Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Executive Profile: Brian O'Callaghan, President and CEO, Sangart

Brian O'Callaghan
O'Callaghan joined Sangart as president and CEO in June 2008. He brings a breadth of experience to Sangart, having held senior positions with a number of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in both Europe and the U.S. These include senior positions with Pfizer in the U.K. and Merck Serono in Germany, before becoming president and CEO of BioPartners, a Swiss-based biotechnology company. Since relocating to the U.S., O'Callaghan has held senior management positions at Novartis, Covance, and, most recently, NPS Pharmaceuticals, where he served as chief commercial officer. O'Callaghan brings his extensive experience to lead Sangart through regulatory submission and commercial launch of the MP4 platform.

Q: In looking at the history of Sangart in San Diego, it was interesting to me that you have both these civilian and military applications. Tell me more about Sangart's connection with the Letterman Army Institute of Research.

A: The company was founded by a guy named Dr. Bob Winslow. Bob started this journey when he was with the Letterman Army Institute of Research about 20-30 years ago. His experience there culminated in him founding Sangart about 14 years ago.

What is great is that some of the people still with Sangart today were with Bob at the Letterman Army Institute of Research. Literally decades of research has gone into developing what became MP4, which is Sangart’s platform product.

What Bob discovered was that you could replicate a low-volume setting for some of the properties of blood. As a result, Bob developed the MP4 molecule as an agent that could very effectively transmit gases into the body.

There are the two gases that Sangart is currently focusing on with MP4: oxygen and carbon monoxide.

The oxygenated compound (MP4OX) is designed to deliver oxygen in the capillaries, where red blood cells may not naturally reach, when the body is suffering from hemorrhagic shock. The carbon monoxide formulation (MP4CO) is designed to deliver therapeutic levels of carbon monoxide to patients with sickle cell anemia.

Q: How does this compare to standard care available today?

A: There is no real treatment right now for trauma-related ischemia. When patients suffer blood loss due to a traumatic event, they eventually get to a critical care setting. They get all sorts of fluids, including blood, as well as surgery, of course. If the lactic acid levels, which are routinely measured, show lactic acidosis, an indicator of a lack of oxygen, then they receive MP4OX, in a blind setting, as an addition to standard of care. We measure the resolution of lactic acidosis, which indicates the delivery of oxygen to the ischemic tissue. We also look at other endpoints, such as the ICU setting to see if they are spending less time in the hospital on ventilators, etc.

Our Phase IIb study is evaluating MP4OX plus standard of care in trauma patients, with lactic acidosis due to hemorrhagic shock. It’s running in about 50 sites in about 15 countries throughout the world.

Q: How do you balance the need to raise capital with everyday activities?

A: We have been insulated more than most from all that is going on in the last two to three years because our investors are very patient.

We are funded through to our next major milestone events. Those being the generation of the next rounds of clinical data from the PhIIb study for MP4OX and the PhIb study for MP4CO.

With positive data from our two clinical trials, we are confident of raising additional funding from existing or alternative investors.

Q: Where do the biggest opportunities lie?

A: The biggest opportunity, by far, is in trauma. You can take oncology and cardiology and the other major killers, and you can combine all the deaths that come from those and they don't compare to trauma. Trauma is, by far, the biggest killer in our society.

The good news is that if you do get into a critical care setting, your chances of survival are actually very high. This product will be serving a critical unmet medical need where there are not any products like it out there. The market is estimated to be about $6 billion in the developed worlds at least.

When you look at the pharmacoeconomic aspects of keeping people out of ICU and off ventilators, while also getting them out of the hospital faster, you are potentially saving thousands of dollars per day by using MP4OX. We are estimating savings of anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 a day, while also contributing to patients being discharged, on average, a week earlier.

Q: What does the future of traumatic brain injury and other types of severe blood loss treatment look like 20 years from now?

A: Traumatic brain injury is one of the things the Army wants us to look at. Traumatic brain injury might have more of a relevance to the military in the battlefield than the civilian setting. What they are looking for are newer formulations that are more robust to be used in the battlefields. So they are looking for formulations that can basically be used in the soldiers' backpacks or in forward positioned surgical units.

Q: What differentiates Sangart from others in the field?

A: Studies show that our MP4 products can potentially be safer and more effective as therapies for trauma and sickle cell disease. We have investors who are very patient and willing to continue investing in us given our strong clinical data. Finally, and very importantly, we are willing to do our development overseas rather than the U.S. should it serve MP4’s needs.

CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation

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