Inaugural Bio Integrates conference highlights industry's inefficiency in developing products

18 Jun 2019

Industry leaders give voice to issues and trends shaping the biotech sector, including the importance of collaboration.

Following the continued success of Pharma Integrates, the inaugural Bio Integrates conference, which hosted 315 delegates from across biotech, pharma, investment, charities and patient groups, sold out.

Inaugural Bio Integrates conference highlights industry's inefficiency in developing products

The event was opened by Darrin Disley OBE, CEO of Mogrify, who highlighted the importance of collaboration across the science and technology in its ability to deliver effective, affordable and scalable healthcare solutions. He also set the delegates three inspirational challenges: to create an ecosystem of innovation and aspiration; to find ways to help each other and to ask for help; and to show great leadership by making others great.

A series of one-to-one interviews with Congenica Chairman Andy Richards CBE, Alderley Park MD Chris Doherty and KaNDy and NeRRe Therapeutics CEO Mary Kerr then covered the changing face of life sciences investment and development. Andy Richards highlighted the inefficiency of the industry in developing products compared with other sectors and the fact that in the last 20 years, the number of pharma companies in the FTSE top 10 has gone from four to zero. He went on, however, to emphasise the importance of new business models to change this statistic and that “…the health of the sector is being driven positively by the recycling of people with experience and money.”

Chris Doherty commented on the importance of retaining talent in the region in establishing a world-class life science cluster and that when building a business, culture and scalability from the very beginning is everything. With 86 companies formed on Alderley Park from AstraZeneca alone and with a capital pull of £130m, the cluster plans to grow to 200 – 300 life science and healthtech companies.

Serial entrepreneur Mary Kerr touched upon the more surprising challenges in biotech, such as the amount of time it takes to raise money, funding what is in fashion and the importance of refining your story. Echoing Darrin Disley’s opening remarks about aspiration and leadership, she concluded that “training the next generation of physicians with pharma and biotech experience is critical to the future success of healthcare”.

The lively agenda for the day comprised roundtable and panel discussions based around three tracks: positioning companies for growth and investment, getting therapies from concept to clinic and driving development by engaging with patients, clinicians and regulators.

Track 1: Models, money and momentum: positioning for investment and growth

With the emphasis on funding, investment and collaboration, Jane Dancer of F-Star highlighted the importance of contacts when starting out, commenting: “In the early stages, funding will always be from local sources as they know you.” The importance of collaboration was also discussed, namely across private, public and third-party entities. Steve McConchie of Aptus Clinical emphasised that “…it has to be a genuine collaboration: a team with genuine relationships working together.”

Nailing your exit strategy is key to any biotech. Maciek Drozdz of Johnson & Johnson commented on it never being too early to get to know and start working with potential buyers, saying: “Build relationships. We get to know them and let them do their work.” Per Lundin of Evox Therapeutics added: “When looking to exit, you need a compelling story to tell.”

Track 2: Going from concept to clinic for disruptive therapies

Driving innovation, market strategy and selecting the right supplier for outsourcing were the hot topics. Academic, outsourcing and precompetitive relationships are key in driving the adoption of new technologies, with Martino Picardo of Discovery Park remarking: “When trying to drive your technology forward, nothing beats building and using your network.”

When selecting the right provider, Detlef Behrens of Bay Pharma spoke from a CDMO’s perspective, emphasising that “ Your kit list doesn’t matter; it is how you deal with problems and offer solutions that sets you apart to a potential customer”.

Huron Consulting lead delegates through the challenges of developing a go-to-market strategy for cell and gene therapies before an expert panel discussed the opportunities for revolutionising supply chains and getting advanced therapies to patients faster. Can cell and gene therapy deliver on the promise of being one of the “8 great technologies” to underpin UK PLC? The panel’s unanimous response was “Yes!”.

Track 3: Driving development by engaging with patients, clinicians and regulators

Here the focus was on the role of patient engagement in clinical trials, winning outsourced contracts and the role of Catapults in the industry. On patient engagement, Paul Wicks of PatientsLikeMe said: “…it should be a science, not just a CSR strategy.” Eric Low agreed, commenting, “Trials need to be designed with consideration to what patients actually want, because currently there is no data.”

Discussing outsourcing, Alex Slater of Science Exchange stated that drug development is moving away from an integrated model and towards several different specialist providers. “To win contracts, you must know your customer, not oversell, be transparent, and focus on communication”.

The importance of collaboration was emphasised yet again whilst discussing the effectiveness of Catapults, with Matthew Durdy of the Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult saying it was “in their DNA”. Chris Molloy of Medicines Discovery Catapult added that innovation is of no use unless it is adopted, and it is the role of the catapults to facilitate this, using the analogy: “You cannot steer a parked car. You need to get it moving.”

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