Bartonicek. “Our ambition is to be able to go through the whole clinical testing process on our own and to register and sell some of the treatments.”
Bartonicek is one of three shareholders in PPF Group NV, a financial group controlled by Kellner, who is worth $12 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bartonicek and Jean-Pascal Duvieusart each have less than 1 percent.
Apart from its own research, Sotio is also “actively” looking at potential acquisitions of biotechnological companies in Europe, the U.S. and Asia to add new treatments to its portfolio, Bartonicek said, without elaborating.
In March, Sotio bought OriBase Pharma, a French developer of drugs and therapies for pancreatic and liver cancer.
Sotio became part of Kellner’s PPF Group at the end of 2012, two years after the pharmaceutical company’s founding. The treatment its scientists are creating is based on years of medical research carried out at university teaching hospitals in Prague. It uses a patient’s own dendritic cells, activated by a broad range of tumor antigens, to induce an immune response.
Sotio’s final phase trial on the treatment for prostate cancer, known as DCVAC/PCa, will be studied in a group of 1,170 patients in the U.S. and 19 European countries for four years.
Sotio opened its second laboratory facilities in Beijing last month. Apart from similar site in Prague, Sotio is also present in the U.S.