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Are technology platforms the new biotech products? Or: apples grow on trees

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“We are excited to evolve the BIO-Europe Spring® event to a hybrid format and I warmly welcome you today to one of our seven networking satellites worldwide,” said Pam Putz, Managing Director, Europe, for EBD Group as she opened the networking event hosted in Munich, Germany. The event, held on Tuesday, overlooked the city from the fourteenth floor conference room of a high-rise in Munich’s Werksviertel—a new district for living, working, leisure and culture in a 40-hectare former industrial and commercial area.

At the event, attendees watched a live-stream panel, titled “Are platforms the new products?” which turned out to be a fruitful discussion. Literally. When asked to define the term “platform” in contrast to “product,” panelist Michelle Chen, CBO of Insilico Medicine, drew a metaphor of products as apples on a tree and platforms as the trunks supporting and growing them. The image caught on immediately in the minds of attendees, the moderator and the other panelists.

Panelists Roy Smythe, CEO of SomaLogic and Bernd Muehlenweg, SVP Innovate Strategic Partnering at Evotec, picked up the analogy and agreed that product- and platform-focused companies coexist and cooperate much like apples on a tree need a trunk. They described product-driven companies as platform-agnostic, with a focus on indications instead. Platform-driven companies, they argued, are more likely disease-agnostic with a focus on applying the platform technology. The overall point seemed to be that platforms and products are dependent on one another to deliver innovation much the way apples and trunks are co-dependent for a good harvest. While the panel members agreed they expect nothing less in the future, they noted that platforms need to continually evolve to avoid being commoditized. Much like drug development, platform technologies must continue to innovate through scientific discovery and progress.

What defines the value of the apple tree? Obviously, it’s how sweet and tasty the apples are. All panelists agreed that the valuation of platforms differs from those of products and is significantly more challenging. The best examples are RNA-companies, which recently gained attention worldwide. When Daniel Chancellor, Director, Thought Leadership & Consulting at Informa Pharma Intelligence, teased “do we value platforms enough?” Smythe countered that, until recently, biotech valuations seemed to be unlinked from reality and that in the future, valuations will be increasingly bound to more fundamental factors. According to Muehlenweg, investors look at platforms differently than they do at products and their expectations on the return of investment differ greatly as well.

Mr. Smythe summarized that platforms are the new competitive advantage in biotech. The panel agreed that the perception of platforms has changed in recent years and will continue to evolve. “Platforms are enablers,” Ms. Chen said. Starting with small molecules moving to antibodies and recently even RNA and cell therapy, it was concluded “soon our apple trees will grow peaches” “or even Bananas” the panelists added.

After the live stream panel discussion, participants in Munich turned to lively discussions of apple trees and other hot industry topics for the remainder of the evening. Hybrid events provide the benefits of both worlds, travel-independent business development via partneringONE and in-person networking at nice locations. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to the autumn BIO-Europe® onsite in stunning Leipzig, Germany. See you there.

If you missed the panel, you can still log into the Event Hub and watch the recording.

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BIO-Europe Spring

28 - 31 Mar 2022, Basel, Switzerland
Save the date! BIO-Europe Spring 2023 will take place March 20–22, 2023 in Basel, Switzerland.
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