Tanja Dowe, CEO of Debiopharm Innovation Fund – Interview Collection



Tanja Dowe is the CEO of Debiopharm Innovation Fund, the company enterprise capital arm of Debiopharm Group. The fund invests in digital well being firms that have an effect on most cancers, infectious illnesses, and drug improvement.

Debiopharm Innovation Fund is thought for investing in firms which can be leveraging AI and large knowledge. How vital is AI to accelerating drug discovery?

A typical drug discovery course of takes 4.5-6 years and requires iterative experiments within the lab with unsure outcomes. Lower than 12% of drug candidates ensuing from the normal drug discovery course of make it all over the scientific trials and to the market.

As healthcare prices proceed to extend, our society can’t afford costlier medication. Previously 10 years, the ROI from drug improvement has declined by 80% – making drug discovery (and improvement) as we all know it unsustainable in the long run on account of its excessive prices.

AI can reduce the time spent on drug discovery to as little as a number of months to a 12 months. AI strategies have been bettering quick – computing energy has accelerated exponentially, and increasingly more high-quality knowledge units can be found to coach the AI fashions. Mixed, this permits extra exact understanding of the chemical and the organic areas and the acceleration of drug discovery.

What do you search for in firms which can be leveraging machine studying and AI?

We search for a mix of technical and scientific abilities. The crew must have organic or medical experience, in addition to state-of-the-art knowledge science capabilities. AI is a superb instrument, however the crew additionally has to grasp the issue they’re making an attempt to unravel.

On the info science facet, we search for the backgrounds of the engineers and builders: do they arrive with the latest information and a monitor report of making use of AI to advanced issues?

As competitors continues to develop within the house, we additionally search for a monitor report of current clients earlier than we make investments to indicate that the corporate is ready to interact with clients and clear up related issues.

Generative AI is all the rage, in your view what are the most effective use circumstances for Generative AI within the healthcare sector?

There are various areas the place generative AI can be utilized in healthcare – ranging from easy alternatives akin to content material improvement for affected person schooling and affected person assist packages, offering scientific determination assist methods with up-to-date info from scientific literature, and stretching all the way in which to drug discovery.

In drug discovery, generative AI learns the relationships between chemical buildings and their exercise on a given organic goal to recommend de novo molecule designs which have the specified properties.

A few of Debiopharm’s earlier investments concentrate on genomics, what are your views on how machine studying will be integrated in genomics?

The human genome consists of 20,000-25,000 genes, however solely a little bit over 800 disease-related molecular targets are used at this time by the medication out there available on the market. We all know solely a fraction of how genomics impacts illnesses. However the complexity and the rising quantity of genomic knowledge mixed with different omics and scientific knowledge want higher evaluation strategies. Machine studying has the potential to level to new connections between genomics and well being situations and permits us to develop higher and extra focused remedies for illnesses.

The Debiopharm Innovation Fund focuses on Collection A investments, these are sometimes profitable at proof of idea, however proof of scalability should still be a problem. How do you establish firms that may scale?

There are two axes to scalability. The primary is whether or not the market is able to scale, and the second is whether or not the start-up’s applied sciences and enterprise mannequin is scalable.

Available on the market facet, we see that greater than 20 drug improvement packages from AI discovery firms have already reached scientific trials at this time. We additionally see a essential mass of pharma collaborations with AI firms. So, we consider the market is prepared.

On the start-up facet, we need to see that the tech platform is usually collectively, getting used a minimum of internally for buyer tasks, even when UX/UI haven’t been absolutely optimized. We additionally need to see entry to top quality knowledge. There must be a transparent improvement roadmap for the platform to indicate what must be constructed to make sure scalability and usefulness within the buyer’s arms.

Many of the firms we see have began with a service mannequin and have a plan to evolve in direction of a recurring income mannequin. Our funding thesis is to put money into firms with software program enterprise fashions relatively than biotech asset fashions, and we steer away from AI firms that solely consider in creating drug belongings for licensing. So, we have to see a reputable roadmap in direction of a recurring income mannequin and a pricing technique that is smart.

You’ve spoken concerning the significance of the schooling that’s wanted on each side of huge pharma and start-ups for them to grasp one another, how does Debiopharm help with this?

Once we put money into a start-up firm, we set up a ‘Meet-the-Startup Day’ at Debiopharm. We invite the start-ups to present a company-wide presentation, and we open our doorways for the start-up to entry Debiopharm’s experience. Whether or not it’s for translational drugs, drug improvement or market entry groups, we join the start-up with specialists that they should check their speculation on buyer wants or to grasp which technical options are needed for connecting with pharma’s inside tech stacks. Typically, we additionally facilitate collaborative discussions between the start-up and Debiopharm. On this course of, the start-up can refine their understanding of their buyer teams. We additionally educate our inside groups to work with start-ups – to entry the latest innovation, you can not anticipate turn-key options, however it is best to undertake a mindset of co-creation.

What do you personally search for in entrepreneurs that you’re contemplating investing in?

I get requested this so much. I search for that entrepreneurial ingredient that’s onerous to elucidate – ardour, power, enthusiasm, sturdy conviction which you could overcome difficulties, curiosity and suppleness of thoughts. The entrepreneur additionally must be an optimist. You get beat down so many instances that it isn’t potential to construct a thriving firm with out being an optimist. And it’s a must to perceive that you’re an optimist, so that you simply mitigate over-optimism by bringing the kind of individuals round you that hold you grounded.

There’s one concrete function that I search for in entrepreneurs that I can share although. It’s responsiveness. We dwell in a fast-paced world, and, as an entrepreneur, it’s a must to sustain. Responsiveness builds relationships and belief, whether or not it’s with a buyer or an investor. Irrespective of how nice a expertise you’ve gotten, communication between individuals is what’s going to make or break you.

What recommendation do you’ve gotten for startups and founders which can be contemplating approaching Debiopharm or different VC funds to lift capital?

Buyers are all the time in search of new, attention-grabbing start-ups, so don’t hesitate to succeed in out to us at occasions, via networks or digitally. Nonetheless, do not forget that we undergo 400-500 funding alternatives per 12 months so be crystal clear about what you do, how your clients work with you and the way a lot cash you might be in search of. We’re very environment friendly in screening and filtering alternatives and need to simply establish if your organization may very well be a match with our funding thesis.

What’s your imaginative and prescient for the way forward for digital well being?

It’s easy: individualized, accessible, preventive.

Individualized implies that your well being knowledge (whether or not it’s your well being historical past, genetic profile or steady monitoring knowledge from wearables) is digitally out there and is effectively used for remedy choice and remedy administration.

Accessible means that you’ve entry to all of your knowledge, in addition to digital entry to your healthcare suppliers, and that the standard of analysis or remedy selections stay fixed no matter the place you might be positioned on this planet – due to AI-assisted analysis strategies and scientific determination assist methods.

Preventive implies that, primarily based in your well being knowledge, digital diagnostics establish potential well being points early and personalised digital therapeutics allow you to modify your conduct with a purpose to keep a more healthy way of life and forestall – or  even reverse – a well being danger.

Thanks for the nice interview, readers who want to study extra ought to go to Debiopharm Innovation Fund.