Novo Nordisk: Tomas Landh elaborates on their quest to find new innovative therapies and new targets for treating diabetes




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Video title: Novo Nordisk: Tomas Landh elaborates on their quest to find new innovative therapies and new targets for treating diabetes
Released on: December 07, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Tomas Landh, Director Strategy and Sourcing of Novo Nordisk.
Tomas Landh's functions as Director of Strategy and Sourcing
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPharm America, in Boston. On this show I have Tomas Landh, who is Director of Strategy and Sourcing at Novo Nordisk based in Denmark, welcome.
Tomas Landh:
Thank you very much it's a pleasure to be here.
Fintan Walton:
It's pleasure to have you and to talk a little bit about your work at Novo Nordisk, obviously Novo Nordisk is a very famous company specifically in the area of diabetes it's one of its key areas of activity, first of all tell us where do you fit within the Novo Nordisk organization and what is your function?
Tomas Landh:
So my function is primarily to scout new opportunities, therapeutic opportunities for Novo Nordisk Diabetes Research Unit, basic opening in [Indiscernable 00.00.59] where we have the majority of our R&D activities globally and I am also very much involved in new strategic initiatives increasing the awareness of what we are looking for external partnership.
Novo Nordisk's programs to resolve hurdles in diabetes treatment
Fintan Walton:
Okay, now obviously the area of diabetes it's the insulin obviously is a very important part of the story of treating diabetes, so from your perspective what are you looking for? Where are the problems still in the treatment of diabetes and where are you placed in trying to resolve those particular issues, because it's not all perfect in the diabetes world?
Tomas Landh:
You are certainly right, there is lot we can improve, but we are very happy with the products on the market, I think that's very important. We look at them as being very safe and very adherent, so however everything can be improved we work with new devices, we scout new everything from need and technologies to new elements of our devices that can increase compliance and adherence to the therapy, we are also embarked in a very large program at Novo Nordisk trying to overcome the hurdles for oral delivery of polypeptides and I am very proud of those programs since undertaking that we've done now for a number of years, it involves several partners around the world I would say, and that would of course be a life style change for many of the diabetes if we could achieve those it's still very early days. So I am, but we are holding our thumbs for the patients that these programs will go all the way out.
Oral insulin and overcoming Compliance issues
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so let's just look at that so the first part that you've mentioned and I suppose it relates to the second part is there still this issue of compliance as you say you've got very effective drugs obviously replacement insulin and so forth, but there is still a compliance issue that patients face?
Tomas Landh:
Yes there is and that's quite well known in the literature and well researched, compliance is different from patient population to patient population, regional differences as well, but we are well aware of what type of non-compliances issues there are, for an example change of needles every time and there are others who's that can we believe can be resolved by an oral alternative to the injectables today. Needle phobia is an issue in a smaller population, patient population that of course is obvious one that we would solve within oral glucagon like polypeptide, or insulin for that matter.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so there is still room for new drug delivery methods for specifically delivering insulin?
Tomas Landh:
Absolutely. This is that what we've been doing for the last 85-years we will say, for an example the pen injector we pioneered that already 1985 so and that changed the treatment very much and made it so much easy for patients to adhere. So we continuing in that legacy and trying to improve patient compliance and therapeutic outcome good.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and then obviously the extension of that is oral insulin itself?
Tomas Landh:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
And that's specifically is to try and overcome these compliance issues?
Tomas Landh:
Yes there are also potential added medical benefits with an oral insulin to make it liver specific I assume well aware of when we think it goes to the liver first and hopefully an oral insulin could add on having some therapeutic benefits as well.
Initiatives for finding new innovative therapies and targets
Fintan Walton:
Right, so then comes in the other component to this is which are new molecules, new discoveries that you that could presumably compliment the treatment with insulin, so could you tell us little bit more about those activities?
Tomas Landh:
That's very important activities that we have and would rely a lot on external innovation in that area and number of new targets that are in my mind underexplored and then I am absolutely convinced that there are many yet to be discovered. So new targets for protein therapeutics is obvious, new GPCR receptors are discovered I wouldn't say in a monthly basis but there are plenty of them and some are definitely active in the metabolic space and control of energy expenditures et cetera, areas that we are investigating as we speak. In order to really grasp that whole area we are trying to reach out much more effectively to that research community in particular in the US and Canada where there is this legacy of innovation in diabetes and for that we've taken a number of initiatives like the diabetes innovation program that we just launched in April and that is to really seek out those ideas, early exploration awards, seek out those professors that have ideas but no funding to find new innovative therapies and new targets in for treating diabetes. We also have one award which is a proof of principle award where we really looking for a little bit more data and helping them translating into non-clinical proof of principal standards more effectively, so both very early exploration program award and one which is more directed towards proof of principle.
Fintan Walton:
And the reason for that obviously there you are looking for that technology, but is that also reflective of the fact that there is less funding available for start-up companies and for people spinning out companies out of universities?
