London Genetics: Bridging the Gap




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Video title: London Genetics: Bridging the Gap
Released on: March 01, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this exclusive interview, Fintan Walton talks to Professor Nick Lench, CEO of London Genetics, about the company’s vision to facilitate access for biotech and pharmaceutical companies to the wealth of genetic information and expertise at a number of London’s leading academic institutes. Nick discusses the company’s overall strategy, the services that it is providing and the benefits that a single point of access brings to London’s genetics community.
London Genetics's role and purposes.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures Business Review face to face here in London. On this show I have Nick Lench, CEO of London Genetics, welcome to the show.
Nick Lench:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Nick, London Genetics is an organization that's been set up relatively recently you are obviously the CEO of that organization could you tell us what London Genetics is all about and how it came about?
Nick Lench:
Yes. We are a new company we are formed in April of this year and we bring together London's leading research institutions. So our partners have signed up to the company it's the first time that these institutions have come together to collaborate in the field of genetics. So we have seven partners they are Imperial College, University College, King's College, Queen Mary, St. George's, The Institute of Cancer Research and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Fintan Walton:
That's amazing to pull so many people together into one organization that's a, feat in itself, so now that the organization is set up what is it's purpose, what are you what's the role of London Genetics?
Nick Lench:
Well our main aim is to give pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies access to the incredible range of resources and expertise across London. So clearly you know we have access to huge range of biomedical expertise to the medical schools and the teaching hospitals at London, so we offer companies really a single point of contact into London.
Expertise in genetics and aim of putting together research collborations.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So just to get this clear, so somebody or an organization whether it's a private or not or even another not for profit organization is trying to access genetic expertise let's call it in its broader sense in the London area one good place to go through is to London Genetics, is that correct?
Nick Lench:
Yes, because we have specialist knowledge in genetics. Our team are all trained in the molecular genetics we've also have industry experience, experience in the biotech sector, so I think we are incredibly well placed to understand the needs all of our customers, but also are able to talk to as for our internal customers and know exactly who the right people to go to.
Fintan Walton:
So you also commercialize intellectual property that's within these universities that are relevant to genetics?
Nick Lench:
Our role isn't to commercialize IP ourselves, we work very closely with the business development and tech transfer units of each of our partners, so they will take new IP and be responsible for commercializing that, however through the commercial through the research collaborations that we put in place novel IP will arise and then that will be taken on board to commercialize through the relevant offices in our partner institutions.
Fintan Walton:
So if we could sort of visualize that sort of make it clear what London Genetics is about, so for example if I was a large pharmaceutical company and I had some specific targets that I was trying to identify or I thought had identified and there was some expertise and knowledge within one of your research institutes they come to you presumably you provide them with access and then they could fund the specific piece of research or enter a collaboration with that pharmaceutical company?
Nick Lench:
Yes, yes. I mean our main aim is really is to put together research collaborations, so what you might call early stage discovery research.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Nick Lench:
And we are also well placed to as you say bring the relevant experts in that in any particular field to a customer as well so we can identify key opinion leaders for example who customers may wish to work with. In addition we believe that we can position ourselves very well in the biomarker, discovery and validation area. So we can offer access to a huge range of clinical cohorts well validated the large amounts of associated data particularly there may be cohorts who are this associates at drug response stage as well, so we are the seeing the companies very interested in accessing that expertise. So I think we are actually uniquely placed.
Funding through LDA, Focus on human healthcare and diagnostics.
Fintan Walton:
So why did this compared that the universities themselves feel that they where - they are basically effectively competing with each other all the time and there wasn't one voice or you know why what was the driver for creating that genetics?
Nick Lench:
That's certainly one of the main drivers, also we are funded through the London Development Agency. So there was a big portion of LDA to really bring together they recognize expertise in London but more historically there is lot of competition between these large institutions understandably and this was really an attempt by the LDA to bring everybody together and say look there is an opportunity here to really, really put London on the map and to compete on the world stage with centres such as Boston, San Francisco, Singapore so it's really about competing internationally.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And the other thing of course as we know genetics in it as a term is a very broad area, does that include things like AgBio, does it include diagnostics what does it include?
