BIO Ventures for Global Health: Melinda Moree on Current Activity Within the Company




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Video title: BIO Ventures for Global Health: Melinda Moree on Current Activity Within the Company
Released on: August 31, 2010. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks with Melinda Moree, CEO at BIO Ventures for Global Health. Filmed at BioChicago 2010 in Chicago, USA, they discuss:

• The aims and functions of BVGH

• Strategy and priorities

• Current activity

• Parameters for success

• Future goals

The aims and functions of BVGH
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO International Convention. On this show I have Melinda Moree, who is CEO of BIO Ventures for Global Health , welcome to the show.
Melinda Moree:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
Melinda, your organization is a not-for-profit organization, could you tell us what your overall aims are and why the organization was set up in first place?
Melinda Moree:
Yes, well our goal is to speed up the development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected diseases and those are diseases that mostly the poor of the world suffer from, and the poor can't really afford to pay for them and so we have tremendous disease burden lots of people suffering from them, but we have very little product development going on because they can't afford to pay. So we are really here to try and find a place in the middle where we can help to speed the development of these new tools for the poorest of the world. We were set up actually out of the biotechnology industry organization where Carl Feldbaum was the head at that time, he is our Board Chair now, and he started looking around of what can we do in global health, here is a whole industry with enormous talent, ability, technology and it's not being applied to global health, so how do we change that situation and that's really why BIO Ventures for Global Health was started is to say what can the biotech industry do, how can they contribute to solving the world's greatest unmet medical needs.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so how do you operate then, those obviously your mission, but how do you operate? You operate as a venture fund or do you act as facilitators to enable that neglected technology to or that technology that can be target towards the neglecting diseases, how do you actually work?
Melinda Moree:
Yes, well we'd love to have a big part of money that we can just dole out to people and that would make things lot easier, and but since we don't have that what we really try and do is to catalyze interactions so to get people the expertise that they need they are helping it's to know about where the opportunities are, so companies are not usually looking for what can we do in Chagas' disease it's a Latin American disease, it's not a big commercial market, so we trying to make people aware of what the opportunities are and how they can contribute so that's one aspect of what we do, but then the other aspect there talked about is financing and that's a huge issue if you are a small company and you are not yet profitable how do you actually take part of your resources and work on something that's not gonna have a great commercial return for you, so part of what we work on very specifically are on incentives that would actually provide the funding and the resources to companies to be able to contribute their technology and expertise towards the diseases of the developing world. And so one example of that is a priority review voucher, it's a program through the US Food and Drug Administration where if a company licenses a product for a neglected disease then they get a voucher which they can use on any product that they work on and that will allow them in expedited review through the FDA. So this is an incentive that's worth perhaps 100's of millions of dollars depending on the particular drug that one would use it on, so we had a great (indiscernable) coming up with that but in really getting that into practice through the FDA, and there is one company Novartis that's been awarded one of those. So we really work on trying to put tangible incentives in place that answer the needs of the biotech industry and the pharma industry and reduce the barriers for them to get involved in these projects that really they can't justify based on a commercial basis.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so part of your effort then is really to try and convince organizations like the FDA to adopt such a schemes so that's one of your presumably one of your successes in doing that?
Melinda Moree:
Absolutely, and yesterday we had a Partnering for Global Health meeting here and we had the head of the US Patent and Trademark Office make a commitment that they would try and find a way to create incentives for neglected disease research. And so we absolutely intend to follow-up with their offer and to try and look in finding that how can we use the patent system to provide incentives, so it's both looking at financial incentives, but also anything that can be done to make it easier for companies to engage in this kind of war.
Strategy and priorities
Fintan Walton:
There are lots of neglected diseases worldwide, I mean priority must be an important component to your overall strategy, so how do you prioritize and how do you target to those neglected areas that you know in the end are likely to be overcome by some of the innovations and technologies that we see here at an organization and conference at BIO here in Chicago?
Melinda Moree:
