Precision and personalization are just two of the characteristics that Perspective Therapeutics executives agree make its clinical drugs in development a game changer for cancer patients. The company, formerly known as Viewpoint Molecular Targeting, merged with Seattle, Washington-based Isoray Inc. in September and formalized the agreement with the publicly traded company earlier this month. As […]
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Precision and personalization are just two of the characteristics that Perspective Therapeutics executives agree make its clinical drugs in development a game changer for cancer patients. The company, formerly known as Viewpoint Molecular Targeting, merged with Seattle, Washington-based Isoray Inc. in September and formalized the agreement with the publicly traded company earlier this month. As part of the merger, Viewpoint (the surviving corporation) has since changed its name to Perspective Therapeutics and is a subsidiary of what was Isoray.At the heart of the Coralville biotech group is Chief Science Officer Michael Schultz and COO Frances Johnson, a husband and wife duo that co-founded the organization with former CEO Heyward Coleman.“I don’t know if it would be good for some couples but for us it’s been great,” said Mr. Schultz. “Frances is the best business partner I’ve ever had.”The team has grown since its early days, now employing 30-40 people. Within a year, they think the company’s workforce could grow more.
New name, new headquarters
Perspective Therapeutics purchased its new headquarters at 4125 Westcor Ct., the former home of Protek Medical Products, in November for approximately $2.73 million, public records show.Protek laid off 53 employees and closed its facility, according to a WARN Act filing in 2022.A phased move-in for Perspective staff will occur as renovation takes place and specialized equipment is moved into the facility.“The rationale for us acquiring this building is that it has clean rooms,” said Mr. Schultz. “Clean rooms are rooms that have balanced air handling that is highly filtered so that we can keep the particle load and potential for contamination very, very low.”One of the first priorities for Perspective will be advancing its first candidates in the clinic for therapeutic trials, which treat advanced melanoma and rare neuroendocrine tumors such as gastroenteropancreatic cancers. This is the kind of tumor that killed Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Dr. Johnson said.“Our first two candidates are a well-trodden path and a good mechanism that we know are very druggable targets,” she explained. She added that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already given Perspective the green light to treat neuroendocrine tumors through a fast-track designation. This gives Perspective a preferred status for moving the product through clinical trials.But after a few years, Perspective hopes its organizational presence will continue to be felt throughout the world. In November 2021, Perspective (Viewpoint Molecular Targeting at the time) entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NLL) to supply Lead-212 to researchers in the United Kingdom and Europe.Last month, in collaboration with New Delhi, India radiopharmaceutical company BJ Madan and Fortis Hospital, the first dosing of two neuroendocrine tumor patients with therapeutic intent occurred, according to a news release.
Why did Isoray seek a merger?
Perspective Therapeutics’ unique selling proposition is that it uses radiation to target cancerous tumors differently than other treatment methods, because Perspective is able to concentrate a small but powerful amount of radiation specifically to a tumor based on its molecular signature.“Radiation has been used to treat cancer for a long time, but we’re becoming more sophisticated about how we utilize radiation to treat cancer,” said Dr. Johnson. “You can inject it, it circulates, it seeks, it finds, and it concentrates that radiation to the tumor and then washes it out of the body.”Using a radioactive imaging agent called Pb-203 (Lead-203), Perspective can diagnose the tumor and then link Pb-212 (Lead-212) to treat the tumor. The process can determine, in real time, what the right dose of the therapy would be because it can predict how the therapeutic will behave for each person. This reduces costs and helps bring products from the pipeline to the clinic more rapidly.“I think the thing that excited [Isoray] the most was our use of the particular isotope Lead-212,” said Mr. Coleman. “When that thing goes in and hits the cancer cell, it just explodes.”Isoray’s targeted radiation approach consisted of seed brachytherapy, or small,surgically implantable seeds that go toward the tumor microenvironment, said Mr. Schultz. These seeds are used to treat prostate, brain, head and neck, and lung cancer.Leadership at Isoray saw Perspective’s ‘inside-out’ method (contrary to the more widespread ‘outside-in’ treatment method used with instruments like a gamma knife that has to pass through normal tissue) as an attractive target for acquisition. They viewed a merger as a chance to reinvigorate the company with the addition of another cancer treatment company that aligned with their beliefs on how to best treat patients. Isoray saw its core prostate brachytherapy revenue decline 12% in 2022 Q4 when compared to 2021 Q4.