Reports

 
report Life Sciences

“We are a small company with a big portfolio”

05.02.2019

After Martine and Jean-Paul Clozel created Actelion with two other founders and grew Actelion into Europe’s biggest biotech, the company and its late-stage pipeline were acquired by Johnson&Johnson in 2017. With Actelion’s discovery- and early-stage R&D assets, the couple formed Idorsia, with the vision to build one of Europe’s leading biopharmaceutical companies

We talked with Martine Clozel about her passion for research, the medical view in science and what aspiring biotech entrepreneurs need.

Martine, is Idorsia the new Actelion?

In part yes, we still do difficult things. That has not changed at all. Our culture and our goals are the same as they were for Actelion: we want to discover innovative new drugs which may have a big impact on patients’ lives. We are very happy to continue our work of discovering drugs. It’s fantastic that we are able to do that. I see lots of enthusiasm in the company. Actelion had become almost a large biopharma, with presence in many countries. Idorsia is based in Allschwil, concentrating on doing R&D efficiently. We are already thinking about the commercial phase, though, and have recently hired a chief commercial officer and opened a first foreign office in Japan.

Are your portfolio decisions purely guided by the science? Or do you also take commercial factors into consideration?

We all know that the medical need in insomnia, lupus or in hypertension is huge. The choice of a new clinical indication depends on the new molecule, its mechanism of action, and where the molecule can have the biggest impact as a new therapy. We are trying to be very pragmatic and follow where the science takes us. In phase II and beyond, when we start to understand more and see that our hypothesis is confirmed in safety and efficacy, we can start to position the drug in terms of market entry and commercial potential.

How is your approach towards licensing in or licensing out projects?

We don’t license in, as we have a lot of fascinating internal prospects. Currently, we have ten compounds in clinical development. Several research projects are progressing towards development. We have activities towards out licensing deals, though – not because the projects are deprioritized but because we have a much smaller organization than before. We have only one third of the clinical development capacity we had in the past and cannot handle everything. We are a small company with a big portfolio.

You are fully focused on your internal projects then? Or do you also pursue external collaborations?

We look for tailor-made solutions. If we see something that can help us, we also like to work with external partners, being it universities, biotechs or others. In fact, many of our projects start with a paper we read or some exciting new data we come across, which we will then further pursue.

On your website you first focus on patients symptoms when describing a disease and only then go to science. How do you make sure you and the Idorsia employees always stay close to patients?

We are very close to the people who are close to the patients, doctors, nurses etc. We listen carefully and really try to understand the patients. We also invite patients. I am a medical doctor, so naturally we have a medical view on everything we do in research. That is one of the characteristics of Idorsia.

Speaking of employees, how easy is it to recruit the right people here?

It’s not easy, but it’s not easy anywhere. I love Pharma. It’s fantastic to be able to help patients, treating thousands of patients. It’s amazing and yet not everybody knows about it. There is a lack of communication on what pharma is about, be it the improvement of life expectancy, the revolutions in oncology, the improvement in quality of life, all that is progress. We need to talk more about the importance of pharma to attract next generations of talent.

It seems that US biotechs are more successful in staying independent. Why do you think that is?

I don’t know if that is true, just look at the recent acquisition of Celgene, Tesaro, Kite and Loxo by BMS, GSK, Gilead and Eli Lilly, respectively. Just to name a few. Currently, biotechs rarely remain independent, also in the US, simply because big companies seminally rely on their discoveries. With Actelion, we had an ambitious, long-term view. It was never our goal to get acquired. Instead, we wanted to create a structure – not only one molecule or one technique – but an organization that is able to discover many drugs. We were ambitious and we were taking risks – and that is relatively rare. Maybe American biotechs come with a little bit more of this ambition, but Europe has some particularities that I think the industry should build upon. Chemistry in Switzerland and Germany is exceptional, for example. But generally, Europe is full of exciting science and great people.

Why is it rewarding for you to work in a startup compared to a big corporation?

A small organization provides more freedom and – more importantly – proximity between facts and risk taking. Our portfolio is small enough for the management to know all the projects. We can be very efficient in making decisions and that is much more difficult in big corporations.

What is your advice on starting a biotech?

Think about surviving and being profitable at the same time. Have both the short and the long-term view, so do not just focus on the next milestone but think big from the beginning. Be pragmatic about your decisions. And especially also, don’t do it alone but with a team.

