In an exclusive interview with The Fly, HCW Biologics (HCWB) CEO Hing Wong talked about the company, its recent IPO, pipeline, COVID-related delays and much more.
GOING PUBLIC: HCW Biologics, which went public in late July, is an immunotherapy company developing novel therapeutics designed to treat "inflammaging." "Inflammaging is a new term that people now use to describe the connection between chronic, low-grade inflammation and age-related disorders. We really have the potential to treat inflammaging and now that we're public, we have a real opportunity to communicate that to the general public and also let them know that an immunotherapy approach is the most promising approach to increase our quality of life and life span," HCW Biologics' CEO Hing Wong explained to The Fly.
MINIMAL COVID-RELATED DELAYS: The core of HCW's discovery and development efforts revolves around the company's internally developed Tissue Factor-Based Fusion, or TOBI, platform, which is designed to engineer multi-functional fusion protein molecules and protein complexes. HCW Biologics has a pair of Phase 2 clinical trials underway for a cell-based therapy treatment for acute myeloid leukemia through its licensee Wugen, and plans to initiate clinical trials by the end of 2021 for its lead product candidate HCW9218, which is an injectable immunotherapeutic, in solid tumors such as pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of challenges and many companies in the space have experienced clinical trial delays. "We're managing the COVID-related delays quite well. I think we're one of the companies that is really avoiding the problem thanks to our experience. Our delays are mostly limited to supply due to competition from creating the COVID-19 vaccine. But the delay is minimal," the executive explained. "The AML trial hasn't suffered any COVID-related delay and HCW9218 is going well despite the minimal delays. We expect to submit the IND in the second half of this year and to see the clinical trial move forward. We have another trial ongoing and expect to submit the IND and that's in the solid tumor basket trial because the trial includes patients with breast, colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancer."
'STRONG CASH POSITION': HCW Biologics reported earnings late last month and said it expects cash to fund operations for at least 24 months. "We are in a strong cash position for the next 24 months and we're really a very capital efficient company. We're trying our best to avoid another capital raise. A capital raise is always a possibility and sometimes we can't avoid it. But we have others ways, including non-dilutive funding. We have a deal with Wugen and aside milestone payments, we also have a huge equity position in them. Additionally, we create so many molecules that we can look into other similar deals to license them out or a deal with big pharma," the CEO told The Fly.
NEXT MILESTONES: The company expects to submit an IND application for a Phase 1b/2 clinical trial to assess HCW9218 in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and also for its basket case trial by the end of 2021. "The IND submission and acceptance are major milestones for the company. For two solid tumor trials – pancreatic and the basket trial – we expect that to happen this year. But we're also a company that conducts state of the art research and we publish a lot of research, with a lot more to come soon," the executive added.
'MORE THAN A CANCER-FOCUSED COMPANY': While CEO Hing Wong acknowledged the importance of the company's expertise in developing cancer treatments, the executive noted that HCW Biologics is "not just a simple cancer-focused company." "Cancer happens to be one of the aging associated diseases and we have a lot of extensive expertise with it. We use that as a first indication to get into the clinic. But I want to correct the misconception that HCW Biologics is just a cancer-focused company. We're not. We focus on inflammaging," he explained.
"Meet the Company" is The Fly's recurring series of exclusive short interviews with Executive Officers to offer a deeper look inside the company.