SHOW Preview: Philip Hemme Discusses International Biotech Scene

IMG_1975How can life science innovation change the world? That may seem like a daunting question, but on Thursday evening, innovators from Boston and beyond will attempt to answer it at Science Shaping Our World-SHOW: Life Science Trending Around the Globe – Making Local Innovations Go Global.

Among those presenting will be Philip Hemme, co-founder of LaBiotech.fr. At the event, Hemme will discuss his documentary The Tour de France of LaBiotech, which examines France’s life science business sector. While making the film, Hemme and the second half of LaBiotech.fr’s founding pair, Joachim Eeckhout, biked around France to interview the leadership of 26 different French Biotech companies.

SHOW will also include insights from panelists Dr. Masha Fridkis-Hareli, founder and president at Accelerating Translational Research LLC, Dr. Johannes Fruehauf, founder and president of Cambridge BioLabs and executive director of LabCentral, Dr. RK Narayanan of Partners HealthCare Innovation, and Dr. Jessica Tytell, senior director for life science innovation at Firefly BioWorks.

IMG_1110In preparation for the event, Hemme spoke with MedTech Boston about how different countries help encourage entrepreneurs, how technology is changing biotech, and what excites him about SHOW. 

 

MedTech Boston: What are the major differences between France and the U.S. regarding biotechnology? 
Hemme: The major difference between France and the U.S. is the size of their biotech markets. The U.S. biotech market represents about 60 percent of biotech in the world, while France is just a small percent. Boston raises as much money for biotech in one month that France raises in one year. That means there is almost 10 times less biotech in France than in Boston. The second biggest difference is the amount of private money injected into biotech in the U.S. I was surprised when I arrived in Boston that companies were raising $50-150 million, but now I am almost used to it.

 

MTB: Which country has the most interesting innovations? Who is better at helping entrepreneurs? Have you seen trends regarding other countries?
PH: Innovation come from all over the world, and every ecosystem has its own specificity. France is very good in the field of immuno-oncology with a major medium company Innate-Pharma, which signed a record $465 millions deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb. In the U.S., you have so much innovation, so I don’t know which one to pick. I am pretty impressed at this moment with the CRISPR gene editing technology and the recently founded company Editas. Gene therapy has lots of potential and CRIPSRs, too, and the mix between both should result in something highly interesting.
A general trend by comparing what is happening in Europe to the U.S. is public money and public initiative to improve innovation. France is investing heavily in innovation by giving loans, up to $2 million, to innovative companies. Biotech companies are the most highly founded ones, after information and communications technology. I have even met an American entrepreneur starting a company in France because of this non-dilutive money available. On the other hand, VC money is rare, and it is a growth barrier.

 

MTB: Do you feel like the global biotechnology community is getting smaller since the internet makes it so much easier to communicate?
PH: The world is getting more and more connected and biotechnology is too. Now, virtually everyone could collaborate together, and it is not rare anymore to see American companies collaborating with European companies–even start-ups. Hemarinna, a French biotech company working on blood substitute, is collaborating with the U.S. Navy to develop its new product. One good American example is Bluebird Bio, a successful Boston-based biotech company doing a part of its clinical trials in Paris. To go even further, now everyone can discover the French biotech ecosystem by watching an hour-long Youtube video. Isn’t that awesome, and doesn’t that increase collaboration?

 

MTB: What local events or trends excite you most about Boston?
PH: The Boston biotech ecosystem is so dynamic. You can really feel the passion and the energy of people. This is very stimulating, especially for a 23-year-old entrepreneur and student. One way to feel all this energy is to see a number of events every week and to assist with them. SHOW is a very good example and Biotech Tuesday, too… I also like smaller events where you make more unexpected, multi-disciplinary meetings such as Venture Cafe every Thursday at Cambridge Innovation Center.

 

MTB: What are you excited to learn about from the speakers planned for the June 19 SHOW?
PH: The four planned speakers are very high-level speakers. I already know Johannes Fruehauf from LabCentral, and I am excited to learn about the three other speakers. I am curious to know how innovation is made within MGH, how FireFly is doing its innovation and how the company is taking profit from all this dynamic environment, and finally having an expert view on the drug development process and how to bridge the gap between academia and industry even faster.

Anna Sims

Anna Sims

    Anna Sims is an associate editor at The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman. Her writing has appeared in New York Family Magazine, BDCWire.com, and Crushable.com, among other publications. Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, she came East to attend Boston University where she earned a B.S. in journalism and a B.A. in English.

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