BioEurope Spring 2016: What’s up in biopharma?

By Pekka Simula 15 April 2016

April was again kicked off with BioEurope Spring, bringing together some 1,400 companies looking for partners for their biopharma projects. The usual story for me: Catching up with old friends and making some new; exhausted and inspired by almost 40 prescheduled one-on-one meetings over three days. While most of us focus on partnering it’s also interesting to recap the main atmosphere. What’s currently hot in the biopharmaceutical industry? At least three topics were highlighted in many discussions:

Number one, especially in Europe: Drug pricing, or price vs. value. Societies are struggling under the growing costs of health care. It isn’t “safe and efficacious” anymore; it’s “safe, efficacious, and cost effective.” High prices of new drugs cannot be justified just by their enormous development costs. Coming from Finland where we our excellent public healthcare is covered by high tax rates it’s easy to agree. And from Herantis viewpoint: I believe that our CDNF could be a great example of medicine that actually reduces societal costs associated with diseases. It could help Parkinson’s patients live a normal life for a longer period, hopefully even bring them back to work. Time will tell.

Number two: Gene and cell therapies. Are they finally becoming a reality after decades of promise? At least they are a target of growing business interest, including several recent deals worth over $ one billion as listed in the keynote presentation by Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. Interesting news also for Herantis as our pipeline includes the gene therapy product Lymfactin®!

Number three – of course – personalized medicine. The magic bullet for justified drug prices, superb efficacy and reduced side effects! Or a buzzword for unmanageable amounts of data, impossible inclusion criteria, and endless new regulatory requirements? I personally believe this leads to a revolution comparable to the introduction of antibiotics. And the greatest news related to personalized medicine were released right after BioEurope Spring: Finland, with already an already exceptional health record system and one of the most modern bio bank laws in the world, will launch a Genome Centre to facilitate combining health information with genetic information. While its primary focus will be improved health care this may also open tremendous possibilities for drug development. What if you could easily find patients carrying specific genes, with a specific diagnosis, with a pre-defined treatment history? That’s what I’d call development of personalized medicine.

In summary, a very exciting meeting despite the cold weather in Stockholm. Which isn’t anything new for this event: BioEurope Spring Barcelona 2010 was totally messed up by the first blizzard in Barcelona for a decade!

Herantis intends to start patient recruitment in 2016 in clinical studies with Lymfactin® gene therapy in breast cancer associated lymphedema, and with CDNF for disease modification and symptom alleviation in Parkinson’s disease.