AstraZeneca: Morten Faester & Magnus Bjorsne. Tackling Diabetes from a more holistic perspective




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Video title: AstraZeneca: Morten Faester & Magnus Bjorsne. Tackling Diabetes from a more holistic perspective
Released on: May 08, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at BioEurope Spring 2013, in Barcelona, Spain, Fintan Walton talks to Morten Faester & Magnus Bjorsne, Business Development Director, SPBD, CVGI at AstraZeneca.
Significance of alliance with BMS and acquisition of Amylin
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioEurope Spring, 2013, in Barcelona. On this show I have Morten Faester and Magnus Bjorsne both from AstraZeneca, welcome.
Morten Faester :
Thank you.
Magnus Bjorsne :
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
We are here to talk about AstraZeneca's interest in the area of diabetes , so my first question really Morten is I mean obviously your alliance with BMS and particularly with the angle of Amylin [PharmaDeals ID = 47571] coming into the framework, it's been an important landmark for AstraZeneca, so how does that play into the overall strategy for AstraZeneca in the area of diabetes?
Morten Faester :
Now diabetes is certainly considered to be a strategic focus area for AstraZeneca going forward. AstraZeneca is already a significant diabetes player with several products in the market, but thanks to our alliance with BMS and the recent Amylin acquisition as you mentioned that has reinforced AstraZeneca's commitment to the diabetes space. We already at this time probably have the most versatile portfolio of products in the industry, our portfolio comprises both small and large molecule products, we have DPP-4's, we have SGL T2's, we have GLP-1's, I don't think anybody else in the industry has got such a wide range of diabetes products as we speak, but we are certainly looking for more.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so I suppose Magnus the question for you, you know Morten just described this significant portfolio that you have, obviously the alliance with BMS and the Amylin angle to that has put you into strong play, I suppose the challenge in diabetes is not only diabetes itself but also all the various symptoms?
Magnus Bjorsne :
I think you are spot on, I mean diabetes is an utterly complex disease, I mean you have diabetes itself but you also have the whole area of diabetes complications that we all know follow and eventually you have the whole cascade of CV disease that comes as a consequence of diabetes, so I think if we look back on our heritage in cardiovascular disease where AstraZeneca has been a major player for decades, I think that background together with our present focus on both diabetes atherosclerotic disease and obesity puts us in a really strong position to tackle the disease from a more holistic perspective and I think that's what ultimately the patients and the physicians are looking for, so I am positive about the future.
AstraZeneca's strengths in diabetes area
Fintan Walton:
Right, of course Morten for you there are lot of companies interested in diabetes, some of them have you know been in that game for a very long time, so how do you ensure that AstraZeneca is ultimately the partner of choice, because obviously you know some of these innovations are going to come from outside, what makes AstraZeneca different, why should somebody think about AstraZeneca to partner say versus some of your potential competitors?
Morten Faester :
Now you are very right, for about 50, or 60, or 70-years diabetes treatments basically was limited to the insulin which was developed in the 1920's and perhaps in the 1950's I guess the metformins were added, but then up until the late 1990's not too many new diabetes treatments were actually brought to the market, during this past decade AstraZeneca has actually been on the forefront of bringing new diabetes medicines to the market, both the DPP-4, the SGL T2's, the GLP-1's and we are certainly we have a pipeline of additional products in late stage clinical phase as a matter of fact as we speak. We are constantly looking for more, yes, but we have a stated goal of becoming a top three diabetes player during the next five-years, that position of course was up and till now perhaps dominated by the likes of Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi with their insulin's, but diabetes treatment nowadays is so much more than insulin only.
Potential opportunities in diabetes landscape
Fintan Walton:
Right, and I suppose that's the question for you Magnus, because one of the approaches to diabetes is regenerative medicine, in other words the area of diabetes itself is open to a number of a different approaches not just simply pills et cetera, or even injectables, so in that landscape, one when looks forward into the landscape of potential opportunities, is AstraZeneca prepared to get, how close is it prepared to get to the really true innovative disruptive type of approaches?
Magnus Bjorsne :
I think there is a lot of ongoing studies, I mean here, to give some examples here, you have the area of bariatric surgery which I think we know and it has been evident that it really impacts Type II diabetes in a quite surprising way and I think those insights will lead to new insights into the pathophysiology which will allow for different approaches to tackle diabetes and on top of that you have some quite significant clinical studies ongoing like the JDRF and IMI studies and there are others which I also think will add to our understanding of the disease initiation, disease progression and how to monitor the efficacy and safety of various therapies, and I think taking all these together will allow us to move earlier in disease progression, I mean today most therapies they come in really late, I mean beside formin which has been around since the 50's, there is not a lot of focus on the early stages of disease and that's where you really want to tackle it, and I think taking all these initiatives together and you mentioned regenerative medicine as one of those I think that's where diabetes research is heading and I think it becomes more holistic and more early, so I think there is a lot of promise with respect to ongoing studies and the insights we'll get with respect to how the disease actually works, because it's very complex.
Strategy in diagnostics
Fintan Walton:
Right, and I suppose Morten it comes back into the commercial strategy, because obviously as the disease progresses there are a number of symptoms that appear in the patient, and obviously diagnosis is an important element to that, may be early days yet but how close would AstraZeneca get to the diagnosis, the diagnostic elements of the disease and it's progression?
