Nordic Nanovector sees interest in its Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma treatment

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian biotech newcomer Nordic Nanovector NANOV.OL, which seeks ways to treat blood-related cancers, says other companies are showing interest in buying the firm.

“We talk a lot with companies, and as the data improves and the company develops, the more interest we have, that’s for sure,” chief executive officer Luigi Costa told Reuters.

While Nanovector, founded in 2009 and listed on Oslo’s stock market in 2015, may eventually be bought, it could also launch drugs independently or through partnership, Costa said, adding the firm will be “opportunistic about this”.

Its shares rose 6.7 percent in Oslo following the comments.

Nanovector is currently preparing a final test phase for its Betalutin drug candidate, a treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) designed to attach itself to tumors in a novel way before killing them with a dose of radiation.

If successful, the drug will be filed for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in two years’ time. The company says it can have a final product on the market by the end of 2019.

“Our time-line is based on the assumption that the FDA will grant us a breakthrough therapy designation and accelerated approval ... Last year the probability (of approval) increased significantly,” Costa said.

In December, Nanovector presented data showing positive effects of Betalutin in patients and, in a separate study on mice, promising results when combined with Rituximab, also known as Rituxan, a drug sold by Roche ROG.S and Biogen BIIB.O.

“Rituximab has been the standard care for years ... but is now off patent so there is increasing competition for the development of additional products,” Costa said.

Brokerage ABG Sundal Collier recently gave a 55 percent probability that Betalutin will eventually launch. It rated the share, currently around 95 crowns, a buy with a price target of 142 Norwegian crowns.

After a tenfold rise in its shares during 2016, Nanovector in December raised 500 million Norwegian crowns ($60 million) in new equity to expand and develop its nascent portfolio.

Last October it signed two research and development deals with South Korea's Legochem 141080.KQ and Heidelberg Pharma, a unit of Germany's Wilex AG WL6G.DE to explore treatments of leukemias.

Its current market value is 4.4 billion Norwegian crowns.

($1 = 8.3303 Norwegian crowns)

Editing by Terje Solsvik/Ruth Pitchford