A diagnostics company completes its pharma makeover, rebranding as Fore with Immunomedics vet at the helm
Fore! Watch out, there’s a biotech in town that’s got a new name.
The Israeli diagnostics company Novellus has undergone a rebranding, making the transition to pharmaceuticals as Fore Biotherapeutics, the company announced Monday. As part of the change in direction, Fore has appointed Usama Malik as CEO, a former key player at Immunomedics during their $21 billion acquisition by Gilead.
Though they have made the full turn toward therapeutics, Fore’s business model does not focus on drug discovery, Malik told Endpoints News. Rather, the company is planning to utilize its genomics-based platform to in-license programs and screen them to see where they could be best put to use.
The process will focus on patients with “unaddressed” tumor mutations, Malik said. Previously, Fore had marketed the platform toward academia and pharma companies as a diagnostic product to see where certain drugs may or may not work.
“The existing business models are around new target identification and drug discovery,” Malik said. “We’re starting by looking at existing targets and identifying commercially viable mutations, where there’s sufficiently built patient populations where we can make a real impact, and then finding drugs in the clinic where there’s clinical data.”
Coming from Immunomedics, Malik wouldn’t say whether or not he’s focused on steering Fore toward a similar buyout direction. He had served as CFO of the company when it was bought out by Gilead last September, in a deal that centered around the biotech’s recently approved drug Trodelvy.
Malik is, however, looking to aggressively build up Fore’s pipeline. The company already owns a Class I/II BRAF inhibitor that’s completed Phase I studies, and Malik says he wants to in-license another 2 to 4 experimental drugs by the end of 2022. These will likely be programs that have failed trials in known targets and can be redirected to specific populations.
That matches up with how the company decided on Fore as its new name. Malik said he and his team went through several names over the last few weeks, but decided on Fore because it evokes a forward-thinking mindset, like in the words “forecast” and “foresight.”
The BRAF program, dubbed PLX8394, embodies Fore’s new direction as it seeks to expand upon the current BRAF space. Whereas most drugs on the market only focus on V600 mutations, accounting for roughly 50% of patients, PLX8394 is looking at targeting both V600 and “a good chunk” of non-V600 mutations, Malik said. It’s here where the unaddressed mutations lie.
Most other next-generation BRAF programs are still in the preclinical stage, but Malik said he’s excited about Fore’s candidate because it’s already been tested in humans.
Fore raised $57 million to launch a Phase II trial for the drug last September, and is expected to launch the study by the end of the year once meetings with the FDA over the design have concluded. Novartis and SR One both backed the effort, and if all goes well Fore is hoping for a potential approval sometime in 2024.