Innovation and opportunity within Europe’s biotech sector

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Lu Rahman introduces a slice of European biotech expertise

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the global biotech sector has been thrown into the spotlight, not just in the drug discovery and development word, but as a sector that the general public has come to know more closely, and be thankful for.

The big European name we know is of course BioNTech, whose mRNA collaboration with Pfizer on the now-famous Covid-19 vaccine is well-known across the globe. Prior to coronavirus, BioNTech was making breakthroughs in other areas; since 2008 the company has been working on developing personalised cancer treatment with a vision to “change the treatment paradigm for cancer patients worldwide” and become “the leading global biotechnology company for individualized cancer medicine”.

There are however, a host of additional biotech businesses across Europe that have been innovating and developing vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and technology for Covid-19 and more – gene therapy and immuno-oncology are two areas which have seen particular focus from the biotech market.

According to Conor Stewart, Statista: “This sector is considered of strategic importance to the European economy, with around 25 billion US dollars of revenue and more than 72 thousand employees. Over the last few years, the biotechnology sector became one of the most innovative industries in the European Union, with almost 80 thousand patent applications registered in 2014. However, because of the extremely high research and development costs, many European biotechnology companies must partner with larger firms to complete the development of their products and patents.”

Meanwhile Statista’s Matej Mikulic, lists France, Spain and Germany as containing the highest number of biotech companies with 2018, 1133 and 820 respectively.

It is of course, hard to classify the European biotech sector as a whole as individual countries boast individual and prominent success stories.

SIRION Biotech’s Dr Francois Vromman, Senior Director,  Head of Business Operations, Southern and Western Europe comments: “Europe is the second largest gene and cell therapy market in the world, with France and the United Kingdom at pole positions. France’s prominence in the field is highlighted by over 10 world-leading biotech and research clusters working in gene and cell therapies today”.

SIRION Biotech began in 2005 in Munich, with the aim of creating a new generation of viral vector technologies for cell and gene therapy, and vaccination development. It is now a key player in European development and manufacture of viral vectors for research and preclinical applications. It has completed over 2000 projects of all sizes, working closely with over 200 independent customer groups from academia and industry. It offers LentiBOOST, a lentiviral transduction enhancer for therapeutic cell types like CAR-T cells and CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells. LentiBOOST is currently included in more than 20 Phase III and I/II clinical trials.

In Denmark one company of note include Genmab. Founded in 1999 in Copenhagen, this international biotechnology company specialises in the development of differentiated antibody therapeutics for the treatment of cancer.

Genmab and Bolt Biotherapeutics recently entered an oncology research and development collaboration to evaluate Genmab antibodies and bispecific antibody engineering technologies in combination with Bolt’s proprietary Boltbody immune-stimulating antibody conjugate (ISAC) technology platform. The aim of this is to discover and develop next-generation, immune-stimulatory, antibody-based conjugate therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. This research collaboration will evaluate multiple bispecific ISAC concepts to identify up to three clinical candidates for development. Genmab will fund the research, along with the preclinical and clinical development of these candidates through clinical proof of concept.

“This exciting collaboration will provide a unique opportunity to combine Genmab’s innovative bispecific antibody technologies with Bolt’s powerful, advanced ISAC technology to develop targeted antibody products with the potential to transform cancer treatment,” said Jan van de Winkel, PhD., Chief Executive Officer of Genmab. “Genmab’s partnership approach is part of our DNA and we are pleased to be collaborating with Bolt to develop and deliver potential next-generation cancer therapeutics to patients in need of novel treatment options.”

It is clear that while the European market offers innovation and expertise as a whole, individual pockets of collaboration and drug discovery and development are with highlighting to create a true send of the expertise on offer throughout this region.

Volume 22, Issue 3 – Summer 2021

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