Tomas Landh:
Always yes, it does reflect that, we also see in diabetes space we see that lot of the venture capitalist are running away from that areas.
Fintan Walton:
Why?
Tomas Landh:
It's very large investments upfront as you know that there are regulatory, the regulatory environment is really not allowing us to do any shortcuts in this it shouldn't of course, but that makes it very expensive early on in the clinical development and that scares venture capitalist away from it. That's the trend that we can't verify in number today but we hear it at all these conferences, at partnering conferences that is echoing unfortunately that message. And we also see that there are very few exploratory programs research awards and grants available for professors to seek, so that is a gap that we try to fill, we are convinced that there are a lot of and yet to be discovered targets and new protein therapeutics for treating diabetes.
Obesity and pre-diabetes research programs
Fintan Walton:
Right, now obviously you've mentioned obesity as well which is obviously is associated with diabetes and obviously there is a trend in the growth of obesity around the world as people eat more and food is more available, so does Novo Nordisk's research now expand more into the control of obesity itself at an intervention level?
Tomas Landh:
Yes intervention for pre-diabetes, yes. So we look up on our obesity research programs and there are also clinical development programs being a part and perhaps an extension of our diabetes programs, we are not looking at a standard alone you know weight loss treatment that's not our aim. Our aim is clearly a pre-diabetic in the sense of weight loss of course and control of energy, expenditure et cetera, but with a benefit for decreasing diabetes.
Support for basic research
Fintan Walton:
Right, now the other obvious area that research is going into is other interventions in terms of diabetes, in other words things like regenerative medicines, stem cells and obviously transplantation, where does Novo Nordisk fit in relation to that sort of science and activity?
Tomas Landh:
So we do basic research and we support basic research and we also have partnerships for basic research in that area. Our aim is to eventually cure a diabetes and we would be the very happiest if we ever could do that, but we do not have any development programs in it yet nothing has turned out to be in our view, in our portfolio as successful applicant turn it into in the clinical development yet, but our basic research efforts they would stand.
Tomas Landh's perspective: Future development in diabetes science
Fintan Walton:
Right, so with the research programs that you are performing the types of technologies or types of new approaches to treatment of diabetes, where do you see the science now going into the future, I mean what hopes can diabetes have from the fruits of your work and research?
Tomas Landh:
I think we have under-estimated the complexity of the [Indiscernable 00.11.40] themselves, we have under-estimated the importance of the communication between the alpha and beta cells and in the [Indiscernable 00.11.50] we I think that it holds great future to look into beta cell regeneration, beta cell not only regeneration but also prevention of beta cell death, so this is the areas where we do a lot of research and try to understand all the biochemistry and the molecular biology there it's extremely complex and we're certainly not alone there and we looking for partnerships in that area, we know many are this are active in that area but that would be the ultimate goal is to really preserve beta-cell mass and perhaps even increase beta-cell mass over time.
Investments and programs in China
Fintan Walton:
Okay, now just one other thing that I want to cover is that Novo Nordisk made an investment into doing research and development work in China probably the first company is really to go in there, what is your experience there and you know has that been a worthwhile investment?
Tomas Landh:
So that R&D side definitely yes, it focus very much on protein technologies in the beginning expression technologies now it's expanded into also cover diabetes research in Beijing, we were very happy to see that is prosperous, we the skill and workforce in Beijing and China is excellent so has many possibilities there. From a scouting perspective of course we are still looking for the great innovation capacity that we think that China really has with that number of PhD output every year it got to change things in the future, and as a matter of fact I received my first new biological entity which I looked upon as being novel from a biotech company as an opportunity unsolicited opportunity sent to Novo Nordisk in diabetes space, so that is early and it's only one but is the sign of that true innovation does take place in China also in this complex area of diabetes. So we think it's worthwhile to invest and we will continue participating in all the partnering events in China as many as where we ever can and sponsor them as well and we'll also do visits to PI's and visit universities and academic institutions to bring, to build networks really and we also do support professorships, postdocs in China offering Beijing, Peking University and Fudan University and we also have the programs with Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences and the professorship with the CAST-the Chinese Academic of Sciences, so we do a lot of efforts in China and we think it's a very important market for innovation in diabetes.
Fintan Walton:
Tomas Landh, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Tomas Landh:
Thank you very much it's my pleasure being here.
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).
Tomas Landh
Officer
Tomas Landh is presently Director (Strategy and Sourcing) at Novo Nordisk, Diabetes Research Unit, where he is responsible for scouting and evaluation of in particular, protein therapeutics and new drug delivery technologies. Tomas is also deeply involved in fostering partnerships with academia and biotech industries and in strategic initiatives with the Diabetes Research Unit.
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.
Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 87 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. The company also has leading positions within haemophilia care, growth hormone therapy and hormone replacement therapy. Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk employs approximately 30,000 employees in 76 countries, and markets its products in 179 countries. Novo Nordisk's B shares are listed on NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen (Novo-B). Its ADRs are listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NVO).