We were privileged to hear visionary insights during Mike Ward’s fascinating fireside chat with Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec. In the discussion, he asked Werner to share his views about the sector and big macro issues, as well as what it takes to build a biotech. This is what we learned:
- The teenage Werner wanted to be a footballer when he grew up and ran a disco in his hometown.
- In 1998/9 when the company he worked for had raised a lot of money, the first thing they did was build a building – before they had even put a single experiment in the lab. Instead of doing that, Werner said you should prioritize the science – focus on what really matters and leave everything else to one side.
- If you look at market performance, there have been a lot of ups and downs over the years, but even adjusted for inflation these show that the sector is here to stay. This wasn’t always clear when the scientists first came out of the lab many years ago. Science driven innovation is here to stay and that is fantastic.
- Over Werner’s career he has experienced six different waves, each of which lasted 13 – 30 months. They don’t last forever and there is always a trigger for change. Every wave was driven by a scientific spark and every winter ends in spring.
If you follow the right scientific lead then the success will follow – look at Genmab or Argenix.
- Not everyone has to do their learning curve alone; be collaborative – it makes sense to share. This is best illustrated by the 26 companies that came together and worked collaboratively to find a treatment for COVID – “whatever we can share we will share”. This proved that it was possible to make therapies and vaccines in record time. The collaboration was brilliant – in two weeks everyone knew what was happening.
What are the learnings from Covid? The industry should come together to tackle neurology and heart disease. There have been 495 Alzheimer’s trials – all have failed. Why not use the available insights to help solve the problem; the problem is big enough and the reward is big enough.
- Look at the major world health problems like Malaria and AMR – we can’t just rely on Warren Buffet and Bill Gates or the Novo Foundation. The only answer is to realise that if we don’t control these diseases people will die or move. Solutions will only come when we as an industry make it happen and collaboration is key.
One of our speakers, Karin Kleinhans, a Partner at MRL Venture Fund, said:
“All the panels were great today, all in a different way, but the fireside chat with Werner Lanthaler was a highlight.”