Speaking of having a partner: You set up both Actelion and Idorsia together with your husband. How do you navigate between lab and dinner table?

My husband and I know each other since a very long time. We share the passion for research and for helping patients. I always appreciated being able to discuss difficulties and also to share the many good moments with Jean-Paul. Of course, we work a lot and are very committed – as is everybody at Idorsia. We try to draw a line between office and home, especially when our children and grandchildren are there. We want to be available for them. It’s demanding, but we don’t think and talk about work 24/7.

Will you still be hunting the next drug in ten years?

I don’t think so. I don’t want to work forever. At some point I want to take more time for family and friends.

Actelion is not only known for its drugs but also for its signature building. Idorsia is at home in a Herzog & de Meuron building. How important is architecture for you?

It’s very important. These buildings will last for many years and are part of the culture and of the style of Basel. Switzerland and Basel in particular are avant-garde in architecture. We are happy to have been able to participate in that. The architecture represents the innovation we are aspiring to. We want good working conditions for our employees, lots of light and many possibilities to interact – after all, we spend a significant amount of time at the office.

We heard the funny story that Idorsia is the acronym for “I do research in Allschwil”. What is the true story behind the name?

I like it. In reality, we had the opportunity to take one of our already protected product names. It was giving us a solid start to insure the company name.

Interview: Annett Altvater and Stephan Emmerth

report Life Sciences

Idorsia reports outstanding progress

07.02.2019

report Precision Medicine

Redesigning Healthcare - Das war die Future Health 2019

05.02.2019

report Supporting Entrepreneurs

"It doesn't always have to stay the same"

08.01.2019

Désirée Mettraux has been the CEO of Creadi since 2016. The Pax spin-off has developed the Simpego online insurance platform. The insurance expert is confident that the industry will profit if it opens itself up to partners. The aim is to make insurance fun.

BaselArea.swiss: Frau Mettraux, what does insurance mean to you?

Désirée Mettraux: For many people, insurance is a boring and complicated topic. I associate insurance with freedom. I want to make insurance fun.

The Pax spin-off was founded in 2016. What has changed since then?

We discarded many of our original ideas. A great deal of progress and development is taking place in the InsurTech market, with a lot of money being invested throughout Europe. We are also seeing which models don’t work in the B2C market. We are critical with ourselves and question our actions regularly. Simpego – our online platform for insurance companies – was developed from a test phase in which we tried out many things.

Creadi is financed by Pax, right?

Exactly. Agile spin-offs are the ideal learning environment for large parent companies. At the same time, they are great for attracting talent. With Simpego, we launched the first native app on the Swiss market in which insurance policies can be taken out “on the go”. Not every insurance company would be able to get an app such as this off the ground so quickly. However, we have been able to work together with a major insurance provider to test how its product works on the platform. Everyone will benefit from the insights gained as part of this test.

How much does the Swiss insurance industry still have to learn in the field of InsurTech?

With 12 percent of insurance policies taken out online, Switzerland is lagging far behind other European countries. This compares with over 30 percent in Germany. Making up this shortfall will not be simple.

Why?

If society is not yet ready to utilise these offerings, it would not make sense for an insurance company to make its products available digitally. Our society still prefers to go down the traditional route with insurance advisors.

Creadi is setting out to turn this model upside down. This might not please everyone.

There have been pioneers who have forced themselves onto the market while not making themselves popular in the process. However, this does the market no harm. When a change is introduced or an innovation is developed, everyone has to respond accordingly. Ultimately, this benefits consumers.

It is obvious that many people trust insurance brokers who can explain the policies in layman terms. How do you develop a sense of trust with an app?

Trust and brand perception are our greatest challenges. Of course, the personal contact that some customers have enjoyed with their insurance agents for decades cannot simply be forgotten. That’s why we offer our customers the possibility of engaging in live chat or of receiving advice by telephone.

Could this be the solution?

In my opinion, we need to shift our focus elsewhere. While most insurance products that don’t deal with the complex area of pensions are standard and no-one is reinventing the wheel when it comes to personal liability insurance, Mobiliar agents only sell their own products, which may not necessarily be what the customer is looking for. We want to solve this problem and offer a different service. Customers should be able to choose with which provider they take out insurance policies online and whether they want to make use of advice. With us, you can take out an insurance policy in a minute, without any paperwork at all.

