In June this year, Carlos de Sousa commenced his role as Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Ultimovacs, a pharmaceutical company developing novel immunotherapies against cancer.
Congratulations on your new position! What made you say yes, or apply for the job?
“Ultimovacs presented a unique opportunity with its UV1 universal vaccine approach in oncology and it has accomplished a tremendous amount with its clinical development program so far. The opportunity was to join a successful leadership team with a differentiated product moving into multiple Phase II clinical studies. Based on my background and experience in the cancer immunotherapy space, it was a good fit and an exciting challenge.”
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
“I am looking forward to the continued collaboration with the rest of the leadership and the whole Ultimovacs team, as well as the constructive interaction with the Board of Directors. Our goal is to bring the Ultimovacs technology to the market and patients. We have many paths we can consider to achieve this, including agreements and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. My background covers many aspects of leading and running innovative biotechnology companies, from operations and clinical development strategies to business development, and I look forward to bringing my international experience to the team.”
“We have many paths we can consider to achieve this, including agreements and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.”
What opportunities does Ultimovacs have on the market for cancer immunotherapies?
“Ultimovacs has applied an understanding of how human telomerase, an antigen with high prevalence in over 80% of all cancers, can be used to increase a patient’s immune system reaction to a tumor, and be effective across the dynamic stages of the tumor’s growth. There are many companies that have introduced, or are developing, new immune therapies to help cancer patients fight their disease. These treatments typically work very well in a portion of patients, while other patients have no, or limited, effect. We have a candidate product that could potentially support better outcomes for many of those therapies, and for a large number of indications. UV1 has a very competitive profile as it can be used in a large number of cancers, it is an “off-the-shelf” product and it is easy to administer as an intra-dermal injection. The potential market is extremely large.”
“UV1 has a very competitive profile as it can be used in a large number of cancers, it is an “off-the-shelf” product and it is easy to administer as an intra-dermal injection. The potential market is extremely large.”
What current challenges and opportunities does Ultimovacs face?
“The opportunity is to demonstrate the ability of UV1 to improve outcomes in a range of cancers where the medical need remains high. This is extremely exciting, but also presents a challenge for a small company to run large concurrent clinical trials. The Ultimovacs team has been successful to date in building collaborations with leading academic and clinical research organizations and big pharmaceutical companies, to gain the value of their expertise in support of a rigorous examination of the potential of UV1. Our focus now is to execute the studies we have ongoing and produce strong data to support the further development of UV1, while also exploring partnerships to maximize the commercial potential.”
What is the status of your ongoing clinical trials?
“We had the pleasure of announcing positive data last week [the end of September 2020] from the first cohort in our ongoing Phase I study in malignant melanoma, which demonstrated the strong safety profile for UV1 and also provided promising initial signals of efficacy. We will report additional data, including data on patients in the second cohort, in 2021. The positive indications of efficacy build on a consistent set of similar positive signals from three completed Phase I trials.
We also recently announced that we have started two Phase II studies: The INITIUM trial, which is an Ultimovacs-sponsored, global, randomized Phase II trial. INITIUM evaluates UV1 in a triple combination with a CTLA-4 inhibitor (ipilimumab) and PD-1 inhibitor (nivolumab) in patients with metastatic malignant melanoma. The second study is the NIPU trial, also a randomized, multi-center Phase II trial, with the same combination of UV1, nivolumab and ipilimumab as second-line treatment in mesothelioma. Oslo University Hospital is the sponsor of the NIPU study. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Ultimovacs have entered into agreements with OUS to support the preparations and execution of the trial. Both trials have a planned readout of the primary endpoint of progression-free survival in the second half of 2022. A third Phase II clinical trial is also planned, and we will announce details about that study during the fourth quarter.”
Photo of Carlos de Sousa: Ultimovacs
3 X Facts – Carlos de Sousa
01. He is a Medical Doctor by training, having earned his degree at School of Medicine, University of Lisbon, and holds an Executive MBA from the Stern School of Business, New York University.
02. He has 30 years of experience, ranging from leadership positions at international pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Novartis and Nycomed/Takeda, to executive management roles at several innovative biotech companies.
03. His most recent position was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Swedish immuno-oncology company, Immunicum AB.