Starpharma partners with UK investment firm to create Petalion Therapeutics

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Australian company Starpharma (ASX:SPL) has announced a strategic partnership with Medicxi to co-found a new UK-based company called Petalion Therapeutics.

Medicxi is a UK-based healthcare-focused investment firm.

Petalion will initially focus on developing novel targeted dendrimer-drug conjugate therapies in oncology. It will utilise Starpharma’s proprietary DEP dendrimer platform technology. Medicxi will support Petalion with an initial investment of up to US$25 million to finance the development of a novel oncology drug candidate. Starpharma will license particular intellectual property to Petalion as required for the research, development, manufacture and commercialisation of this potential new therapeutic. In exchange, the Australian company will receive an equity holding of 22.5 per cent in Petalion.

Dr Mehdi Shahidi, a highly experienced pharmaceutical executive, has been appointed CEO of Petalion. A clinical oncologist by background, Dr Shahidi has over two decades of experience in pharmaceutical drug development, most recently as corporate senior vice president, chief medical officer, and global head of medicine at Boehringer Ingelheim.

“I am deeply honoured and thrilled to be leading this ground-breaking endeavour created by Medicxi and Starpharma. Leveraging Starpharma’s world-leading technology and the scientific domain expertise from Medicxi’s asset-centric investment platform, our team at Petalion aims to develop best-in-class dendrimer conjugates with differentiated properties. Our ultimate goal is to cultivate a targeted dendrimer-based drug that can effectively address unmet needs in cancer,” said Dr Shahidi.

Shyam Masrani, principal at Medicxi and board representative of Petalion, said, “While the field of targeted conjugates has experienced remarkable growth and led to the approval of several treatment options for patients with cancer, it is also evident that the current approaches have limitations. Medicxi is excited to support Petalion under the leadership of Dr Shahidi from the outset and we look forward to working closely with the Starpharma team to develop a highly differentiated and effective new medicine.”

Starpharma CEO Cheryl Maley added, “We are excited to announce this strategic partnership, which combines Starpharma’s expertise in developing dendrimer technology with Medicxi’s success in converting development candidates into high-value commercial assets. If successful, the oncology therapies that Petalion will develop have the potential to become an important treatment modality for a potentially wide range of cancer indications.

“Medicxi is a highly innovative organisation with extensive experience in drug development and commercialisation. Their investment in this partnership validates the strong potential of Starpharma’s DEP dendrimer technology as a novel drug delivery platform.

“This is just one of many ongoing efforts to prioritise the commercialisation of Starpharma’s DEP platform and our partnerships to advance the application of the DEP technology in high value novel therapeutic areas.”