Sublimity considers flotation as colitis drug research continues

Irish-founded pharma firm looks to get flagship solution to market by 2025

Irish-founded pharma company Sublimity Therapeutics is considering a potential flotation as it looks to get its flagship solution to market within the next five to seven years.

The company, formerly Sigmoid Pharma, recently closed a $64 million (€54.7 million) financing round to fund the development of a drug candidate currently known as STI-0529. The investment is thought to be the largest ever investment in an Irish pharma company at clinical development stage.

Founded by Ivan Coulter, who is now Sublimity's chief technology officer, the firm won the inaugural Irish Times Innovation Awards in 2010.

Dr Albert Agro, who took over as chief executive following the recent financing, told The Irish Times the company was focused on getting STI-0529 to market as early as possible. "It is a drug that is well studied. The work that has been completed by Sigmoid to date is very suggestive of a reason to be optimistic."


The recent financing is to be used to initiate a global Phase 2b dose-ranging study designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of STI-0529 in patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis.

Globally the market for ulcerative colitis is considered to be worth about $4 billion (€3.4 billion) and growing strongly.

"It is a multi-billion market from a pharma perspective, with well over a million in North America and Europe, " said Dr Agro.

Side effects

Dr Agro previously served as chief medical officer of Cynapsus Therapeutics, a Canadian company that introduced a new method of ingesting a Parkinson's disease drug known as apomorphine that significantly reduced its side effects, thereby making it a much more attractive option for patients.

He said there was a possibility of doing something similar again via Sublimity with the route to getting certified as safe-to-use taking less time as it involved drugs that have already been seen by authorities such as the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the US.

“Dr Coulter and his team have come up with a way to allow very potent drugs given in small concentrations to get into target organs easily and more safely,” he said. “It is an important technology that Ivan has created, and over the last 14 years they have really perfected it, but the company was in need of some focus and being at the clinical stage it was really important to move that asset forward, which is why we’re involved,” said Dr Agro.

‘Added bonus’

While the investors, which include OrbiMed, had been more interested in the technology than the fact that Sublimity was based in Ireland, the country's tax and intellectual property regime "were an added bonus", said Dr Agro.

“The billion dollar question is when we’ll get to market. Obviously we have a timeline, but there are always diversions from that. Ideally, we’d be hoping to do it between 2023 and 2025 if things go according to plan.”

Dr Agro said the recent financing round should give the company enough to get them through to the Phase III programme. He added that while there were no definite plans to float, it was something that was under serious consideration. “We’ll look at how we progress and take it from there,” he said.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist