Herantis Pharma was formed in 2014 when two Finnish pharmaceutical companies – Hermo Pharma and Laurantis – were merged. At that time the shares of Herantis were listed on the First North marketplace of Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd. The company’s CEO Pekka Simula defines Herantis Pharma as a drug development company that executes highly ambitious drug development projects that are based on leading science.
Simula describes the field of drug development as challenging – dozens of good companies are needed to create several international success stories.
In the first year since its forming Herantis Pharma secured funding for three promising drug candidates, for the treatment of dry eye syndrome (Cis-UCA eye drops), Parkinson’s disease (CDNF), and lymphedema (Lymfactin®). Simula explains that Cis-UCA (cis-urocanic acid) eye drops advanced rapidly to phase II clinical trials, but study results were less impressive than expected.
Subsequently the company has focused on regenerative medicine. Herantis Pharma is now developing drug candidates for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and lymphedema – the drugs not only alleviate symptoms but also help the body to repair the mechanisms that are causing the disease.
“Both therapy areas have a significant clinical need for improved treatments”, Simula emphasizes.
Product development based on globally leading research in Finland
The development of the drug candidate CDNF, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, is based on the discoveries of professor Mart Saarma’s research group at the University of Helsinki.
“The neuroprotective factor CDNF has proven efficient in several pre-clinical disease models, and phase I–II studies have now begun”, says Simula.
The clinical trials are intended to be carried out at Finnish and Swedish university hospitals as part of Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for research and innovation. Simula hopes that, in the future, CDNF could also be utilized for the treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition to CDNF, Herantis Pharma is developing the drug candidate Lymfactin® for the treatment of breast cancer associated lymphedema. Academy professor Kari Alitalo’s research group discovered VEGF-C, a lymphangiogenic growth factor, which forms the basis of Lymfactin® gene therapy that repairs damages of the lymphatic system.
“Pre-clinical disease models have shown that Lymfactin® induces the generation of new functional lymphatic vasculature”, Simula specifies and continues, “we are currently aiming to establish its safety in a phase I clinical study that is being conducted at three Finnish university hospitals”.
According to Simula, Herantis’ development has been very successful so far; the company’s diligence and know-how has been rewarded, and all the drug candidates have reached the clinic.
However, the clinical trials will show if the drug candidates are as effective in real patients as in the disease models.
“We are anticipating results from the clinical trials with great excitement, and wish that the studies will be successful – particularly for the patients’ sake”, Simula underlines.