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This branch of our Sponsor Atlas series focuses on young pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are in early stages or stealth mode. In the next edition of Sponsor Atlas: Discovering Biotech Startups, we’re looking at Scopus Biopharma, exploring the current affairs and future orientation of this emerging New York City - based stealth biotech company. To accomplish this, we will give a business overview of their current operations, summarize their outsourcing needs, map out their development goals and decision-makers, and highlight their current strategies for capturing innovation. If you haven’t already read our other blogs on new biotech startups, be sure to check them out here.
Scopus Biopharma, Inc. is a stealth biotech startup with world-class expertise in cannabinoid and cannabis research, and is currently focused on developing novel small molecule therapeutics targeting the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Scopus Biopharma does not currently have any registered trademarks, but they do have simple website that really doesn’t provide too much information about the business yet. Scopus’s principal place of business, as noted on the Sec Form S-1, is located at 420 Lexington Ave., Suite 300, New York, NY 10170. This location is also known as the famous Graybar Building, which houses many other big name companies in the heart of Manhattan, also making it one of New York City’s most sought-after addresses. The business was registered in Delaware as a C-Corp with a filing date on 4/18/2017, and a registered agent address through The Corporation Trust Company in Wilmington, Delaware.
Scopus Biopharma currently has around $546,000 in cash, and has spent approximately $288,000 in the first quarter of 2019. $2 million has been invested in the company, including $1.8 million by New York-based investment bank HCFP, which holds 14.6% of the company.  They are currently funding a $115,000-proof of concept (POC) trial of their lead candidate, a CBD-enhanced anesthetic product, taking place at Hebrew University. The company has also simultaneously invested $245,000 in developing new products derived from active ingredients found in cannabis. These active ingredients combined with existing drugs or drugs in development, will be further developed to improve activity or reduce side effects of pre-existing drugs.
While there isn’t much online information about their outsourcing needs, their recent investments in early research and internal capital shows that Scopus is ready to propel their development pipeline with very innovative and potentially valuable discoveries in the field of endocannabinoid science. Scopus Biopharma is very early in the development stage and they will be working through the usual steps for a while before reaching the IND stage with potential products. Their prospective pipeline of products consist of therapeutics that reduce the side effects of pre-existing drugs such as opiate-containing anesthetics, as well as enhancing drugs already used to treat diseases such as auto-immune disorders. Any experience in these technologies would be of tremendous benefit to Scopus at this point in time.
We think outsourcing partners in the realms of small molecule CMOs, preclinical CROs and any CROs that have experience with cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system should definitely have Scopus Biopharma on their radar over the next few years.
Scopus Biopharma's Pipeline and R&D Focus
Even though Scopus BioPharma is developing drugs based on the body's endocannabinoid system, their potential medicines aren’t actually derived from the cannabis plant itself. Alternatively, Scopus BioPharma develops drugs containing synthetically-produced cannabinoids, and are actively pursuing regulatory approval from the FDA and agencies in corresponding countries. Their company is making a huge effort to distinguish themselves from all of the other increasingly scrutinized cannabinoid products making headlines in the recent news today. They are working with leading cannabinoid research scientists at preeminent academic and research institutions, thereby enabling a clear pathway currently roadblocked by legal challenges associated with related non-FDA approved products.
The company's leading product is an anesthetic combined with the CBD ingredient, also found in cannabis, in order to reduce the dosage of the opiate ingredients in anesthetic formulations. Most of Scopus’s research and novel therapeutics are originating at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Specifically they have been cooperating strategically with Hebrew University's Multidisciplinary Center on Cannabinoid Research, led by Dr. Joseph Tam. The company signed a licensing agreement with the NIH to develop a drug for a disease called systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disease featuring troublesome skin scars. The overall drug can be best described as an ingredient that is proposed to alter the body's cannabinoid receptors, which are locations in the body that respond to the active ingredients in cannabis.
- Dr. Morris Laster, CEO - Morris Laster is a physician with over 20 years of experience in the biopharmaceutical industry and expertise in the identification, development and management of advanced biomedical drugs and technologies. Currently, Dr. Laster is the inventor and developer of an implantable artificial kidney system, around which he built the company Clil Medical. He has founded 6 companies that have gone public in the US, UK and Israel. Most recently (2003 - 2009) he was the founding CEO of BioLineRx Ltd. From 1997 - 2002 he was the Chairman and CEO of Keryx Biopharmaceuticals. He began his career as a VP of medical venture capital at Paramount Capital in NYC. He received his MD from Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY in 1990 and a BS in Biology from SUNY Albany.
- Josh Lamstein, Partner - Josh Lamstein is a partner at KEC Ventures. Mr. Lamstein has worked in private equity and venture capital for over 14 years and has led private investments with aggregate equity value in excess of $400 million at firms such as Apollo Global Advisors, LMS Capital and GF Capital. Mr. Lamstein started his finance career at Lehman Brothers, where he worked in New York and London in the Leveraged Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions groups respectively. He has a B.A. with honors in Economics and Asian Studies from Colgate University and an M.B.A. from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Opiates are widely known as addictive pain relievers, and addiction to these pain relievers is creating one of the largest and most deadly epidemics the public has ever seen, especially in the United States. Scopus BioPharma believes that reducing the dosage of opiates during anesthesia can facilitate the use of less opiates following surgery, thereby reducing the overall risk of addiction. The funding of $115,000 for the proof of concept (POC) trial at Hebrew University will allow them to further development and verify their research efforts of creating new and safer alternatives to using opiates in combination with anesthesia. We believe this is just the start for Scopus and these early trials will pave the way for introducing their therapeutics into many other similar medicines, thereby creating all-around safer medications for doctors to prescribe and administer. Together with Hebrew University, Scopus BioPharma is also examining the potential of drugs based on ingredients found in cannabis other than CBD and THC for uses such as reducing appetite, relieving pain, relieving convulsions, and preventing psychotic attacks. With a substantial amount of investment backing, innovative research efforts into their cannabinoid products, and inspiring insights coming from their executive team, we believe that Scopus Biopharma will do very well in their early-stage developments and clinical trials.
Scopus Biopharma is definitely on track to have some major innovations in the areas of endocannabinoid research and by providing safer alternative medicines to the public, but it’s difficult to say exactly when they will come out of stealth mode for it. We’re thinking it should be within the next few years, so be sure to keep them on your contact list and look out for our next edition in this series coming soon.
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