A Platform for Hope in the Face of Rare and Uncommon Diseases

Acrotech_courtesy Acrotech

Courtesy Acrotech Biopharma 

Acrotech Biopharma is a platform: a platform for hope in the face of rare and uncommon diseases. The company’s mission is to “provide effective treatment and hope to the patients and their families battling rare and aggressive diseases that other companies have not focused on.” And it intends to do so in an accessible and affordable manner.

Aurobindo Pharma USA formed Acrotech in 2018 in order to establish its presence in the U.S. branded market and further its mission to help patients with cancer. Rare diseases are a hard sell when it comes to attracting interest for new product development. As such, Acrotech is building out its commercial expertise first, before launching riskier R&D efforts. 

For a new company hoping to bring accessible drugs to a challenging market in the shortest time to meet patient needs, this makes a lot of sense. The typical start-up biopharma company spends most of its resources attempting to commercialize an asset or hypothesis it has discovered. According to a study conducted by the MIT Sloan School of Management, 14% of all drugs in clinical trials eventually win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For investigational cancer treatments – a primary area of focus for Acrotech – this number is just 3.4%.

Acrotech CEO Ashish Anvekar_Acrotech Biopharma“Our ultimate goal is to become a fully operational biopharmaceutical company,” said Acrotech President Dr. Ashish Anvekar. “Since our organic pipeline will take time to mature, we strongly believe forging strong relationships with partners can help bring ‘scientifically advanced’ products to the market where others see less potential.”

Acrotech is looking to launch “diamonds-in-the-rough”: drugs with either improved efficacy and/or safety over currently available treatments in the oncology, dermatology, neuroscience and rare disease spaces. At present, the company is prioritizing commercialized or late Phase III drugs with an eye to look at early-stage products in the future as it slowly builds its R&D capabilities.

“Focusing on later-stage products now will allow us to leverage our current infrastructure, and at the same time, make it accessible to patients for therapies which otherwise may not have been commercialized,” Dr. Anvekar said. 

In line with this strategy, Acrotech purchased seven FDA-approved hematologic oncology products from Spectrum Pharmaceuticals in January 2019. Two medicines obtained in this deal made Acrotech an instant leader in the peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) space. PTCL is an aggressive, heterogeneous subtype of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. There are few treatment options. Dr. Anvekar shared that “it fits in perfectly with our mission to help patients and families battling these rare forms of diseases.”  On the whole, the cadre of products are used to treat specific types of lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma. 

Exploration of current drugs in other indications “fits our model perfectly,” Dr. Anvekar said. “Seeking future indications allows us to look at ways to maximize the potential of [a] drug and make it formally accessible to a patient population who could benefit from it.” 

There are multiple investigator-initiated trials underway looking at potential new applications with some of Acrotech’s established drugs. These include uses in other forms of cancer, and as part of new combination regimens. Anvekar shared that they continue to receive interest from clinical investigators who wish to study the drug in a variety of indications.

A company with such aspirations must build a special kind of executive team. A nimble organization, Acrotech is taking a two-pronged approach in this area. “We want to develop and promote our existing talent as well as bring in external talent,” Dr. Anvekar said. “The most important thing we look for are successful leaders who are comfortable working in the unique environment of a start-up. This requires leaders who can think strategically and are also willing to roll up their sleeves and help execute.” 

The current leadership team, “demonstrates a diverse and experienced group of professionals that embody our culture that is focused on patients and their families, as well as our business and key customers.” he shared. Adding to the same he also mentioned that, based on the role; previous therapeutic experience may or may not be required.

The existing team is led by a set of talented leaders that came over from Spectrum with the seven drugs, seasoned experts with several years of experience in the field, and a wealth of product knowledge and expertise in disease states such as PTCL.

However Acrotech’s drugs come to be, a key part of the company’s ethos is making them accessible to as many patients as possible. This is where its STAR® (Specialty Therapy Access Resources) program comes in. Dr. Anvekar explained that STAR® helps eligible patients with related co-pay, co-insurance, or deductible expenses. It also includes a patient assistance program that provides products free of charge to patients who meet specific income, insurance and citizenship eligibility criteria. In 2020, 99% of patient assistance requests were granted under the program, he added.

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