BioTech’s Ultimate ChallengeBy Kerry Hillier
Our Senior Consultant Kerry Hillier attended the “Value in, Value Out,” panel discussion at Bio Integrates on 17th May. The session was facilitated by Kath Mackay, Director of Life Sciences at Bruntwood SciTech, Alderley Park. The panellists included: Andy Hill, CEO at Nu-Vision Biotherapies; Louwai Muhammed, CEO and Co-Founder at CoSyne Therapeutics; Clare Trippett, Chief Technologist – Biologics at CPI; Martin Doorbar, Chief Development Officer, Non-Clinical at Ellipses; and Jamie Unwin, Commercial Insight Officer at Nanoform.
The session explored the key question: How can we accelerate drug development timelines to deliver quicker and more optimal returns to both patients and investors? Kerry shares her thoughts and key takeaway messages below.
The biotech industry has seen rapid advancements in new tools and technologies to fast-track drug development. However, on average, it still takes around 10 to 15 years to develop a new drug from discovery through to the market. Accelerating this pathway to get new treatments into patients quicker, while also delivering value for investors, is the biotech industry’s ultimate challenge. How can we achieve this?
Giving investors what they want
Finding an investor who really understands the biotech industry and can get behind the product is crucial; there’s a real spectrum of investors that sit on the intersection between technology and life sciences. Naturally, they’ve all got different interests, demands, and appetites for risk. Finding imaginative ways to communicate to specialist investors from both sectors, or working out how to explain your product to generalist investors, can be challenging.
The panellists discussed the threat of an impending ‘investment winter,’ that will see investors becoming more cautious. In digital health, for example, it’s no longer enough to show investors an exciting platform and tell a good story; you need to be able to provide sufficient data to back it up. The only way to truly validate a platform is to show the asset that comes from it – i.e., the drug that actually reaches the patient. Many companies start with the technology then work out how to commercialise it. However, it’s better to start with the patient population in mind and work backwards. A common theme of the discussion was the notion of always keeping the patient at the centre; getting drugs to those with unmet needs should be the definitive goal that informs all strategic decisions.
Crossing the valley of death
Taking a concept all the way through to a commercial product is a very challenging journey. Clare Trippett at CPI emphasised how having access to the right facilities, technical expertise and funding is crucial. She explained how companies need help with crossing the “valley of death” that exists between the early research stage and commercialization. This requires the right infrastructure, skills, and talent to take a product all the way from academia through to industry.
The panel also emphasised how accelerators and industry networks can offer invaluable opportunities for collaboration and support. Kath Mackay described how Bruntwood SciTech recently offered an oncology accelerator programme at Alderley Park, in conjunction with Cancer Research, UK, GSK, J&J and the Christie Hospital in Manchester. She explained how creating a highly tailored accelerator with experts who really understood the subject matter and access to markets was a powerful experience.
Keeping it green
A key theme throughout the session was the need for companies to prioritise sustainability to attract investors. Jamie Unwin commented that ESG will be on the due diligence checklist for most venture capitalists; investors are starting to ask companies not only about their ability to produce medicines, but also how they are doing this in a green way. Sustainability is also going to be very important to potential licensees in four- or five-years’ time. For example, companies need to prove how they’re helping the NHS reach their 2027 sustainability goals if they want to sell their products into the market. From an employee perspective, sustainability is also high on the list for graduates and young employees.
The future of biotech
At the end of the session, the panel agreed that a drug’s true value is defined by its ability to meet a specific societal need and to improve lives for patients. Investors will be keeping their eyes on emerging technologies that could help us overcome the next global challenges. For instance, what is the next wave of innovation that could help us overcome future pandemics? What can we add to our toolbox now in case we find ourselves in that situation again? Not all technologies will work, and the industry needs to accept that that’s ok. As with all investments, we need to take risks to find the successes.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues outlined above, do feel free to contact Kerry directly at Kerry.Hillier@theRSAGroup.com