What feedback have you received from other insurance providers?

There are companies that want nothing to do with InsurTech companies, as they don’t want to weaken their own sales channels. However, there are now an increasing number of insurance providers who are receptive to digitisation issues and want to try out new things. We are, in principle, open to every new partner. I am very much in favour of the whole industry opening up and working together as part of a common ecosystem.

It sounds like a great idea...

... but things are a little different in reality. That’s why we are trying to bring together different providers on our marketplace. It doesn’t always have to stay the same.

What role is digitisation playing in the industry?

Any companies that still carry out manual processes electronically have not yet embraced digitisation. For me, digitisation is an attitude and a matter of placing the customer at the centre of everything we do. Many companies adopt an inside-out approach rather than one looking from the outside in. There’s still a lot to be done in this respect. We all – including insurance providers – need a strategy for a digital world. Who would have thought twelve years ago that we would be buying our shoes and clothes almost exclusively online? Perhaps we will also reach this point with insurance someday.

Do insurance products also need to be modernised and brought in line with the times?

Yes, of course. The younger generation of customers are taking an increasingly hybrid approach to purchases. They buy M-Budget cottage cheese and at the same time FineFood olive oil. We are also seeing this in terms of insurance. While it should be clear to everyone that 25-year-olds have no need for CHF 5,000 of frozen food cover in their household insurance, this item is still a standard component of many household insurance policies. However, if you live in a cheaply furnished shared apartment, for example, you might need an insurance policy to cover a bicycle worth CHF 4,000 or your mobile phone and laptop. Many insurance policies no longer match up with our lifestyles, especially in urban regions.

Another problem is the image.

Insurance companies have the reputation of always wanting to sell you something. Here at Creadi, we want to change this image and create a sense of transparency. If we don’t have the right offering for somebody, we tell them this and point them towards products that suit them better. We also don’t offer long-term contracts; everything is arranged on a short-term basis.

Creadi was presented with the DIAmond Award last year. Congratulations, albeit belatedly!

Thank you. We have programmed the Simpego Snap vehicle registration document scanner. It takes a photo of the vehicle registration document and processes it using image processing before the program subsequently makes an appropriate offer for the type of vehicle. This program is based on a clever algorithm that tells you the types of vehicle coverage available, depending on the model, category and year of registration. This allows customers to take out vehicle insurance in one minute flat. The program is designed for mobile devices, as the vehicle registration document is usually stored in a vehicle’s glove compartment. I think products such as these are great, as they make life simpler.

What do awards such as this one mean to you?

It was important for us that the award validated our product in front of over 1,000 people from the industry. We have proven and confirmed in our industry that we are on the right track. This is a very valuable proposition and facilitates access to other partners. Our development and performance show that we are much more than just an insurance broker.

There are 15 people working at Creadi at the moment. How easy was it to bring new people into the company?

Basel is a difficult place in which to set up a technology startup. Despite this, we made a conscious decision to be based in Basel. Some of our employees moved here especially for us. Basel is certainly an attractive location that has a great deal to offer in terms of culture and infrastructure. The city also has an international flair. Nevertheless, it is of compact size and our employees are able to find affordable housing.

report

BaseLaunch funds four healthcare ventures

05.02.2019

report Precision Medicine

DayOne Catalyst Project: Oonida

04.02.2019

report Production Technologies

Three entrepreneurs, three visions of Industry 4.0

05.11.2018

BaselArea.swiss invited startups and Industry 4.0 projects to participate in the first Industry 4.0 Challenge. A jury from the industry chose three finalists: Philippe Kapfer with NextDay.Vision, Roy Chikballapur with MachIQ and Dominik Trost with holo|one. Learn more about their contributions and visions in the interview. You can meet the entrepreneurs at the Salon Industries du Futur Mulhouse on 20 and 21 November 2018.

BaselArea.swiss: Which problem does your company aim to solve?

Dominik Trost, holo|one: In general, our solutions utilise Augmented Reality to quickly bring know-how to where it is needed. This translates to offering intuitive means of maintenance support, such as holographic checklists or reporting tools, as well as AR enhanced remote assistance for companies to provide electronic information to sites around the globe, alongside common audiovisual calls. We also use holograms and animations as storytelling tools, and are developing an app entirely dedicated to design and presentation purposes. Most of all, we believe in keeping things simple: Our apps concentrate on a core set of powerful features and can all be managed through our browser-based management portal. People should be able to use our apps with as little effort as possible.

