European Biotechnology Network: Claire Skentelbery explains why partnerships are now the key thing to deliver technologies

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Video title: European Biotechnology Network: Claire Skentelbery explains why partnerships are now the key thing to deliver technologies
Released on: November 16, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Paul Larsmon talks to Claire Skentelbery, Secretary General of European Biotechnology Network.
European Biotechnology Network's role and functions
Paul Larsmon :
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioPartnering Europe 2011, in London. With me is Claire Skentelbery, of the European Biotechnology Network. Claire, tell me what is the EBN?
Claire Skentelbery:
We are a cross sectoral biotechnology network that operates across all different organizations anywhere active in biotechnology, we're fairly unique in that. Europe is very good at fragmenting itself into representatives of different bits, different countries, different technologies but we've gone for the approach that everybody needs to work together at biotechnology so we represent health biotech, Ag-Bio industry, industrial, environmental and we work with all different organizations involved small companies, academic researchers, large companies anybody that is active in biotechnology.
Claire's perspective: Current state of European biotechnology industry
Paul Larsmon :
You're in a good position to have an overview then, I mean what's the state of European Biotechnology in these tough times?
Claire Skentelbery:
It's reaching relatively critical point I think financially within Europe, because for the last 20 or 25-years huge sums of money have been put into building of biotechnology sector and the emphasis has always been on generating economic return from biotechnology research, but I think Europe has been slow in generating that economic return than it needs to be and that's typified within the healthcare sector at the moment where you still have a lot of very early stage technologies on the boil but not really making it into clinical trials yet or making it through to a point where they're gonna start generating revenue and now that we have an economic crisis on our hands the point is now that return has stopped being generated, it can't be enough.
Paul Larsmon :
Or else there too many small biotech's?
Claire Skentelbery:
It could be europe, the finger has been pointed at Europe a lot of times to say there are too many, too early, too small biotechnology companies. I think there has been a lot of public money put into biotechnology and that's been slightly double-edged sword, on the good side it's managed to get a lot of technologies out of the lab and into commercial development, but on the weak side often the companies that have been created are slightly too small, slightly still to close to their founding organization and it's likely that they'll never actually grow to deliver a product or a technology. So I think Europe finds itself with a lot of small biotechnology companies, but we are not really sure which ones are actually going to reach the end of the delivery well in terms of a healthcare product.
New ways of partnerships and deals with big pharma( with examples)
Paul Larsmon :
Given the economic situation are companies looking at new ways of doing partnerships, new ways of getting deals together with big pharma for example?
Claire Skentelbery:
Definitely, the traditional model of how a biotechnology company founded and grew was founded, it came about when there was lots more money than there is now basically and so small companies expected to be launched, they expected to have some small local seed funding then a private VC would step in and give them a lots of money and they deliver a Phase II clinical trial to a large pharmaceutical company or even take it to market themselves. That model broke fairly quickly as people realized how expensive and how long-term biotechnology was in the healthcare sector and so companies run by incredibly entrepreneurial people you have to be in biotechnology, so of an entrepreneurial optimist and they are looking around lots of different ways to move products along their value chain basically so that they can actually get to the clinic, get to the market and that's put a lot of inventiveness into what they do. So partnerships are now the key thing to deliver technologies and it's working for to the advantage of both large and small parties, the small companies if they can't access private finance they need to access other resources to fund their pipeline and the large companies of course discovered that their pipelines are actually pretty empty now and urgently need to get new innovative technologies into them, so we are seeing rather than large sums of money changing hands now what we're seeing is research partnerships very strongly coming through for the small companies.
Paul Larsmon :
And here are few examples of what Claire is talking about.
Mark Treherne :
What was very helpful to us was we got this grant from the European Union which is known as the Framework 7 Program and this enabled us to collaborate with a lot of academic groups really cutting edge science across all of continental Europe and it enabled us then to take our compounds and test them in various model and move these compounds forward to as potential disease modifying therapies for Alzheimer's Disease.
Promethera Biosciences's partnership with UCB Pharma
Eric Halioua :
We have used in fact the money available in the well known region which means the French speaking part of Belgium to develop open innovation concept in fact we get access to a significance size of money to do R&D program in the consortium involving two academic partner, two to three academic partner and one industrial so UCB, we are working with UCB Pharma to develop one of our product to cell based assay to be a substitute of fully mature lymphocytes and so we get these money thanks to the one vision that in fact is the big help to for the development of this product and for organizations.
