David de Graaf:Selventa, Biomarker Discovery for Personalized Healthcare




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Video title: David de Graaf:Selventa, Biomarker Discovery for Personalized Healthcare
Released on: October 22, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at BioPharm America in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to David de Graaf, CEO of Selventa
Origin of Selvata's business strategy
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America, in Boston in 2012. On this show I have David de Graaf, who is CEO of a company called Selventa, a local company based in Cambridge, welcome.
David de Graaf:
Yes. Thank you, thank you for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Pleasure. Now David, tell us about Selventa? Where the origins of that business come from?
David de Graaf:
So Selventa is a business that really came out of the genomics revolution. I am actually geneticist by training and at that point I was at the Whitehead Institute also a local institution working on sequencing the human genome and as we were generating data we were starting to get extremely frustrated with what to do with all of this information, to some degree it was the advent of big data, and Selventa as a company grew up around technology to interpret large amounts of genomic, genetic, metabolomic, proteomic information, gene expression information and try to understand what the underlying mechanisms are that drive a particular phenotype, a particular disease, or a particular drug response.
Fintan Walton:
So that is what a software based analytical system?
David de Graaf:
It is a software based analytical platform, it's an expert system and we have the best scientists in the world to go make use of it.
Molecular analysis and personalized medicine
Fintan Walton:
Right, so it's always good to analyze things, but you have to draw conclusions from your analysis?
David de Graaf:
That's absolutely true.
Fintan Walton:
So how do you do that?
David de Graaf:
So we have actually, so the business is now about 10-years old and about two and a half years ago we came to the moment of truth where we had to go and look at what we've done with about five, six different pharmaceutical partners in almost 60 projects and say where have we really produced value for our partners, where we have we help them make a decision that made a difference. And we looked at one very specific program with one partner where we've been able to understand what the consequences were of signaling for a very specific drug targets, why some people who are responding to that particular drug and others weren't and we were able to profile individual patients and understand at the mechanistic level like some people were going to respond to a given drug and others weren't, and in fact we followed up with a biomarker that we discovered a panel of five proteins and we were able to double the success rate in a following clinical trial for this particular pharmaceutical company, and we said the concept of actually understanding to have a dashboard of what goes on at the molecular level in a patient is something that's very powerful. So we went into the space of personalized healthcare of precision medicine and we said we can contribute here a deeper insight into particular diseases, we also felt that we needed to focus in terms of disease area, so many people go broad and with an analytic process like ours in principle we can tackle any disease, but we realize that a big part of what we contribute is not just our analytical platform, which we think is outstanding and world leading, but also the ability to learn from what we've done in the past and to bring some expertise to the table. Given history of the company, and given our personal background and our belief that personalized healthcare is going to go broader than oncology, we focused a business on certain aspects of oncology and on autoimmune diseases. We've started to develop more and more expertise over the last two-years in partnership with about 10 new pharmaceutical partners in the area of autoimmune disease.
Overview of biomarker discovery and development
Fintan Walton:
So are you actually at biomarker discovery company?
David de Graaf:
We are a biomarker discovery company that enables personalized healthcare. The types of biomarkers that we are discovering are predictive biomarkers, so these are biomarkers that tell you whether a given patient is likely to respond to a very specific drug intervention and that's what we bring to the table.
Fintan Walton:
So in the end then your partnerships with your pharmaceutical partners is around very specific drug programs, their clinical programs that they are developing now which, where they are still looking for an appropriate biomarker?
David de Graaf:
That is, so that is correct, so when we again, when we.
Fintan Walton:
Or additional biomarkers?
David de Graaf:
So very often and there is absolutely no reason to stratify patients and to understand who responds because ultimately our partners get paid for selling pills and not necessarily having an objective response in individual patients, but in a variety of circumstances having the ability to tell which patients will respond are clearly market expanding. So let me give you an example, if in a particular area there is a standard of care that's very strong but it doesn't give a complete response, which is true and virtually every single area and you have a second or third line therapy very often you have to wait for patients to fail on standard of care depending what disease areas, for example a disease like rheumatoid arthritis that can take between one and two-years and during that period of time the patient is not getting effective treatment, they are not benefiting , they are progressing, they have increased healthcare costs with payers, which payers are obviously worrying about and if you have a second or third line therapy that could help those patients you would love to be there one or two-years earlier. So we help pharma understand who those patients are that won't respond to standard of care and help them enter that market more quickly then waiting for these patients to progress and to worsen.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so in the end you have this analytical platform that you've described, does that expertise then obviously move into wet lab actual scientists working at the bench as well as, or you just stick purely to?
