Guest: Samantha Cobb
Presenter: Tabetha Moreto
Guest Bio: Samantha “Sam” Cobb is the founding CEO of AdAlta. She has over 15 years’ experience in business development and commercialisation of early stage scientific technologies. As the founding CEO of AdAlta, she has raised over $20m in capital from angel investors and venture capital. Samantha was also involved in taking AdAlta public on the ASX, raising $10m in an oversubscribed IPO. Prior to AdAlta, Samantha was the Business Development Director at the Co-operative Research Centre for Diagnostics. She has also worked for the biotech start-up companies Sensologix Inc and Nephrogenix Pty Ltd, and at the University of Queensland’s technology commercialisation companies Uniquest Pty Ltd and IMBcom Pty Ltd.
Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Sam Cobb joins the programs to talk about her company. AdAlta is a highly innovative drug discovery and development company using its powerful technology platform to generate a promising new class of protein therapeutics for treating a wide range of diseases.
Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Samantha Cobb, CEO of AdAlta, a biotech company which is developing a unique range of new drug treatments. She has over 15 years experience in business development and commercialization of early-stage scientific technologies. Without further ado, welcome to the show Sam. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Samantha Cobb: Thanks Tabetha. Thanks for having me.
T: My pleasure. So Sam, please tell the audience more about yourself and the nature of your work.
S: Sure. So as you mentioned, I’m the CEO of AdAlta. We’re an ASX listed biotech company. We listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in August 2016 but the company has been around for about 10 and a half years. In terms of my background, I’m a scientist by training and have also studied law and really moved into tech transfer straight after my science degree. So transferring technologies out of the academic setting into industry. And I also really started about 10 years ago from a university invention or the CSIRO and we discovered at the university a technology which we now call the “i-body technology.” This is a new generation or next generation antibody discovery platform or a new way to discover new drugs. We have screened our i-body library and we found our lead candidate for the treatment of fibrosis. So AdAlta at the moment is taking that lead candidate AD-114 into the clinic for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
T: Very interesting. So Sam, can you please tell us aside from that, what is your biggest strategy or what other drugs are you working on nowadays?
S: The real focus of the company like I mentioned is AD-114 and will be in the clinic in the second half of 2018. As a company, we’re entirely focused on this product but we do have some drug discovery with the i-body platform. So we are investigating new drugs targets or diseases that we can screen the i-body library to try and identify new candidates that could be used to treat a number of different diseases. But as I mentioned, the real focus for us and our real strategy is to take AD-114 into the clinic.
T: That sounds excellent. So can you tell us, why is this relevant especially to health professionals?
S: So AD-114 is being developed for a disease called “idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.” Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a rare disease. It affects about 300,000 people worldwide, about 5,000 people in Australia and essentially, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is scarring of the lung. So you get a buildup of a protein called “collagen” and inflammatory cells which cause the lungs to stiffen so that you can no longer breath. But idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is essentially a fibrosis or scarring of the lungs. There’s a number of other diseases involved that have a scarring component in a number of different organs, so for example in the liver, you have a disease called “NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis”, in the kidneys you have kidney fibrosis also known as “chronic kidney disease” and in the eye age-related macular degeneration or AMD also has a component of fibrosis. So about 45 to 50 percent of all deaths have a fibrotic component to them. So understanding fibrosis and I guess developing new drugs for the treatment of fibrosis is really critical and there’s a higher medical need in a number of these indications.
T: That sounds very interesting. If you don’t mind Sam, can I ask you a personal question?
S: Yes, sure.
T: Why are you so passionate about biotechnology? What fascinates you about this?
S: I’m passionate about the science and getting a drug to the clinic. For us, there is a higher medical need but also I guess for our shareholders, I’m a CEO of a biotech company and it’s really important for us to deliver an outcome for our shareholders but delivering something for patients is also very, very exciting for a company.
T: Very nice. It’s good to hear that somebody like you has a passion for science and technology.
T: Now, let’s talk about misconceptions. Are there any misconceptions about biotechnology or even about your company that drives you nuts and it keeps you up at night Sam?
S: Well I guess one of the things that’s really hard for people to grasp is the time length of these product development. So getting to the clinic with an improved product takes a lot of time and a lot of money. As an, example, AdAlta as I mentioned started about 10 years ago. We identified our lead candidate, AD-114 in about 2015. So the first few years of the company were really around developing the technology. And since 2015, we’ve really been focused on developing this lead candidate so getting it into animals, showing that it has efficacy, getting it into more animals and showing that it’s safe. And then this year like I mentioned, we’ll start our clinical trials with AD-114 and there’s still a long way between getting into the clinic now and doing some safety studies in healthy volunteers which will be our first clinical trial. Phase 2 will then be testing it in diseased patients, so patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and so there’s a long way between identifying a drug and getting it to the clinic so you need a lot of patience and a lot of money and I guess it’s really the biggest misconception is that these things probably happen overnight and we are funded as an ASX listed company by shareholders that are very, very patient, it takes a long time for these things to happen.
T: Thank you for clearing up those misconceptions. And that’s true, I agree with you that making sure that drugs are tested and making sure that the finished product is good for consumption takes a really long time and it’s really expensive. So it’s a good thing that people like you are out there in order to explain these things.
S: Yes. I think the more that we can talk about the drug development process and I guess educate people about what those trials look like and how long it takes, I think the better off the community will be because we all have a need for drugs as we get older and a lot of the diseases we’re looking at – age-related macular degeneration, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis – they’re all diseases that happen to the elderly.
T: Thank you so much Sam for explaining that. I would love to talk to you more but we’re running out of time. But before we go Sam, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there?
S: I would like to say that idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the disease that we’re working in is a very interesting area. I’d suggest that people have a look in it in a lot more detail in terms of understanding the unmet medical needs and what this means to patients. So the average lifespan is about two to three years and how important it is for companies like AdAlta to be developing new products that address that need.
T: Excellent message Sam. Now for those who want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?
S: So our website www.adalta.com.au has information about our platform technology the i-body, it has information about our lead candidate, AD-114 but it also has an Inquiries button where you can send an inquiry to the company if you’ve got a question about what we do or where we can help you.
T: Fantastic. Thank you so much Sam for coming on the show. It was a pleasure having you.
S: No problem. Thanks Tabetha.
T: And that was Sam Cobb, CEO of AdAlta. If you like this interview, transcripts and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. Show us some love by subscribing to our YouTube channel. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.