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Dr. John Gillard
Chief Executive Officer
JN Nova Pharma
John W. Gillard
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – March 14, 2022
CEOCFO: Dr. Gillard, what is the idea behind JN Nova Pharma Inc?
Dr. Gillard: JN Nova is developing a highly potent pan-
We also needed to ensure that the chosen target for inhibition of the viral infection mechanism would be safe for infected patients. So at such an early point in this pandemic, it was also vital to identify translational clinicians who would help us evaluate the safety of this target and the likely patient populations who would benefit from the drug.
The plan then was to use the human ACE2 as a competitive target of the virus, to act as the molecular trap, we did this by designing an equivalent, but very smart, very potent, very high-
The NRC reviewed and awarded the project their internal Pandemic Response Funding status and we established the company as an independent partner, licensed the emerging technology and raised capital and major grants from the Federal Government of Canada.
We are now raising financing for the next development stage.
CEOCFO: Has there been much support for your efforts?
Dr. Gillard: This project was extremely well supported by the commitment of The Human Health Therapeutics research groups of the National Research Council of Canada who have past experience in making biological products of this nature. We have 25 senior scientific members of the NRC-
CEOCFO: Has the plan changed?
Dr. Gillard: Not so much for our teams and a lot has been learned that supported our concept.
What we said well over a year ago is that this pandemic is going to roll out through various cycles, and we are going to see multiple phases of it as different variants escape immune protection. We have had to ensure that our approach was indeed independent of all of these changes and we have since shown that every mutant form known is fully blocked by our chosen drug candidate, and this is the way it will likely be in the future, whether future variants are really dangerous like Delta, or more widespread, like Omicron.
The second point was, why are some people so vulnerable and what can we do to block what actually makes these people so sick? What are the markers of the vulnerable groups and what happens to them?
Again, this turns out to be related to the ACE2-
We’ve also collected evidence to be convinced that the longer-
CEOCFO: What can you tell us about why the drug works and how it works?
Dr. Gillard: There is a long answer to your question, but essentially, it is a replica of the human ACE2 target, which can also trap the virus, but it can also replace the lost ACE2 enzyme in the body, which is what is responsible for so much longer-
We intended to develop a therapeutic agent against this SARS-
There is a whole range of clinically approved Fc-
CEOCFO: How does your approach compare with some of the other ideas on the table?
Dr. Gillard: In the beginning of the pandemic, the therapeutic approach was to make antibodies against the viral spike protein. Antibodies were targeted to very specific small segments of the virus spike, hence very subject to minor changes in the virus. We said that we want to use something similar to trap the viral spike protein, but not with an antibody because as we know, antibodies lose their effect. Emerging mutations in the spike protein have rendered them inactive against all versions of the virus. Also, we now know that prior immunization, which also makes specific antibodies, is losing its effect over time because the segment that the virus is presenting to the antibodies is no longer the same as that targeted by the original vaccine. This would call for constant new vaccine generation and mass distribution again.
However, what we are doing is presenting the human ACE2 target itself, but tuned by making molecular changes, to give an extremely high affinity for the virus. The virus cannot mutate to avoid its own target, or if it does, it will have a very reduced infectivity.
We also have designed these drugs to provide this ACE2 replacement enzyme in the organs of concern. A single dose gives a 3-
CEOCFO: Would you give us some examples?
Dr. Gillard: Who else has gone out there with this approach? There have been a couple of initial approaches with unmodified ACE2 targeting, one that is continuing is by a company called Apeiron. Their approach is to deliver just the ACE2 enzyme, which is the same idea, but they did not tune it to have the extremely potent cross-
The other current drugs that are approved, let us take the Pfizer drug, for example, is to tackle a proteolytic enzyme that the virus needs to use to propagate itself. This is a sound approach, provided the drug reaches the virus and the enzyme is specifically inhibited without side effects to the host. This specificity is hard to achieve for viral replication, which uses very similar enzymatic processes as their host, for example, remdesivir. My first major anti-
CEOCFO: What are your next steps? Where are you?
Dr. Gillard: We are in biomanufacturing.
We have produced what is called the Master Cell Banks to produce these agents. We have transferred the bio-
We have also developed a nebulized formulation so it can be inhaled. In animal models, it works very well. It goes straight into the lung and gets high local concentrations in viral trapping. We just simply trap the virus and stop it from infecting you. There is strong initial evidence for ACE2 replacement being a significant therapeutic mechanism in acute respiratory distress (ARDS) so this is the next clinical target for the inhaled version of this class.
CEOCFO: What is the funding situation for JN Nova? Development is always expensive.
Dr. Gillard: Biological development is very expensive! We have been very well supported with Federal government financing in Canada through what is called the Industrial Research Assistance Program. In this case, it is dedicated to bringing novel COVID19 therapeutics to the clinic. We have 25 people working here in Montreal and Ottawa, supporting all aspects of product development. As we produce the material, which is currently is in manufacturing, we will be ready to run clinical trials, for which we have excellent non-
CEOCFO: Is it easy for potential investors to understand?
Dr. Gillard: I think it initially depended on the investors’ perception of the urgency vs duration of the COVID situation. Most investors saw the likely COVID product lifetime as being short and vaccination removing the need for therapeutics. Mutation and virus evolution have changed this, it is now viewed as a likely chronic disease, for which break-
In addition to COVID anti-
Therefore, I think that our knowledgeable investors are now looking at it and saying, “Yes, this is a multimillion-
Market valuations of biotech companies with potential renal treatments are high. Major drug companies are looking to in-
We are not alone in the AKI clinical field, but acute kidney injury, which in the end leads to chronic kidney injury, which leads to dialysis and unfortunately kidney replacement, is the single biggest cost to Medicare the United States. Thirty-
CEOCFO: Sum it up for us? Why look at JN Nova?
Dr. Gillard: This is a very good investment opportunity in a company that is largely supported by non-
JN Nova Pharma | Dr. John Gillard | COVID-
“Why look at JN Nova? This is a very good investment opportunity in a company that is largely supported by non-
Dr. John Gillard