Header image

A healthy perspective: Professor Piotr Trzonkowski, CEO of PolTREG

Opening a production plant in Gdansk, progressing with clinical studies and signing new commercial partnerships are some of the major goals for the dynamic Polish biotech PolTREG in 2022, having recently debuted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. CEO Piotr Trzonkowski sits down with Acuris Capital Intelligence to discuss the company’s outlook and potential challenges that lie ahead.

Interview by Joanna Socha

Q. PolTREG went public on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in November—what are you hoping to achieve with the recent IPO?

PolTREG's primary goal is to implement innovative therapy using T-regulatory cells (TRegs). These are the patient's own cells that can stop autoimmune diseases. There are currently about 80 such diseases. For instance, when the immune system attacks the pancreas, we have type 1 diabetes; when it attacks the brain, we have multiple sclerosis (MS); when it destroys the joints, it's rheumatoid arthritis, and so on.

The company primarily focuses on two diseases: type 1 diabetes and MS. We want to use TRegs to stop the immune system's attack on the pancreas or on the brain.

Potentially, though, this therapy could be used in each of these 80 diseases. This is our perspective for the future.

We are most advanced in type 1 diabetes, as we have already completed two phases of clinical trials. Right now, we are preparing for another study that will enable us to register this therapy with the European Medicines Agency. We are also preparing for a similar process with the FDA. When it comes to MS, we have already completed one study and are preparing for a second one.

We are not stopping with one product though. PolTREG is developing the next generation of this therapy by working on special cells called CAR-TREG that can be programmed to get to the exact place where the disease process is taking place. For this particular therapy, we have recently signed a contract with an American firm AZTherapies, which is active in the TReg therapy segment in neurologic diseases. We will be working together on CAR-TREG cells in neurological diseases. We want to implement a new therapy and will be sharing revenues at the end of the process.

Q. What are the risks to these plans?

The major threat is the pandemic, which slows down many processes in medicine. Even from the patient’s perspective, it is more difficult to get to the doctor. Often, unfortunately, by the time they get to a physician it is too late for us to help in any way.

Another threat is inflation, which is also a result of the pandemic. This will increase the costs of the clinical trials and R&D. Nonetheless, we believe we will manage these challenges. We just had a very good IPO, from which we raised around zł100 million (€21.5 million) to be used for our clinical trials.

Q. What will help you to capitalise on markets in 2022?

First, we plan to run the clinical trials to receive marketing authorisation for our TRegs preparation for symptomatic patients with type 1 diabetes. We will also actively work on the R&D processes to develop new generations of the therapy. In 2022, we would like to open a modern production plant for TReg lymphocyte preparation in Gdansk. This will allow us to increase our production capacity dozens of times.

Thanks to the first results from clinical trials, we have already started talks with potential big pharma partners about sublicensing our therapy, and also about taking over our R&D processes. It could increase the commercial value of this drug and help with scaling up.

A bit of background: PolTREG is a biotechnology company developing medicines using T-regulatory cells (TRegs) in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Professor Piotr Trzonkowski, CEO, has been involved in the clinical research with TRegs for over 20 years. In 2017, he was awarded the most prestigious scientific prize in Poland for his work, The Foundation for Polish Science Prize in the Life and Earth Sciences. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.