PolyTherics deal with Nuron Biotech
John Burt :
PolyTherics has such sub-specific conjugation technologies and in the past we just try to sell that as a technology, we increasingly recognized the need to bring product concepts to companies, so early this year we generated data with interferon beta and using our technology to create a longer acting form of interferon beta for Multiple Sclerosis . We struck a deal with Nuron Biotech [PharmaDeals ID = 40970] a US private biotech company to take forward that product concepts and we hope that'll be in the clinic within the next 12 to 18 months.
Novimmune's research deal with Genentech
Claire Skentelbery:
In the final example I would use is that Novimmune based in Switzerland which has just set up a research deal with Genentech [PharmaDeals ID = 36861] which is now part of Roche [PharmaDeals ID = 30853] and they work in a very specific field and they find that matches what Genentech and Roche is doing very well and they are working in parallel with each other as part of a big research deal. So without obtaining external venture capital for all of these companies they have found a way to fund their work to the next stage and I think that's going to become ever more critical in Europe as the sort of the sources of direct cash dry up.
EBN's non-financial support tools for small companies across Europe
Paul Larsmon :
And Claire you personally been involved in developing some additional ways of giving the small companies a hand?
Claire Skentelbery:
Yes with I think as private money dries up people are looking more and more to public funds, so through the funding hub we are able to bring companies together very specifically that they wouldn't have been able to access before, because traditionally for example if you look at the big framework funding program from the commission traditionally it's been very academically driven where in fact it's supposed to be funding for innovation and as we know innovation comes through small companies really, so we have the mission to essentially turn around how people use public funds is much more company driven than research driven, because the time is now to develop the economic return it's not in 10-years time now there is no time to do that anymore it has be now, but there are a number of other non-financial tools to make it easier as well. A great example I can give is the tools of science platform developed at a Stockholm Science City and its part of a big EC funded project that platform brings together research and it is all around Europe that are opening the doors for the first time for small companies to use, so were as before a company would have had, would never been able to afford to use a specialist facility now there is much better access into unique skills and technologies that small companies can use, so that's a great way of networking resources around Europe for better support for small companies.
Claire's perspective: European biotech over the next five years
Paul Larsmon :
Okay Claire, then looking into your crystal ball what do you how do you think the terrain will have changed in European biotech in the next say five-years?
Claire Skentelbery:
I think there are various ways that you can look at that, if you are really optimistic in sort of used the model from 15-years ago in biotechnology you would say that Europe will continue producing lots of small companies, however probably the more realistic view is we as the lack of public funding really starts to bite the biotechnology we're going to see the removal of quite a lot of those small suboptimal sized companies from the landscape and that's not necessarily a bad thing because it may be that they would intending to survive forever on public funds when never actually going to reach the market. I think what we'll see is quite a strong consolidation of Europe's biotech terrain as small companies merge with other small companies to create critical mass, other companies disappear and a lot more close partnerships between small biotech and large pharma at earlier and earlier stages.
Paul Larsmon :
Claire Skentelbery, thank you very much for joining us.
Claire Skentelbery:
Thank you.
Paul Larsmon
Paul Larsmon has worked as a broadcast television journalist for 25 years, covering general news, business and politics. He has been both presenter and producer in several news broadcasters, including the major British television news company ITN. He joined PharmaTelevision as Executive Producer earlier this year and has been responsible for getting , PTV News launched.
Claire Skentelbery
Secretary General
Claire Skentelbery presently serves as Secretary General of European Biotechnology Network. Claire Skentelbery has worked for Europe's biotechnology sector since receiving a PhD in crop biochemistry. After launching her career within technical marketing, she took on the role of UK Biotechnology National Contact Point in Framework Programme Five. Later Claire worked within the Cambridge biotechnology cluster for the regional biotechnology network, before being part of the founding team of the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR), for she is now Network Manager and working with biotechnology clusters across Europe. She also acted as Director of Operations at Europe Unlimited before taking on the role of Secretary General of the European Biotechnology Foundation.
Mark Treherne
Mark Treherne BSc, MPhil, PhD, MIoD currently serves as CEO of Senexis. Mark obtained his PhD in receptor neuropharmacology from Cambridge University, before holding a faculty position at the Biozentrum in Basel. Mark now has 25 years experience in the discovery of novel treatments for diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Mark was formerly at Pfizer in the UK, where he was responsible for research into neurodegenerative diseases. On leaving Pfizer in 1997, Mark set up Cambridge Drug Discovery as Chief Executive, which was sold to BioFocus in 2001. Mark has now been involved in fund raisings for various biotechnology companies and joined Senexis in 2002, when it was initially funded.