Roy Chikballapur, MachIQ: We help machine builders and manufacturers to gain equipment and asset performance. To that end, MachIQ provides a software for machine builders to simplify customer support and to monitor their machines, hence reducing unplanned outages for their customers. For manufacturers, MachIQ created a software that helps with predictive support and that combines useful functions for plant managers, controllers and the maintenance team alike. In short: We bring machines to life.

Philippe Kapfer, NextDay.Vision: We simplify communication between machine manufacturers and their customers and makes them safer. Normally, connections between two contacts are insecure and vulnerable because one or even both sides have to open the connection. This makes them vulnerable. Also, you usually need to interrupt the workflow to validate a partner. Our API is designed to help companies create integrated software. For example, a company can update its machine remotely and integrate the validation workflow directly on the customer side. The customer just logs on to his smartphone. He does so by signing in by hand. Afterwards, the manufacturer can update the machine from a distance. This leads to a traceable and rule-compliant process.

When and why did you found your company?

Philippe Kapfer: NextDay.Vision has been around since mid-2017. Before that, I wrote a book on the security of computer systems as part of my master's thesis, showing how Windows can be hacked – corporate computer systems are easily attackable from the inside. For fear of such attacks, many companies do not use the cloud, for example, and try to keep their systems closed. In discussions with machine manufacturers and their customers, I realized that there is a lack of solutions for this. In the course of digitalization, the question naturally arises as to how we can make connections secure. My company provides answers to that question.

Roy Chikballapur: When I was with Schneider Electric in Paris, I helped to digitalize industrial offers for different companies. However, by talking to the machine builders and manufacturers I learned that they struggled with much more basic problems. One of these fundamental problems is customer support – it simply takes too much time to look up customer and serial numbers and to fix stuff. All the while, the machine is not producing anything and only generates losses for the respective company. I had the idea for my company in 2014, in 2016 I launched MachIQ.

Dominik Trost: It all began with the presentation of the Microsoft HoloLens: We saw the presentation live and knew that AR will be a big thing using head-mounted devices. Soon we got the first device and had lots of workshops with companies from different areas of business. We immediately realized the benefits of this technology and companies saw their AR use cases too. After assessing the market potential in Switzerland, we founded our company just at the end of that year, first concentrating on individual showcases. We soon realized that a standardized approach better satisfies corporate needs, but there was still a lot of work to do: This year, we almost exclusively worked on developing ‘sphere’, our new AR platform that will be released at the end of November.

How did you learn about the i4 Challenge and why did you apply?

Dominik Trost: Markus Ettin, industry 4.0 and automatization manager at Bell Food Group, suggested that we might be a good fit for the i4.0 Challenge and motivated us to look deeper into it. Though having an international outlook, we found it important to strengthen the regional awareness for our technology as well, so we took our chances…

Philippe Kapfer: For me, the Challenge was like another litmus test. I wanted to know how our solution was received. In the Industry 4.0 Challenge, I had the opportunity to have my project reconfirmed by industry experts. At the same time, the jury acknowledged that we were actually bringing something new to industry.

Roy Chikballapur: We were in touch with the BaselArea.swiss team thanks to their support in us relocating from the Canton of Vaud to Basel-Stadt. Sebastien Meunier, who was responsible for the initiative posted about the i4 Challenge on LinkedIn and this is how we found out about it. I believe that the discussions on BaselArea’s LinkedIn community are very relevant to what’s happening in the Industry 4.0 sector and this is what motivated us to apply.

What does the term “Industry 4.0” mean to you and why do you consider the topic significant?

Dominik Trost: To us, industry 4.0 is the logical evolution of industry with the tools and technologies that are available or being developed. Like the ‘4.0’ epithet already suggests, we think that it is the industrial revolution of our generation, adding immense amounts of productivity, safety, and interconnectivity. It is therefore obvious to us that industry 4.0 will remain the hot topic over the following decade, and now is the ideal time to get on board.

Philippe Kapfer: I believe that "Industry 4.0" is often used to sell a new product or service. Often the technology was there before and is merely used differently under the title Industry 4.0. For me, that label first and foremost means that the industry is evolving.