“They saw us as the next generation of that concept of treating cancer from the inside out and they wanted a new story,” explained Dr. Johnson. “They’ve been doing cesium implants for a long time. Every company looks for things to refresh themselves so that they have a longer life cycle.”Isoray was the only company manufacturing and distributing Cesium-131. Compared to other isotopes, it has the energy to kill tumors and the ability to leave the body quickly after a therapeutic dose because of a shorter radioactive half-life.According to Dr. Johnson, Lead-212 — the isotope that employs a pinpoint alpha particle radionuclide radiation therapy — and Cesium-131 delivers up to 7000 times more energy to a tumor than beta particle therapy, but in a very short range that is “highly destructive locally.” This results in a smaller yet more destructive dose, and minimizes exposure to healthy tissue compared to other methods, said CEO Thijs Spoor. He has nearly 30 years of executive leadership in the health care and medical devices industries and previously served as CEO for New Jersey-based KBP Biosciences.Mr. Spoor was recruited last February by Dr. Johnson and Mr. Schultz. He said the couple did a terrific job getting the company funded, and he joined the team to guide next steps.In addition to Perspective’s technical approach, Perspective is also in control of its therapeutic isotope supply chain, said Mr. Schultz. They agreed to a long-term supply agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy National Isotope Development Center for thorium-228, the parent isotope of Lead-212. Converting the parent isotope to Lead-212, is a complex, proprietary process.“We decided to do that to differentiate ourselves because we knew the chemistry and we knew where the sources of those isotopes would come from,” he said. “It was critical for being a vertically integrated company that could go from discovery through clinical trials and [drug] approval.”“If we look at other companies that have been successful with some of these other less precise radiotherapies, they all had to figure out their own manufacturing processes and own supply chain to de-risk it enough to be attractive to a company that would bring it to approval and sales,” said Dr. Johnson.Isoray reached out to Dr. Johnson and Mr. Schultz last summer after monitoring the Coralville company for over a year and got the deal over the line, with Isoray agreeing to use approximately $50 million in capital to distribute Perspective’s products to physicians throughout the U.S., according to filings submitted to the SEC.
While Perspective lives within an uber-competitive space that is rife with venture capital (VC) funding, the company believes they are equipped to handle threats they will face.“We can say that we're one of the only companies in this early phase and capital deployment for radiopharmaceuticals that has two proprietary products that are going into clinical trials,” said Mr. Schultz. “And that's because of the way we formed the company. We think eventually that'll be an advantage.”Some VC-backed companies enter the market with lots of fanfare and capital, but ultimately come out with generic, minimally differentiated products using first-generation therapies, said Dr. Johnson. While these companies have the cash to get into lots of hospitals and clinics, she believes the science behind Perspective’s products is innovative and sets it apart.The city of Coralville wants to keep Perspective Therapeutics in the community. A $450,000 forgivable loan, contingent upon the company continuing its business operations in Coralville for seven years, was passed at a Feb. 14 Coralville City Council meeting. The agreement will help facilitate the expansion and relocation of its staff.“Coralville wanted to make sure up-and-coming companies don’t die off or go elsewhere like Protek,” said Dr. Johnson. The agreement will give Perspective a coveted property tax and the company could be eligible for additional offsets to the cost of renovating the building.For Perspective’s leadership team, the decision to remain local made sense.“This is a great hub for building out a science team,” said Mr. Schultz. “The industry is starting to recognize that the Midwest is a place where you can build a company like this. We think we’re models for growing a company right here [in the Corridor].”Dr. Johnson noted this region has a large amount of talent looking to work in research and development, and they have non-scientific positions they’ll need to fill such as technical writing or regulatory positions. “It’s not a given that you have to leave,” she said. “And I hope that other companies like ours decide to stay and create some critical mass.”