Nick Lench:
Yes. What we our main focus is human healthcare and that's not to say that we aren't interested in associated areas such micro biology and virology but principally we are focused on human healthcare. But we will cover very broad range of activities of everything from discovery research through to diagnostics so we are interested in developing new, identifying developing new DNA markers that can be used for example as companion diagnostics, we are interested in the whole field of pharmacogenetics, we are interested in how genetics can add value to the whole drug discovery process. And I think the shift in big pharma these days is to be able to perform clinical trials more quickly, more cost effectively and I think that's where genetics can play a very significant role.
London Genetics's expertise, mission and the ways of attracting companies.
Fintan Walton:
Right. And clearly one can understand that some of the talent and assets are the people, but what else is there other things like cell banks and other tangibles that London Genetics has access to that, that will make that attractive to companies to come down?
Nick Lench:
Yes, yes exactly. So London the academic and clinic base of London within that there are some amazing bio banks, tissue banks, clinical cohorts across the all therapeutic areas. So you know we have large cohorts of for example you know breast cancer and diabetes there is a twin Cohort Study based in ST. Thomas's hospital and all these are absolutely astonishing resources that clearly can have huge value and can help the whole drug discovery, drug validation process.
Fintan Walton:
So London Genetics itself is there as a non-profit organization so it's mission is not to become a company which is going to generate profits and revenues in the future obviously it wants it wants to have some cash flow going through, but it doesn't have a it's not setting out to become a independent company that will possibly be floated on the London Stock Exchange though looking out there?
Nick Lench:
No that's certainly not the intention at the moment, I mean we are looking to recover our operating costs to be able to be self sustaining and the added value that we can bring to the partners is, is why our members important to the companies you know it's making the connections across London, it's bringing better deals into the partners and it's also creating a genetics community for the academic for the academic base in London as well.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So it's been going for six months...
Nick Lench:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
and so how is it going?
Nick Lench:
Yes, now it's going very well, we have lot of interests. I think a lot of customers are seeing the advantage, the time and cost saving of using us a single point contact into London clearly very interested in the clinical expertise and the clinical resources that's are available. We've already worked with a number of companies and we are really helping to validate products for those.
Fintan Walton:
So you are actually entering into contracts right now?
Nick Lench:
That's right. Yes, yes and....
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Any of those you can publically announce or it's just a...?
Nick Lench:
We had a press release recently last month focusing what we've did with Oxford Gene Technology. This was looking at the validation of some micro rays that they've developed particularly looking at in a clinical genetic setting looking to validate markers that define development delay and mental retardation in patients.
London Genetics's Future plans and it's services.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. And so what do you see going into the future for London Genetics? What do you envisage happening let's say over the next three-years?
Nick Lench:
I would like to see us become you know the first protocol for companies when they think about London, when they think genetic based projects and collaborations that I'd like them to think of us first, that we can provide the first class service, the professional service that people want to use and clearly know that we are extremely well connected across the whole of London.
Fintan Walton:
So what event would you like to see that would make you feel that you are proud of what you've just done?
Nick Lench:
Well clearly a good deal flow is always very important. And I think a good range of deals as well, so not just working with you know we have worked with big pharma and biotech and with small companies with technology developers, technology providers. So we're very interested in working with platform technology companies as well, because I think there is an opportunity there for our scientists to help you know develop and validate the new technologies as they come on board.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well Nick Lench, thank you very much indeed for coming along to our show and for us to learn more about London Genetics.
Nick Lench:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Thank you very much indeed.
Nick Lench
CEO
Nick Lench has extensive experience of knowledge and technology transfer, genetics research in academia and industry, research strategy development, intellectual property management, partnering and licensing. Before joining London Genetics, he was Professor of Medical Genetics at Cardiff University and Director of the Wales Gene Park. Between 1999 and 2003, Nick was Programme Director for Inflammation Biology and Discovery Genetics at Oxagen.
London Genetics Limited
London Genetics Limited is a commercial company created to facilitate and manage partnerships between the healthcare industry and London centres of excellence in genetics and genomics-based medical research. It uses a multicentre approach through a consortium of leading London research institutions that includes: Imperial College London, The Institute of Cancer Research, King's College London, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, St. George's, University of London and University College London. The company is funded by the London Development Agency.