Eyram Adjogatse talks about Pharmacological Discoveries.
- Can you tell us more about your journey from pharmaceutical science to business consulting?
- Why is strategy and business development important for medical researchers?
- What are the challenges associated with the development of new medicines and strategies to succeed in getting discoveries to the market?
- How exactly does your company, Probatech, help biotech startups to reach their goals?
- What would be your advice to aspiring biotech professionals in your field?
Throughout the centuries, the discovery of new drugs and treatments has been the foundation for the most significant milestones in history of medicine. The invention of vaccines capable of preventing deadly pandemics, cures for illnesses that once used to be fatal, and methods of treatment that can restore vision, hearing, and mobility became aspects of modern life that we often take for granted. Nevertheless, the recent COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder to world of the profound impact an unknown disease can have on society and the immense significance of the work carried out by medical and pharmaceutical researchers. During this time, it was the development of a vaccine that stood between a return to normalcy and the threat of escalating chaos and economic collapse from the reality of lockdown.
As a result, vaccine research and drug development have become some of the most prominent and widely discuss topics in medicine, government, and society. They often pose questions such as: How are the vast majorities of medicines discovered? What comprises the vaccine development process, and what rigorous stages of research, creation, testing, and refinement are required before becoming a viable solution for human use? How do scientists find sufficient funding and facilities for exploring the full potential of their research and developments? In this landscape, what role do biotech startups play in shaping the future of healthcare?
To answer these questions, we’ve interviewed a leading expert who specializes in consulting for pharmaceutical startups and drug developers. Eyram Adjogatse is the Direct of Business Development for Bloom Science, a clinical-stage, central nervous system company developing therapeutics for patients with rare and complex neurological disorders through the science of the gut-immune-brain axis. He is also the Founder and CEO of Probatech, a well-connected British company specializing in pharmaceutical business development. Having extensive experience in consulting for medical research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, universities and startups on strategy and business development, along with a PhD in Drug Discovery and numerous scientific awards, Eyram possesses quite a unique combination of scientific and commercial expertise in both healthcare provision, and pharmaceutical research. Today, he shares his knowledge with us.
Can you tell us more about your journey from pharmaceutical science to business consulting?
I started freelancing in 2017, and I originally intended to create a business that could support biotech start-ups, whilst giving me enough cash to fund some early-stage research and development. However, I realized that it’s very difficult to achieve both aims, so I decided that I could help more people by focusing on helping companies to reach their goals. I certainly didn’t plan my professional journey the way it has developed. I think there were several moments that inspired me to change. I originally imagined myself as a scientist who would discover or design a cure for some debilitating disease.
However, during my pharmacy degree, I had a couple of professors who spun out their own companies to commercialize their inventions. Seeing their ventures inspired me to become an entrepreneur. When I pursued my PhD, I discovered that it takes a lot more than good science to have an impact. I was trying to discover new treatments for a fatal disease called African Sleeping Sickness. Because this disease affects poor people in third world countries, it had been largely neglected. By delving into the process of drug development for this disease, I gained a profound appreciation for the influence of collaboration in propelling treatments to the market.
Near the end of my PhD, my mentor and I sought funding to continue our research. I can still remember when he handed me the third feedback letter saying “no”. That showed me two things. First, a lot of prospective treatments are never explored to their full potential despite showing promise; and second, I needed to learn how the industry really worked to actually make a change. After several years of consulting for Fortune 500 pharma companies, I decided to dedicate my career to supporting early-stage companies and ensuring that they can reach their highest potential.
Why is strategy and business development important for medical researchers?
Many medicines that make it to the market are originally discovered in university labs and small pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, these institutions rarely have sufficient funding at their disposal. The process of developing a new medication, vaccine, or treatment is expensive. It takes extensive and comprehensive research, finding the right solutions through trial and error, substantial enhancing, testing on different groups, and finally, selling the end product on the market.
These developments can only come to life with adequate funding for research costs, equipment, materials, biochemical substances, and of course, salaries of researchers who still need to pay their bills while making scientific breakthroughs. Luckily, there are many investors and larger companies interested in supporting promising initiatives. The problem, however, is connecting the right biotech startup with the right source of support.
Traditionally, it is a researcher’s responsibility to reach out to larger enterprises and pitch their ideas. This is often a tremendous challenge for medical startups and university researchers, as, while having outstanding scientific expertise, they often lack business experience in understanding unmet needs, promoting their ideas, finding potential investors, communicating with them, negotiating partnership agreements, and so on. They need a strong business, communication, and marketing strategy to showcase their project and its full potential to the right audience capable of making it happen. This makes strategy and business development an integral element of ultimate success for any pharmaceutical project.
What are the challenges associated with the development of new medicines and strategies to succeed in getting discoveries to the market?
The development of a new medicine can be a long and arduous process, which often takes 10-15 years from start to finish. An under-appreciated aspect is that less than 1 in 1,000 potential medicines that are discovered at the start of this process make it to the market. My team and I are really driven by our observation that several new medicines are not explored to their full potential, for reasons that are unrelated to the science – often due to not getting the right feedback, not getting connected to partners and/or a lack of funding.
Another important part of this process is the fact that it’s very multi-disciplinary. It requires a number of different stakeholders with expertise in diverse areas from biology to manufacturing, logistics, patient care, business and more. Partnerships are an incredibly significant factor in innovation. If you look at the portfolios of some of the largest pharma companies in the world, you’ll find that 50% or more of those portfolios originated in other organizations – often in start-ups. The partnerships between these organizations are a big part of what drives the diverse thinking required to tackle complex diseases.
How exactly does your company, Probatech, help biotech startups to reach their goals?
My company bridges the gap between startups with potential new medicines, pharma companies, and investors that can help them bring their projects to life. We start by helping startups to define their value propositions and preparing them to meet with prospective partners and investors. We have built a global network to connect these groups to each other.
We also help both pharmaceutical companies and investors to identify unique opportunities across global startup ecosystems and connect with each other to explore the full potential of innovative ideas and scientific developments supported by necessary funding. Probatech sources, curates, and matches startups with pharma partners and investors, providing them with the best opportunities for collaboration, licensing, and acquisition.
What would be your advice to aspiring biotech professionals in your field?
Start by deciding what inspires you the most. Then, if you like to work at the interface between science and business like me, try and gain an education and some experience in both worlds. Being able to speak multiple “languages” and connect stakeholders from different disciplines is incredibly valuable and essential to the success of this industry. Never give up. If you fail, look at things through an empirical lens and determine what that failure means. It’s usually not as bad as you think. Start networking earlier and always follow your own interests. Working in this field truly allows you to shift the world. Connecting a team of scientists with the right partner can enable some groundbreaking scientific achievements to help patients. Whenever a new treatment is made available and gives patients a chance for different outcomes, you change their reality.
Julia Anderson is a seasoned copywriter based in the United Kingdom, specializing in crafting compelling articles centered around the field of pharmacology. With a wealth of experience, Julia navigates the intricate world of medicine and pharmaceuticals, translating complex scientific concepts into engaging narratives for a diverse audience. Julia’s expertise lies in producing content that delves into the latest trends in pharmacological research, innovative treatment methods, and the evolving landscape of healthcare. Her articles not only reflect a deep understanding of the subject matter but also cater to a broad readership, blending accessibility with in-depth insights.”