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Big Bio Breeds Startup Leadership

About Matt Pillar

Matthew Pillar, Editor, Bioprocess Online


first published Life Science Leader magazine.

At the turn of the year, Purespring Therapeutics CEO Richard Francis will take over the helm of generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceuticals. He spent more than 20 years at major pharmaceutical companies Biogen, Sanofi, and Novartis, where he headed Sandoz, the generics division of Novartis, for five years before starting his career in biotechnology where he found success in startup leadership. will be

The move makes sense given his expertise in generics, even though he’s back at the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company. It showed a long-term trend in the biopharmaceutical field causing an outflow of talent from Big Pharma to emerging bio. in episode 95 bio business On the podcast, he called the trend “liberating” science and shared his motivation for embracing the challenges of new biopharmaceutical startups.

Richard Francis, President and CEO, Teva Pharmaceuticals

While serving as Divisional Head and CEO at Sandoz (a division of Novartis), Francis had the opportunity to join Novartis’ Executive Committee. That committee oversaw Novartis’ acquisition deals and R&D strategy, and gave Francis an early first-hand look at the science being considered for a $53 billion acquisition by Big His Bio His Juggernaut. “In that position, I was exposed to some incredible people and incredible science, and I saw how fast it moved,” he recalls. “Later, looking at some of the acquisitions we were making, I realized there was no correlation between where good science emerges and big R&D budgets.”

3 Basics of Bio Startup Success

Francis says amazing science is emerging at an unprecedented pace, and that Novartis, with its newfound good science, can turn a loosely formed idea into a product in as little as four to five years. was proving “Advancements in new modalities and development platforms are reducing the time from idea to treatment, which is changing the field,” he says. “Science is everywhere, so the notion of big bio or startups is disappearing.” Francis says access to science has leveled the playing field.

“I have determined that a good scientific base, a multi-asset generating platform, and the funding to prosecute it are the three keys to having a transformative effect on the state of disease. all three of, I’ll take it.

The first two of these criteria have been on the rise long before Purespring’s founding in 2020. Advances in computational biology and a biopharmaceutical ecosystem rich in opportunities to showcase new science have generated a frenzy of licensing deals, collaborations, mergers and acquisitions. AI and machine learning are contributing to efficient means of inferring multiple targets from a single discovery and making minimally disruptive adjustments to assets to expand the clinical pipeline. “Platform” became a household word, but it was more than a buzzword. The discovery and development platform was actually creating a viable portfolio for new biopharmaceutical entities.

The third criterion — funding to pursue science and build platforms — is in short supply these days. But even in a bearish biopharmaceutical capital market, the fundraising darlings perfectly met Francis’ first two criteria. In 2020, Purespring was among them, winning a $60 million Series A, setting the young company just enough runway to take off despite short-term pessimism in its financial forecasts. .

Francis admits that building a company on this three-point foundation was an enlightening first experience for a veteran of Big Bio’s perks. “We had amazing science, a great tech platform to build it on, and the money to run it. It was a little different than what I was used to,” he joked. “But I also knew that I wanted to be a part of leading this company from the ground up to a fully integrated biopharmaceutical. Did Muppets come up with this idea or what? I can’t go crazy hanging around the water cooler anymore,” he joked. .

Luckily, timing and trend helped Francis find a third straight win.Learn more about Purespring’s ambitions to own the renal drug market bio business, available wherever you listen to podcasts. This is one of dozens of interviews with former Big Pharma executives who have followed the “release” of great science to emerging biotech leadership.

Find out more in Episode 95 of The Biotech Business. Gene Tx in Kidney Disease by Purespring CEO Richard Francis

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