Victoria-based pharmaceutical firm reports loss, but sees bright future

Aurinia Pharmaceuticals’ last annual financial report before the approval and launch of its Lupkynis treatment for lupus nephritis showed a net loss of more than $102 million US in 2020.

That’s an increase from the $88.4-million US loss reported in fiscal 2019 by the Victoria-based company.

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The increased loss came despite a $50-million deal with Japanese pharmaceutical firm Otsuka Pharmaceutical, which gave the Asian firm the right to develop and market Lupkynis in Europe and Asia.

Aurinia also reported it had cash, cash equivalents and investments of $423 million US, an increase of $117 million compared with last year. In a statement, Aurinia said it has sufficient financial resources to fund its current plans, which include funding commercial launch, manufacturing and packaging of commercial drug supply and conducting research and development into at least 2023.

Chief executive Peter ­Greenleaf said the company made strategic investments last year to build its commercial team, make the deal with Otsuka and secure manufacturing capacity to meet future demand.

Lupkynis was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. Jan. 22.

Tests showed Aurina’s capsule, taken orally, was effective in treatment of kidney inflammation caused by the autoimmune disease lupus. Lupus nephritis, which affects about three million people worldwide, can lead to kidney damage, ­kidney failure and death.

“After just 30 days, we are pleased by the uptake of Lupkynis by the healthcare community and believe we are on track to meet our internal expectations,” said Greenleaf.

In a recent interview with the Times Colonist, company co-founder Michael Martin said Aurinia is confident it can meet the annual sales targets analysts have forecast — between $60 million and $80 million US.

Aurinia may now be in the market in the U.S., but the ­company intends to continue investing in its Canadian base.

Currently housed at the Vancouver Island Tech Park, Aurinia signed a lease for 20,000 square feet of space at the former Times Colonist building at 2621 Douglas St. That space is being renovated, and Aurinia expects to take up residence next year.

Staffing is expected to ramp up as well, with as many as 40 new positions in Victoria. Aurinia has 55 staff in Canada and about 200 U.S. staff, most at its Rockville, Maryland office. Another 10 are working around the world.

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