Tekmira changes name to Arbutus Biopharma, a hepatitis B solutions company
Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, plans to change its corporate name to Arbutus Biopharma, a therapeutic solutions company focused on developing a cure for chronic hepatitis B virus infection (HBV), to be effective on or before Aug. 3. The name change affirms the successful integration of OnCore BioPharma and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals into a combined company with the singular goal of delivering a cure for chronic HBV. The combined entity currently fields a large portfolio of HBV product candidates in the industry.
The combined company is led by:
- Mark J. Murray, Ph.D., president and CEO; formerly of Protiva, Zymogentics and Xcyte Therapeutics;
- Patrick T. Higgins, chief business officer; co-founder of OnCore BioPharma; formerly of Pharmasset and Roche;
- Bruce Cousins, chief financial officer; formerly of Aspreva and Johnson & Johnson;
- Michael J. Sofia, Ph.D., chief scientific officer; co-founder of OnCore BioPharma; formerly of Pharmasset (inventor of sofosbuvir for hepatitis C), Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly;
- William T. Symonds, Pharm.D., chief development officer; formerly of Gilead Sciences, Pharmasset (clinical developer of sofosbuvir for hepatitis C) and GlaxoSmithKline;
- Mark Kowalski, M.D., chief medical officer; formerly of Gilead Sciences, YM BioSciences and Viventia Biotechnologies;
- Peter Lutwyche Ph.D., chief technology officer, formerly of Protiva, QLT and Inex Pharmaceuticals.
The company believes the solution to HBV lies in combination therapies. The development strategy of Tekmira is to first establish safety and activity of individual product candidates, followed by rapid progression to small cohort combination studies (with multiple products) to identify the most promising regimens. A key feature of this strategy is the planned speed of evaluation of different combinations, doses and treatment durations—a strategy previously used by this leadership team at Pharmasset in developing sofosbuvir for HCV.
Tekmira's broad pipeline of HBV product candidates, which will be further expanded through business development activity, will enable the company to rapidly advance the best product candidates and combination regimens and discontinue product development investment where it is no longer justified.
Tekmira also is announcing the formation of a discrete business unit to manage, develop and maximize the value of Tekmira's non-HBV assets. The division includes preclinical RNAi product candidates, IP and related know how of the lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery technology platform, and multiple strategic partnerships exploiting the LNP technology. The business unit will be independently financed and has a dedicated management team led by Dr. Michael Abrams, managing director, who was formerly CEO of AnorMed. The development activities related to TKM-Ebola will be suspended and a joint re-evaluation of the development contract with the U.S. Department of Defense is under way. The management team of the new business unit will evaluate strategic alternatives for this asset.