Morten Faester :
It's a known fact that there is indeed still a huge unmet medical need and it's also a known fact that much of the compliance is very limited due to the cumbersome application methods with the self-injectables and et cetera, so like Magnus was saying AstraZeneca is focusing more on the early onset, so we are looking at pancreatic islet's, we are looking at beta cell preservation in order to be able to tackle the disease earlier more so than just treat late stage symptoms. So in collaboration with BMS and thanks to the Amylin acquisition we now have access to a huge pool of various sophisticated diabetes researchers from not least from the Amylin acquisition we've made and that's where a lot of those research takes place.
Fintan Walton:
Sure and indeed.
Magnus Bjorsne :
I think on diagnostics, I think we are not the diagnostic company per say, but as you elude to I think monitoring the disease is a key component of the efficient treatment and in that sense we are into diagnostics, but again as Morten says here when we move earlier into where we choose to intervene with the disease I don't think yet there are as many diagnostics as is needed, so it is an area we monitor, but we do it as a companion diagnostics basically not diagnostic per say.
Fintan Walton:
Yes, sure.
Morten Faester :
I might even suggest that that diabetes treatments of the future might look rather different from say the traditional a pill or the traditional injection of insulin in the past, I could foresee that we will see players that we hardly even know in the field today that could be the Microsoft's, or the Qualcomm's, or the Google's, or what not to insure that glucose monitoring is taken more care of and the companion diagnostics as is already said as the thing of the future in diabetes treatment, however this of course primarily applies to the western world, one should keep in mind that the diabetes epidemic of course unfortunately to a large extent is taking place in low and middle income countries. If I not mistaken 80% of the patients identified actually are in emerging markets, that's of course a great commercial opportunity, but perhaps not for the sophisticated diagnostics that we are just talking about.
Role and interests of VC's
Fintan Walton:
Sure. Magnus, one of your roles is close liaison with venture capital, organizations, firms and so forth, where is the appetite, is there a sustainable appetite amongst VC's for this particular area, in other words can you be sure that there is a sufficient interest amongst VC's to back the firms that ultimately will provide you with the late stage products that you would ultimately like to get?
Magnus Bjorsne :
I think this it's a very, very important question, we are part of an ecosystem where academia, biotech's, early start-up's, VC's, bigger corporations and patient organizations they all interplay, and I think to go directly to your question I am a bit worried about the extent by which venture capital has what it takes today to go into diabetes, because it's a very costly area especially when you come into late stage development. I think if you look on the recent funds that has been set up in 2011 and 12 there is one thing they all have in common and it is short time to exit and lower risk because that's the demands of the limited partners, so I think we see a downward trend in the degree of investment that takes place in those types of diseases, it's not only diabetes but disease that is costly to deal with and here is where I think big pharma needs to step up or step-in in different directions rather to find alternative ways to really reach the funding gap that exist, so it worries me, but that said if you are successful in this area it's a huge benefit for everyone in the world, so.
Fintan Walton:
So the demands of the commercial strategy, how you work with other organizations, third party organizations whether this VC's or other biotech's and the models that you develop Morten are going to be incredibly important?
Morten Faester :
I think we will see more open innovation, we will see more peer-to-peer collaboration. Diabetes therapy development is basically has become prohibitive to smaller organization, that is limited to say almost only half a dozen of big pharma companies, but the magnitude of the diabetes challenge is so big I guess that we will need a collaboration both between public interests whether it's NIH in the USA, whether it is the big pharma companies, of course changing life styles with whatever incentives to change life styles, obesity drugs, but it's definitely not a game for the small players, and I think recent research also shows that there is less and less venture capital going into biotech's with focus on diabetes, the interesting part is also that there apparently turns out to be less and less patent applications, and less and less abstract and article publications in the diabetes space which is kind of contradictory to the extent of the patient prevalences.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, well obviously there is big challenges there in the future for diabetes, and it's good to see that AstraZeneca is going up for that, that challenge. Thank you very much indeed Morten and Magnus for coming on the show.
Magnus Bjorsne :
Thank you.
Morten Faester :
Thanks.
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).
Morten Faester
Chairman
At the time of this PTV interview, Professor Morten Faester serves as Director, Business Development at AstraZeneca. His past positions include Lifescience Ambassador at LifeSciencesBC, Vancouver, Snr. Dir. Licensing (Business Development) at Nycomed Pharma and Export Manager at Ferrosan A/S.
Magnus Bjorsne
CEO
Magnus Bjorsne serves as Business Development Director & VC Liaison ,Cardiovascular and Gastrointestinal Strategic Partnering & Business Development at AstraZeneca. Dr Bjorsne graduated at the University of Lund in 1989 and took his post graduate studies at Stockholm University where he did his PhD on Medicinal Chemistry targeting the HIV protease enzyme. Dr Bjorsne joined Astra Hassle in 1995 and worked in the area of atrial fibrilation. From his period in this field Dr. Bjorsne is the inventor of a series of compounds which have advanced to phase 2 clinical trials. After holding a series of managerial positions within the Cardiovascular Discovery Research Management, Dr Bjorsne joined the Business Development function of AstraZeneca in 2006. Besides his scientific merits, Dr Bjorsne holds an executive MBA from Henley Management College.
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 commercialisation.
AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation , autoimmune, oncology, infection, and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.
AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, oncology, infection, and neuroscience diseases. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide.