Initiator Pharma

Back in 2016, a collaboration with an external company on research into ion channels led to two researchers from the Department of Biomedicine founding their own company. Today that company – Initiator Pharma – which is working to develop an alternative to Viagra, has a market value of approx. DKK 65 million.

Ulf Simonsen from the Department of Biomedicine had no plans to start a company. But an insistent chemist from the biotech company NeuroSearch changed all that. The two knew each other from a previous collaboration involving testing of ion channels. One Friday afternoon after another, Ulf Simonsen received a call from the chemist about another type of drug candidate that he thought should be tested in the laboratory. After a year of this, Ulf Simonsen finally gave in and assigned a postdoc to test the drug candidate. The result was surprising, as it turned out to have a positive effect on erectile dysfunction.

With the help of an external partner, the approval to begin the clinical trials has now been secured. At the same time, Initiator Pharma has issued additional shares and raised SEK 18 million together with guarantees for an additional SEK 12 million. This paves the way for phase 1 and 2 trials.

Great need for new medicine

The product is not a competitor to Viagra, but rather a new medical treatment for patients with diabetes. Men with diabetes suffer erectile dysfunction more often than healthy men. At the same time, Viagra does not work for 30-40 per cent of them. The current alternative is e.g. injections in the penis, where one of the side effects is pain and the formation of scar tissue. "Many studies show that erectile dysfunction generally impairs quality of life. There are more suicides, increased alcohol abuse and an increased divorce rate among those affected, so even though people joke about Viagra, this is actually very serious and there is a great need for medical help. So we’re trying to develop an alternative that can be taken in tablet form,” says Ulf Simonsen, who has worked in the field for many years and, among other things, has been a member of the Committee of the World Health Organization's consultations on erectile dysfunction.