I understand your research aims are to improve botanical biotechnology. What are your results so far?
At Devonian we are moving the botanical biotechnology industry forward. Our lead product is Thykamine, an anti-inflammatory drug. Thykamine’s safety and efficacy were confirmed in several pre-clinical and clinical studies. We have proved that Thykamine has multiple potential applications, and we have completed Phase 1 clinical studies on adults - these demonstrate that our product is safe - and we have completed a Phase 2 proof-of-concept study in Germany on treating ulcerative colitis. In Canada, we have also finalized a Phase 2 clinical study in atopic dermatitis, most commonly known as “eczema", in a large group of adults.
Some sceptics question the whole idea of botanical drugs, or think that they are not as efficient as traditional drugs. What would you say to them?
Big pharmaceutical companies have been around since the pre-1900s, and at that time they marketed active botanical extracts. Then, in the 1900s, the world of chemistry identified the active molecules in these extracts. However, in 2004 a plethora of German studies proved that the process of trying to isolate therapeutic activity to a single molecule could result in a loss of potency. These scientists logically surmised that there may exist different chemical components which all work together, and so they implemented a multi-component process - one just as thorough as the standard practice - but which acts in different pathways, whilst the single molecule process acts in only one.
Botanical drugs are more robust in this sense, since they are not so susceptible to losing their natural efficacy through purification. This enables botanical drugs to attack multiple, different targets. For example, Thykamine has been proven to work on several inflammatory pathways. The therapeutic effects have been proven in two different diseases (ulcerative colitis and atopic dermatitis). Our results show Thykamine is on par with its chemical drug counterparts.
It is important to emphasize that Botanical drugs, developed under the FDA or biopharm regulations, are approved as prescription medicines and reimbursed by third party payers just like any other drug.
You mentioned that your drug candidates have multiple potential applications – who can be treated with the drugs in your pipeline?
Since we have proven the efficacy of our drugs in atopic dermatitis in adults, we have decided to also work on paediatric atopic dermatitis. Why paediatric? Because the market for patients younger than 12 years old is underserved. There is, quite naturally, a general fear which surrounds giving infants and young children chemical products such as corticosteroids based medicine, but at the same time it is well known that atopic dermatitis, if not well treated from a young age, can lead to other diseases and conditions in the long-term, for example food allergies or asthma, among others. We have confidence our business will become a leader in the industry, while helping address the unmet needs in children’s atopic dermatitis.
We also have a Phase 2 protocol to prevent radiodermatitis associated with radiotherapy, as almost 90% of patients who have cancer and are treated with radiotherapy develop skin inflammation and necrosis. Likewise, we are also working on a Phase 2 protocol to prevent Hand and Foot syndrome , which is associated with chemotherapy.
Considering you have different needs from a regular Pharmaceutical, but at the same time you have interests in common, where and how do you source your talent?
We have been receiving CVs from young people from Canada, the U.S., Europe, in fact from all over the world. When young scientists consider the impacts their research might have, they look to companies like Devonian. Working with us, they are assured that they will be helping to develop drugs that are totally new, and they are excited to be working in modern botanical medicine, which is a novel research space.
What are your main objectives for Devonian under your leadership in the years to come?
First of all, our goal is to finalize the development of our Thykamine therapy in treating paediatric atopic dermatitis. We aim to earn approval between 2027 and 2028. Hopefully, we will pursue our programs with large pharmaceutical companies as strategic partners. At the same time, we wish to continue having fun, since what we are doing is fun.
This is a company where we constantly ask our people to think outside the box - in my opinion this is not the norm in the biopharma industry.
We have seen that not all drugs work for all people. Therefore, we must work on alternatives personalized to the patient. Recently, we have been contacted by two American companies who have asked for our help, to utilize our facilities for their own products - this is something we hope to see more of in the future. Gradually we are starting to be seen as leaders in the botanical and in the wider pharmaceutical industry, and more is yet to come.
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