David de Graaf:
So we actually looked at this particular space, and you are right there are different aspects to this. So the first one is they need to have patient data and very often you need to have response to a specific drug as well so that you can develop that biomarker that you discovered. You also need a lab, a clear lab that can go and implement an assay like that, now putting all of that together is important but what we've seen is that the lab space and the ability to develop, to develop biomarker assays is being commoditized and with the advent of CRO's the ability to generate patient data is also highly commoditized, so we feel we can bring our partnership with people in both of those spaces to the table for our partners on the other side. The pharmas very often already have their own patient data and they don't want us to go and generate more, they want to go and use what they have right there and similarly they may already have made investments in specific platforms for biomarker discovery or for diagnostics development and again what we provide is that unique bit in the middle that helps them to analyze those patients data and very quickly move to an implemented biomarker.
Key models of commercialization
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so what's the commercial model?
David de Graaf:
So the commercial model is actually
Fintan Walton:
How do you make money?
David de Graaf:
Is broad, so we are experts in personalized healthcare in autoimmune diseases, and in angiogenesis in oncology, and what we do is there actually we provide partnerships as well as providing services. So there is a service model where you can come and engage with us and essentially based on a fee-for-service based model go and use our scientists to understand a particular area. We also discover and co-develop companion diagnostics and we have a couple of exciting deals that are either in the pipeline or of just happened where we are starting to develop companion diagnostics in that space. The third model that we use is actually where we start to develop some of our own biomarker IP and we are focusing there specifically on rheumatoid arthritis and crohn's disease and helping physicians and patients identify who will not respond to standard of care so that they can quickly go on a therapy that will help them, and all three models generate revenue for us.
Future prospects of Selventa
Fintan Walton:
And ultimately then going to the future you know what is your, what sort of company do you want to be in the future?
David de Graaf:
So interestingly this week some very nice things came together for us and it's always good to be able to speak to you right when those moments happen. So hopefully very soon we'll be able to publically announce a partnership with a major pharma to help them identify which RA patients benefit from a specific class of drugs called Anti-TNF, well and this particular company is interesting in expanding that market, understanding which patients will respond and help them gain a piece of that market and we see that as key to what Selventa can contribute in this particular area. There are many, many follow-up classes outside of RA, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's that we are tackling as well, and we are developing partnerships in lupus, and multiple sclerosiss as well where we are helping people to do the exact same thing identify which patients will most benefit from their particular therapy. So where we want Selventa to be is we want to be the premier predictive biomarker company that can help people identify the right biomarkers so that they can get their drugs to the patients who will benefit.
Fintan Walton:
David, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
David de Graaf:
Thank you for having me.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
David de Graaf
President and Chief Executive Officer
At the time of this PTV interview David de Graaf serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Selventa. Dr. David de Graaf joined Selventa in 2010 to define the company's scientific strategy, direction and general operations. Additionally, he is responsible for developing key partnerships that will enhance the company's significance. Previously, Dr. de Graaf served as the Vice President of Biotherapeutics and Integrative Biology at Boehringer-Ingelheim, where he built a successful portfolio of clinical candidates, initiated key collaborations as well as managed scientific leadership and site operations. He also held roles with increasing responsibilities at Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research with a focus on bringing innovative systems biology approaches to the early pipeline. Dr. de Graaf completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel in pharmacogenomics of human olfactory systems. He also earned a Ph.D. in mammalian genetics from The University of Illinois at Chicago and a Masters of Science degree in evolutionary genetics from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. He was awarded a Feinberg Fellowship and is invited frequently to speak at scientific conferences.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence &expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialization.
Selventa
Selventa is a biomarker discovery company that enables personalized healthcare. The Company focuses on discovering and co-developing mechanism-based biomarker panels for patient stratification in the areas of autoimmune disorders and oncology. The goal is to co-develop drug specific molecular diagnostic tests (companion diagnostic) or a multi-mechanism based advanced molecular diagnostic test (therapeuticdiagnostic) that predicts response or non-response to a specific drug or class of drugs. With 10 years of accumulated experience and results, the Selventa Discovery Platform leverages molecular patient data to discover biomarkers, a priori, to stratify patients by response to specific therapeutic interventions. Prior to knowing the response to an intervention or therapy, patients can be stratified by the disease mechanism. Each mechanism can then be paired with an appropriate drug or drug class to maximize efficacy. In partnership with pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, these putative biomarkers are further developed into a diagnostic test and qualified through clinical testing.