Yes you know it's a really interesting question, but anyone of these diseases if we had them in the US there would be enormous investment in research and development because every single one in these diseases causes incredible mystery around the world so it's very hard to say one is more important than the other and so what we look for more are how do you match up the right opportunities, so you may take a company you may say tuberculosis causes the most deaths of these, but maybe there is a company whose technology is really much more aligned with doing something about malaria, and so it's also being opportunistic so yes you want to address the biggest health needs but all of these are enormous health needs, so working on anyone of them is going to be a benefit so it's really about finding the right opportunity and the right business model for a company of where they can make the most impact and trying to be a bit opportunistic, but still focusing on diseases that are important.
Fintan Walton:
So as I said you work with the FDA presumably you also have to work with organizations like the WHO and local governments in areas that are specifically affected by some of these neglected disease areas, so basically you are an organization that has to work with other often very larger organizations often that can be reasonably bureaucratic even though there are attempts to be efficient is always there I am sure at the top of their agenda, but so what skills do you bring to bear to overcome these big issues that you have to take on?
Melinda Moree:
Yes well I've spent my entire career working in global health and working with many of these organizations and the biggest thing is you just accept the limitations and don't try and make organizations what they aren't. And then you can do a lot of work even within the limitations that they impose, so part of the knowledge that we bring is knowledge of the World Health Organization, the regulatory systems in developing countries the decision makers, how are decisions made about where they spend their money and on which products, so we have that kind of expertise that we've built up over years we have access to market assessments that have been done largely by the public sector around malariavaccines, malaria drugs and so we try and put this information together so that you figure you know a typical biotech company that may be you know sitting somewhere in Chicago, how do they know what's going on in India or in Chad or in Ethiopia and so we try and bring that knowledge and expertise to bare so that they understand what the opportunity is and if there is an opportunity or not. If there is not thanks for listening, but if there is an opportunity there then we try and match them up with the pieces that they are going to be missing, where could they do clinical trials outside of the US? Who might have money that could help to offset the cost of their development? So that's really what we try and do, and also but from an understanding our Chief Operating Officer someone who spent his entire career in the biotech industry, so it's from the understanding of what do biotech companies need to be able to work in the space, so it's sort of combining both of these worlds knowing the global health world, but also knowing the biotech industry world and the pharma industry and being able to put the right matches together and bring the right kinds of knowledge and experience both ways that in the Global Health Community also understand more about the pharma and biotech industry.
Parameters of measuring success
Fintan Walton:
So Melinda one key thing is how do you measure your own success? How do you know that you are actually being effective? What sort of parameters do you use to measure your own success?
Melinda Moree:
Yes, that's a great question one that my board ask often and so that's a great thing about having venture capitalist and company CEO's on our board is that they are very result oriented and results driven. So obviously drug development and vaccine development is a long-term endeavor, so we can't just look at you know well were new drugs developed were new vaccines developed, and so what we really try to look at our how we catalyze partnerships that actually advance drug and vaccine development and if we create an incentive we track our people using that, is an incentivizing anyone, so the priority review voucher is now finding its way into a lot of different agreements between non-profits and companies about well how would we share revenue on that, so that lets us know that people are paying attention to that and so we track these efforts to say you know are the things are going to involved with are those products moving forward, and if they are not then are we doing something wrong or do we need to do something different. So it really does come down to our new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics being developed, but we have to look at indicators along the way you know are the things that we are involved with so they move into clinical trials and do they progress along the product development pathway, because ultimately that's what we are all looking for but it is hard when you are an organization that's catalyzing the work of others to figure out how to do that.
Future goals
Fintan Walton:
Right, so when you look at your position now you've described some of the initiatives you've taken on how do you see you know the next five-years, what things would you like to see your organization achieve in the next five-years?
Melinda Moree:
So the first priority actually as I told our team our second and third priority is really to create an incentive for research and development that's really focused at early stage development. And so you know the problem you have is that many of these companies are scrambling for cash and so to ask them to fund the money for an investment and a product that may not have a big pay off in the end, you could imagine the venture capitalist, their investors on the board what they have to say about that. So we are really looking to create an incentive, we've got the design done, we are looking on the analytical part of it, but then we also have to find the funding that would not only sort of reimburse the cost for those companies but were also give them a success fees, so if a company works on a new drug for Chagas' disease which is found in Latin America and they get to a pre-clinical milestone that they would receive a payment that would pay them for what it cost them to develop it but also then a success fee so they can actually book revenue and say to their board no actually we are making some money off of this and may not be the same commercial opportunity, but it's not hurting our company to work on this and there are the benefits of you know people feel good when they work on these diseases and that is never to be under estimated and in economy where everybody is fighting for talent, and people and companies want to be part of a vaccine that eradicated malaria, a TB drug that reduce the time of treatment from six months to a week, people want to be a part of that and that's critical for companies to be able to retain good talent.
Fintan Walton:
So in the end your relationship with a numbers of a huge numbers of organizations is important it's how you coordinate that and bring it all together, when you were taking a drug through a clinical development you know obviously you got to get through various stages of clinical trials, you've mentioned how some companies can be incentivized to do that, how close then do you get to local companies, you talk about diseases as a specific tool to South America for an example, do you expect then that these companies would take these particulars products forward on commercial basis or do you ultimately see these drugs being distributed to the neglected communities with these diseases through other not-for-profit organizations such as WHO and may be particular specialist charities that work in these particular areas?
Melinda Moree:
Yes, you know I think it's going to depend on the products. So since I've mentioned Chagas' disease several times one in the incentives that we'd like to see put forward is on that disease, and you know Brazil has amazing capabilities in research around Chagas' disease and also in production and so we'd really like to see an incentive put into place with the Brazilian government where it's actually Brazilian companies that are contributing and are you know anybody in the world can add innovation, but where this actually ends up helping Brazil both in addressing a really critical health problem but also in growing their pharmaceutical industry and as a driver of economic growth and development. I mean we think there are so many win-wins with this and but also for US biotech companies or European biotech companies it provides them a route to commercialization that right now they may not have you know it's harder and harder to get a deal with pharma, a public offering not very many of those, and so this is another way of being able to partner with a different set of actors and their emerging economies are they are putting money into research, they are putting money into translational medicine facilities, they are beefing up their pharmaceutical industries and they are open for partnering. And I think there is a lot of opportunity there, because they have these diseases, they can't ignore them, it's important to the health of their populations, so there is some natural opportunities here that I think the small companies and there are some of them that are out there working in emerging economies that they're gonna realize that if they put this package together it's gonna, they are going to be the winners of the future and I think that's the way to go.
Fintan Walton:
Melinda Moree, it's a fantastic initiative that you've taken on, it's a great organization and we wish you all the best. Thank you very much for coming on the show.
Melinda Moree:
Thank you.
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).
Melinda Moree
CEO
Dr. Melinda Moree , Ph.D., was named Chief Executive Officer of BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) on December 30, 2009. She served as Interim CEO of BVGH from July - December 2009 and has been a member of the board of directors since the company's inception in 2004. Before joining BVGH, she was the Principal Investigator on the Malaria Policy Project conducted with the Center for Global Development, a member of the team evaluating the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and consulted with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. Until early 2007, Dr. Moree was the Director of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI). Prior to joining MVI, she was Manager of Advanced Research at EKOS Corporation and worked in technology transfer at the University of Washington School of Medicine. This work was preceded by an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Diplomacy fellowship at the United States Agency for International Development. During the fellowship Dr. Moree began her first work on public private partnerships for the development of technologies and diagnostics for the developing world. She received her Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology from the University of Maryland at Baltimore.
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.
BIO Ventures for Global Health
BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) is a non-profit organization that focuses on global health. It was founded in 2004, spun out from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the largest organization representing the biotechnology industry, academic institutions, and state biotechnology centers internationally. BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) mission is to save lives by accelerating the development of novel biotechnology-based drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to address the unmet medical needs of the developing world.