Eric Halioua
Eric Halioua presently serves as the CEO of Promethera Biosciences. He is co-founder of two biotechnology companies called Myosix and Murigenetics. Myosix is a tissue engineering company specializing in musculoskeletal cells culture used in the regeneration of the heart muscle. The company has signed a strategic partnership with Genzyme mid-2002 to finance phase 2 of the clinical trial. Murigenetics is a biotechnology company developing therapies for genetic disorders. He was also a Board Member of a French public biotechnology company called Vivalis, which specializes in the production of avian stem cells lines for the production of vaccines and recombinant proteins. He was as well principal of the international life sciences practice of Arthur D. Little based in Paris and Boston during 11 years. He has led and conducted work in the areas of strategy, M&A and technology & innovation management for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical devices companies. Eric also worked as a strategic marketing manager for the "Centre Europ"en de Bioprospective" and as project leader in the corporate R&D centre of Zeneca in UK. Eric holds two master degrees (DEA and Magist"re) in Pharmacology and Molecular Biology and a Graduate from ESSEC business school (Paris, France), with an advanced degree from the Health Care ESSEC chair.
John Burt
John Burt currently serves as CEO of PolyTherics. John joined PolyTherics in November 2010 and brings broad business and corporate development experience to the company. Prior to joining PolyTherics, he co-founded Thiakis, with Professor Steve Bloom (Imperial College), which he led as CEO through a major financing round in 2006 and ultimately to a very successful sale to Wyeth in 2008. John has previously led medical and life sciences technology transfer for Imperial Innovations and at GSK served in a range of strategy, business and corporate development roles. His early experience in the biotech industry came through the R&D finance role with Vanguard Medica, now Vernalis. John was a board member of Sterix, a joint Imperial College - University of Bath spin-out company which was acquired by Ipsen in 2004, and has been an active advisor to early-stage biotech and life sciences companies on strategy, business development and finance issues.
PharmaVentures is a company that has proven success in deals and alliances. PharmaVentures offers: Over 18 years of healthcare industry experience gained from working with in excess of 1000 clients in 38 countries, and conducting more than 450 assignments Over 40 specialist advisors, analysts and researchers Skills honed in many countries - 80% of its business comes from outside the UK.
European Biotechnology Network
The European Biotechnology Network European Biotechnology Network is dedicated to facilitating co-operation between professionals in biotechnology and the life sciences all over Europe. The network, which kicked off in early 2009, is run by the European Biotechnology Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Brussels.
Senexis was originally formed in 2001 to develop a series of patents on a peptide based amyloid aggregation inhibitors. The Company's founders independently developed the inhibitors in Manchester and Cambridge but Senexis was then established in Prof. Andrew Doig's academic laboratory at UMIST in Manchester. Dr Mark Treherne joined the Company as Chief Executive, when it raised "1.4 million seed funding in November 2002 from BTG plc and the Wellcome Trust Limited (formerly Catalyst BioMedica Limited). Senexis moved from academia to the Babraham Research Campus, near Cambridge in 2004, where it continued to build an experienced management team that is capable of taking compounds into clinical development, particularly when Dr Chris Moyses joined as Chairman and Dr David Scopes joined as Chief Scientific Officer. Subsequently, Senexis raised an additional "1 million early in 2006, followed by a further "0.8 million during 2007 to further develop its broad portfolio of potent and novel " small molecule" compounds, which are active in several established models of Alzheimer's disease. Drug-like small molecules are the focus of the company's activities due to their oral bioavailability. In early 2008, Senexis raised a further "2.9 million to accelerate the Company's successful small-molecule aggregation inhibitor programmes. To date, Senexis has raised "6.3 million, including additional grant funding, and is now conducting development candidate selection studies.
Promethera Biosciences
Promethera Biosciences is a biopharmaceutical company, a spin-off of the Catholic University of Louvain that develops innovative treatment based on allogeneic adult stem cell technology. Promethera Biosciences's mission is to discover, develop and commercialization cell therapy products to treat liver diseases in an innovative way using allogenic progenitor cells from healthy human livers. Promethera Biosciences develops two products based on newly discovered and patented a progenitor cell type: the Adult Human Liver-Derived Mesenchymal Progenitor Cell (hALDMSC).
PolyTherics is a biotechnology company that applies precision chemistry to develop protein and peptide based drugs. These two classes of drugs are administrated to patients by injection and are generally cleared from the body very quickly. This rapid clearance can reduce the efficacy of the drug and increase the frequency that injections have to be administrated to patient. Our precision chemistry technologies can extend the duration of action of these classes of drugs so patients require fewer injections, and can create more efficacious products. This reduces the cost of treatment and improves patient compliance. The company has three proprietary precision chemistry technologies for attaching one or more molecules of the polymer poly (ethylene glycol) (PEG) to any therapeutic peptide or protein to slow its elimination from the body.