In addition to being the Executive Director at Tryp Therapeutics, William Garner, M.D., is the founder of EGB Ventures, where he has focused on advancing technologies and companies to significant value inflection points, leading to monetization of assets via licensing, mergers and acquisitions or IPO transactions. He has extensive director-level and executive management experience. He was the Founder of Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) and Isla Pharmaceuticals. He brings additional medical affairs experience from his tenure at Hoffmann LaRoche’s oncology division.
Garner, M.D., has a Master of Public Health from Harvard and earned his M.D. at New York Medical College. He did residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Columbia-Presbyterian and is currently a licensed physician in the State of New York.
Could you walk us through your history in biotech and drug development? How did you get introduced to the space and what achievements are you most proud of?
In ’97 I moved from academic medicine to Wall St, with a stint in the Roche oncology business, before moving on to founding and building future drug development companies. Other than helping patients, which is the most important thing in biotech and drug development, one of the most important things in building any company where you bring in shareholders and investment, is to return capital and create shareholder value. I am proud of having been able to do that a number of times throughout my career, while creating impact and helping the patients we served.
You’ve played an instrumental role in developing multiple successful biotech companies and assets. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with your last couple of companies, and what you’re most excited about with Tryp Therapeutics?
With Race Oncology (ASX:RAC) I had the original idea to redevelop the oncology drug, bisantrene, that was abandoned by a big pharma company for market reasons. To me the data just looked too compelling to ignore, very similar to what Tryp is doing with razoxane. We took that from a conceptual idea to a viable opportunity, to eventually a public company valued at $CDN440M.
I moved to Puerto Rico years ago, and we were confronted with some challenging viral diseases more prevalent in warmer climates. I ended up forming Isla Pharmaceuticals, a drug development company focused on the prevention and treatment of dengue fever and other vector borne diseases (Dengue, Zika, etc), slated to list in Australia this year.
What I’m most excited about with TRYP is working with this team, all of which I’ve had the pleasure of working with or knowing for a long time. Developing the incredible therapeutic areas in our pipeline, we have an opportunity to help millions of potential patients around the world who suffer from eating disorders and chronic pain conditions. There is a very high unmet medical need in these two areas, and what TRYP hopes to bring to the psychedelic space is a highly experienced, cross functional drug development team who have had drugs approved through the FDA. Bringing real scientific rigor and process to this area, Tryp will continue to destigmatize psychedelic medicine. There is incredible promise with these compounds to obviate not only opioids, but replace many pharmaceutical drugs that are modestly effective and have adverse side effects in many cases.
You have a lot of experience in Oncology and are the one who discovered and acquired the Razoxane asset for TRYP. What can you tell us about this asset, how you found it, and how it’s unique for TRYP.
Razoxane is compelling in that it has already been approved in Europe (Austria) and had two successful Phase II trials completed that showed incredible efficacy when combined with other first line treatments. It served patients quite well in that country but was orphaned. I managed to file the initial new patent filing and then go to visit one of the key professors who worked on it for decades and acquire the asset. Sarcomas (which for reference are a devastating group of cancers, and are the same tumors that Terry Fox suffered and eventually died from) represents a very high unmet medical need that hasn’t had a breakthrough therapy in over 30 years. We felt that it was a highly valuable asset to roll into TRYP to really backstop the company, and offer us a differentiated pipeline that no other company in the sector really has. As you may know, Oncology is the largest subsector of the pharmaceutical industry, making up approximately 25% of all transactions in the space, and having a late stage Phase II asset in this category is an attractive aspect to our story for any investor.
You are also targeting chronic pain disorders including Fibromyalgia, another rare disease that negatively impacts many people’s lives. The other treatment options out there don’t provide complete relief. What made you and the Tryp team feel psilocybin could work?
We believe that the potential of psilocybin to induce neuroplasticity with pharmacology is revolutionary. Both our psychedelic advisors like Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and experts in Fibromyalgia we are working within this indication agree. We look forward to being able to speak more freely about our work on this indication in the near future as we move this forward.
Drug development is extremely complex, with a high failure rate in most cases. What advantages does Tryp have and how does this set you apart?
There’s no doubt about it, drug development is one of, if not the most difficult business model to have success in, and execute in. For the most part, it really comes down to the jockey. You’re betting on a team, and we feel we really separate ourselves in this area. Investors should feel very confident in the track record our team has in not only building successful and profitable biotech companies before, but in our cross functional drug development expertise. We’ve worked in Big Pharma, and have been on the other side of the table. We know what we are looking for in a potential drug candidate, what areas are of interest that create the biggest opportunity to build a drug franchise, and how to build valuable IP around our pipeline to be able to be attractive when we’re ready to monetize.
We also have a slightly different model in that we’re not looking to go the distance into costly and lengthy Phase 3 trials. Our strategy is to monetize sooner, after successful Phase 2 efficacy trials and partner, license or sell our programs to large pharma. This gets us to revenue sooner, limits risk and lowers the amount of capital we need to raise to be successful.
With our recent strategic investment lead by Marc Lustig, we are fully capitalized to execute on our pipeline and are looking forward to announcing our progress in the coming months.