Interview with:Dr Michael Hennig, CEO, LeadXpro
30 Aug 2018
With access to the latest technology and a variety of expert knowledge, it’s unsurprising that multinational pharmaceutical companies offer excellent conditions for research. However, within such large and complex organisational structures, it can be far more challenging for new ideas to gain recognition and subsequently be developed. Consequently, new biotech start-ups are cropping up at an increasing rate to fill this void in innovation and value creation.
Having spent 20 years at Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche before co-founding his own biotech start-up in 2015, LeadXpro CEO Dr Michael Hennig knows the benefits of an agile business more than anyone. In fact, Dr Hennig believes that spending too much time making a decision or searching for a focus is costly and detrimental to an organisation.
European CEO spoke to Dr Hennig to find out more about LeadXpro and how the company is creating new, innovative options for the treatment of diseases.
What is LeadXpro’s core business?
As an emerging Swiss biotech company, we focus the majority of our work on LeadXpro-owned, lead-molecule generation projects in disease areas like oncology and antibiotics. But moving forward, we intend to expand our value generation by partnering with pharmaceutical companies that are experienced in clinical research.
Leadxpro shares its structure-based discovery platform with other biotech and pharmaceutical companies to facilitate their research projects
This leads me to the second pillar of our business: collaboration projects. As part of our collaboration initiative, we share our structure-based discovery platform with other biotech and pharmaceutical companies in order to facilitate their research projects. Importantly, we only work on one target with each of our partners to ensure confidentiality.
Can you explain more about membrane proteins as drug targets?
All cells in the human body are surrounded by membranes that contain very important signalling proteins. The modulation of these signalling proteins with medicines has been extremely successful in recent years, creating some of the most profitable blockbuster drugs.
Unfortunately, some of the proteins – ion channels, transporters and G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) – are challenging to tackle in drug discovery. By applying a rational, structure and biophysical methods-based approach, LeadXpro provides an efficient way to address such challenging membrane proteins.
Will these new drug molecules be more effective and have fewer side effects?
Given that we know the structure of the target molecule precisely and can carefully analyse the interaction of the drug molecule by experimental and computational methods, we are able to design specific and active medicines that only work on disease-critical mechanisms. This is instrumental to revitalising the efforts of the discovery of small-molecule drugs.
In addition, applying structure-based drug discoveries to membrane protein drug targets will extend the options for signalling mechanisms to be used for medicines. I am convinced, therefore, that the LeadXpro approach will extend the biological target space for small-molecule drug discovery – more specifically, in the area of GPCRs with peptide binding sites, isoform selective ion channels or protein-protein interactions that need to be addressed with transporters.
LeadXpro has been working very closely with academic institutions – what benefits have you seen from these partnerships?
LeadXpro’s relationships with academic research facilities have sped the progress of structure determination, allowing us to investigate the binding properties of potential drug molecule candidates with human drug targets.
We have established a series of collaborations to advance technologies and provide greater access to scientific knowledge. As a result, we have made advances in new experimental methods and are able to gather new structural information quicker and more efficiently.
What are the advantages of being located in Switzerland?
One of the main benefits of Switzerland is its extremely good infrastructure, which provides companies with the legal and financial security they need to flourish. Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s best scientific institutions, meaning we can recruit the finest individuals to facilitate our projects.
Companies in Switzerland are very international; I am always impressed when I see that Switzerland is ranked as the best place in which to live and work. As a result, we can attract the best talents from around the world. This is the same whether you’re a multinational like Roche or a start-up like LeadXpro.