Roy Chikballapur: I think there is more to the phrase. I agree that a lot of focus today seems to be on the technologies that enable the digitalization of processes, the generation of useful data and the algorithms that many expect will replace human beings in several functions on the shop floor. At Machiq however, we focus on the business model transformations that these technologies will bring about when they are deployed at scale and we find few companies are preparing themselves for this.

Here is an example: Most machine builders consider the sale of spare parts and the delivery of maintenance and repair services as their “Services Business”. However, their customers are actually buying the experience of zero unplanned outages. With the improved ability to connect machines and to analyze performance data in real time, outages can now be prevented.
However, in doing so, machine builders will likely reduce their spare parts revenue. Are they ready for this? Not as long as they stick to current business models. But what if they offered a “Netflix of spare parts and services”-contract where the customer instead buys uptime.

What if a yoghurt producer could pay his equipment supplier based on the number of pots of yoghurt produced per month? This would force a shift from a capital expenditure-heavy model to an operational expenditure-based model, even in the machinery industry. The Industry 4.0 model will force suppliers to collaborate with customers and competitors to collaborate with peers. It is our task to accompany all parties to take this transformative journey in a step-by-step manner that does not disrupt the current business models unnecessarily.

Where do you see the development in the region?

Roy Chikballapur: We settled in Basel primarily because of its location at the heart of the machine building industry in Europe. In a 300 km radius we have the largest concentration of leading machine building companies in every important industry. What was also a key attraction was the Canton's focus on Industry 4.0. While there are many startup hubs across Europe, they tend to focus on more “sexy” topics like Fintech, Blockchain and AI. Personally, I hope that the region instead takes up something that is more concrete and “real” as its focus area, capitalizing on its strength as a life sciences hub but also as a center of industry and logistics. We would like to see more collaboration among Industry 4.0 startups to integrate each of our products to develop more comprehensive offers for our customer base. We would also like to increase our collaboration with larger industrial companies in the region. I am certain that such a focus on the i4 theme will accelerate innovation and position Basel as a hub for Industry 4.0.

Dominik Trost: As a software company with a standardized product, our outlook is not as much regional, but rather national or defined by language barriers. Looking at the state of AR in Switzerland and Germany, there are indeed more pockets of development here than in other places, mostly in the form of individual startups and university programs. However, AR is still generally viewed as an experimental technology, despite applications being proven viable and beneficial. There is nowhere near as much drive and competition as in the US or East Asia – both a chance and a ticking clock for us.

What are your plans for your company?

Philippe Kapfer: We currently have customers mainly in the Jura and in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland. In addition to our products, I also offer training and audits on information security systems. In the future, I want to put even more capacity into development. We are targeting both the national and international markets with our security software and API. The cybersecurity market is growing by ten percent annually, but not enough people can respond to this development. NextDay.Vision provides the software that satisfies a need and makes it easier for companies to meet high security standards. We want to anchor cybersecurity in the mindset of the industry. This includes enabling connections between customers and manufacturers without sacrificing data security. We are confident that we will continue to grow with our product and vision.

Dominik Trost: At this point, almost anything is possible. We are actively building up our network of distributors and are also looking across the borders, already promoting our solutions in Germany and exploring our options in other countries. It is very likely for foreign competition to enter the European market, which makes it important for us to act quickly and decisively. We have, however, built a competent team and are very confident in the quality our products, so we are looking forward to what the future holds.

Roy Chikballapur: MachIQ has positioned itself as a neutral, brand agnostic player offering software products that connect machine builders and their industrial end-user customers for asset performance management. Machiq’s software creates the dynamics of a “data cooperative” for Industry 4.0. Common data benefits everyone on the system, but is managed securely so that it does not compromise the relationships that companies have built with their suppliers and customers or the competitive dynamics between business peers. Our vision is to become the “Business Operating System” of the Industry 4.0-enabled world. While many companies aren’t thinking about it, the moment we present our vision to them, they immediately get us and they get what we are trying to do. We are experiencing strong growth in our customer base. Consequentially, we are focusing on hiring the right talent and growing the team fast enough right now.

Text: Annett Altvater

report Invest in Basel region

Basler Kantonalbank launches innovation subsidiary

10.01.2019

report Life Sciences

Unitelabs automating lab work

08.01.2019

Cookies

BaselArea.swiss uses cookies to ensure you get the best service on our website.
By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies.

Ok