Tanja Dowe, CEO of Debiopharm Innovation Fund – Interview Sequence
Tanja Dowe is the CEO of Debiopharm Innovation Fund, the company enterprise capital arm of Debiopharm Group. The fund invests in digital well being corporations that have an effect on most cancers, infectious illnesses, and drug improvement.
Debiopharm Innovation Fund is thought for investing in corporations which might be leveraging AI and massive knowledge. How vital is AI to accelerating drug discovery?
A typical drug discovery course of takes 4.5-6 years and requires iterative experiments within the lab with unsure outcomes. Lower than 12% of drug candidates ensuing from the standard drug discovery course of make it all through the scientific trials and to the market.
As healthcare prices proceed to extend, our society can’t afford dearer medication. Prior to now 10 years, the ROI from drug improvement has declined by 80% – making drug discovery (and improvement) as we all know it unsustainable in the long run resulting from its excessive prices.
AI can minimize the time spent on drug discovery to as little as a number of months to a yr. AI methods have been bettering quick – computing energy has accelerated exponentially, and an increasing number of high-quality knowledge units can be found to coach the AI fashions. Mixed, this allows extra exact understanding of the chemical and the organic areas and the acceleration of drug discovery.
What do you search for in corporations which might be leveraging machine studying and AI?
We search for a mix of technical and scientific expertise. The crew must have organic or medical experience, in addition to cutting-edge knowledge science capabilities. AI is a superb instrument, however the crew additionally has to grasp the issue they’re making an attempt to unravel.
On the information science facet, we search for the backgrounds of the engineers and builders: do they arrive with the most recent information and a observe document of making use of AI to complicated issues?
As competitors continues to develop within the area, we additionally search for a observe document of current clients earlier than we make investments to indicate that the corporate is ready to interact with clients and remedy related issues.
Generative AI is the entire rage, in your view what are the perfect use circumstances for Generative AI within the healthcare sector?
There are various areas the place generative AI can be utilized in healthcare – ranging from easy alternatives corresponding to content material improvement for affected person training and affected person help applications, offering scientific choice help techniques with up-to-date data from scientific literature, and stretching all the best way to drug discovery.
In drug discovery, generative AI learns the relationships between chemical constructions and their exercise on a given organic goal to counsel de novo molecule designs which have the specified properties.
A few of Debiopharm’s earlier investments give attention to genomics, what are your views on how machine studying could be integrated in genomics?
The human genome consists of 20,000-25,000 genes, however solely a little bit over 800 disease-related molecular targets are used at present by the medication obtainable in the marketplace. We all know solely a fraction of how genomics impacts illnesses. However the complexity and the growing quantity of genomic knowledge mixed with different omics and scientific knowledge want higher evaluation strategies. Machine studying has the potential to level to new connections between genomics and well being circumstances and permits us to develop higher and extra focused therapies for illnesses.
The Debiopharm Innovation Fund focuses on Sequence A investments, these are sometimes profitable at proof of idea, however proof of scalability should be a difficulty. How do you determine corporations that may scale?
There are two axes to scalability. The primary is whether or not the market is able to scale, and the second is whether or not the start-up’s applied sciences and enterprise mannequin is scalable.
In the marketplace facet, we see that greater than 20 drug improvement applications from AI discovery corporations have already reached scientific trials at present. We additionally see a important mass of pharma collaborations with AI corporations. So, we imagine the market is prepared.
On the start-up facet, we wish to see that the tech platform is generally collectively, getting used no less than internally for buyer initiatives, even when UX/UI haven’t been absolutely optimized. We additionally wish to see entry to top quality knowledge. There must be a transparent improvement roadmap for the platform to indicate what must be constructed to make sure scalability and usefulness within the buyer’s palms.
Many of the corporations we see have began with a service mannequin and have a plan to evolve in the direction of a recurring income mannequin. Our funding thesis is to spend money on corporations with software program enterprise fashions moderately than biotech asset fashions, and we steer away from AI corporations that solely imagine in creating drug belongings for licensing. So, we have to see a reputable roadmap in the direction of a recurring income mannequin and a pricing technique that is smart.
You’ve spoken concerning the significance of the training that’s wanted on either side of massive pharma and start-ups for them to grasp one another, how does Debiopharm help with this?
Once we spend money on a start-up firm, we set up a ‘Meet-the-Startup Day’ at Debiopharm. We invite the start-ups to present a company-wide presentation, and we open our doorways for the start-up to entry Debiopharm’s experience. Whether or not it’s for translational medication, drug improvement or market entry groups, we join the start-up with consultants that they should check their speculation on buyer wants or to grasp which technical options are needed for connecting with pharma’s inner tech stacks. Typically, we additionally facilitate collaborative discussions between the start-up and Debiopharm. On this course of, the start-up can refine their understanding of their buyer teams. We additionally educate our inner groups to work with start-ups – to entry the most recent innovation, you can’t anticipate turn-key options, however you need to undertake a mindset of co-creation.
What do you personally search for in entrepreneurs that you’re contemplating investing in?
I get requested this so much. I search for that entrepreneurial ingredient that’s laborious to elucidate – ardour, vitality, enthusiasm, robust conviction you could overcome difficulties, curiosity and suppleness of thoughts. The entrepreneur additionally must be an optimist. You get beat down so many instances that it’s not potential to construct a thriving firm with out being an optimist. And it’s a must to perceive that you’re an optimist, so that you simply mitigate over-optimism by bringing the kind of folks round you that maintain you grounded.
There’s one concrete function that I search for in entrepreneurs that I can share although. It’s responsiveness. We dwell in a fast-paced world, and, as an entrepreneur, it’s a must to sustain. Responsiveness builds relationships and belief, whether or not it’s with a buyer or an investor. Regardless of how nice a know-how you might have, communication between folks is what is going to make or break you.
What recommendation do you might have for startups and founders which might be contemplating approaching Debiopharm or different VC funds to boost capital?
Traders are all the time in search of new, fascinating start-ups, so don’t hesitate to achieve out to us at occasions, via networks or digitally. Nevertheless, keep in mind that we undergo 400-500 funding alternatives per yr so be crystal clear about what you do, how your clients work with you and the way a lot cash you might be in search of. We’re very environment friendly in screening and filtering alternatives and wish to simply determine if your organization could possibly be a match with our funding thesis.
What’s your imaginative and prescient for the way forward for digital well being?
It’s easy: individualized, accessible, preventive.
Individualized implies that your well being knowledge (whether or not it’s your well being historical past, genetic profile or steady monitoring knowledge from wearables) is digitally obtainable and is effectively used for therapy choice and therapy administration.
Accessible means that you’ve got entry to all of your knowledge, in addition to digital entry to your healthcare suppliers, and that the standard of analysis or therapy selections stay fixed no matter the place you might be situated on the planet – because of AI-assisted analysis strategies and scientific choice help techniques.
Preventive implies that, based mostly in your well being knowledge, digital diagnostics determine potential well being points early and personalised digital therapeutics show you how to modify your habits in an effort to preserve a more healthy way of life and forestall – or even reverse – a well being threat.
Thanks for the good interview, readers who want to be taught extra ought to go to Debiopharm Innovation Fund.