Dr. Frank Mathias, Chief Executive Officer of Medigene AG, Prof. Dolores J. Schendel, Chief Scientific Officer, and Peter Llewellyn-Davies, Chief Financial Officer, elucidate discuss the future development of Medigene AG and provide an outlook on the further course the biotech company is pursuing.
The 2014 Annual Report is entitled "Inspired by Immunotherapies". Why did you choose this title?
Dr. Frank Mathias: Medigene repositioned itself through the acquisition of Trianta early 2014. Our development activities now focus on the innovative field of immunotherapies, which opens up fundamentally new and promising treatment possibilities for cancer and other serious diseases. The exciting potential of these therapeutic approaches drives us forward from both a business and science perspective.
Prof. Dolores Schendel: Our immunotherapies are based on the power of T cells. These are white blood cells that form part of the body's own immune system. T cells activated by dendritic cells are by nature the best weapons against cancer. The understanding of immune mechanisms has increased enormously over the last decade, and now our vision of activating T cells to effectively combat cancer is becoming a clinical reality.
Peter Llewellyn-Davies: Medigene's investment in future technologies has aroused new interest amongst investors and potential licence partners; they are constantly monitoring the exciting developments in the field of immunotherapies worldwide. We operate in a sector with tremendous development opportunities. According to experts, ten years from now, more than 60% of all types of cancer will be treated on the basis of immunotherapies, by which time the total market could be worth over € 30 bn.
Dr. Frank Mathias
What exactly is immunotherapy?
Dr. Frank Mathias: In the last few years there has been a paradigm shift in the development of therapies for cancer and other diseases that are difficult to treat. New scientific findings have resulted in greater recognition of the potential in utilising a patient's own immune system. Instead of attacking tumour cells directly, as in the case of chemotherapy for example, the aim is to activate and influence the body's own immune system so that it can be used to combat cancer and autoimmune diseases. This should lead to more sustainable success rates and fewer side effects.
Prof. Dolores Schendel
What are the distinctive characteristics of Medigene's immunotherapies?
Prof. Dolores Schendel: T cells are tasked with identifying and combating pathogens. However, they often fail to recognise cancer cells. Medigene's T cell-focused immunotherapies activate, prepare and "train" the patient's own T cells to target and destroy tumour cells. Conversely, any unwanted T cells, as in autoimmune diseases, can be identified and removed. Medigene has three different therapy platforms to activate the immune system on a targeted basis. They complement each other and are designed to treat various types of cancer at different development stages. The aim is to provide each patient with personalised and tailored treatment. Medigene's immunotherapies could offer potential advantages over other immunotherapy approaches in terms of application, efficacy and manufacturing costs.
What progress has Medigene made in 2014?
Peter Llewellyn-Davies: Following the progress made in 2013 and right at the start of 2014 we successfully carried out two transactions that fundamentally changed the company and opened up new prospects for Medigene. With the out-licensing of our clinical drug candidate RhuDex® we successfully completed the planned partnership agreements for our advanced drug pipeline. Our marketed drug Veregen® and the clinical projects EndoTAG®-1 and RhuDex® are now in the responsibility of specialised partner companies. They will be in charge of the further development and commercialisation of the drugs at their own cost. Medigene can now fully concentrate on further developing the innovative immunotherapies that we acquired together with a highly qualified team of scientists. Our strategic repositioning was accompanied by positive financials, with both revenues and results improving significantly in 2014. Moreover, we raised new funds and attracted renowned investors through our successful capital increase.
Prof. Dolores Schendel: We have made good progress in the development of our immunotherapy platforms. We have further expanded our patent position, obtained grants, agreed new research cooperations, held constructive talks with authorities, achieved preclinical progress and advanced the clinical development of our projects. At the end of 2014, we received approval to begin the clinical phase I/II trial for DC vaccines which we recently started. In addition, our academic partners, who tested Medigene's DC vaccines in their own trials and programmes, have published extremely interesting clinical results. This early, and in part still preliminary, clinical data suggests that the concept of our vaccines functions from a technical perspective and can achieve outstanding results in the treatment of cancer patients. We are planning to conduct further clinical trials in order to prove and substantiate this very encouraging data.
Peter Llewellyn Davies
What is Medigene's strategy for the future?
Dr. Frank Mathias: We want to play a leading role in the development of immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. Our aim is to establish a franchise and in-depth expertise in the field of blood cancer with our development programmes and make further development options in solid tumour indications available to selected partners. This gives Medigene a clear profile and a wide range of development opportunities.
Thank you for the interview.
Dr. Frank Mathias
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Dr. Frank Mathias Chief Executive Officer of Medigene AG since May 2009, joined the company in 2008 as Chief Operating Officer. Frank Mathias, previously Corporate Vice President of Amgen Inc. and General Manager, possesses over 25 years of relevant experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. He holds a PhD in pharmacy in the field of immunology and worked for Hoechst, among other companies, prior to assuming the General Manager position at Servier Deutschland GmbH in Munich. In 2002, he joined Amgen GmbH, Munich, as Head of Marketing. He then served as the company’s General Manager from 2003 – 2008.
Peter Llewellyn Davies
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Peter Llewellyn-Davies has been Chief Financial Officer and Member of the Executive Board of Medigene AG since October 2012. He has extensive experience in senior positions in medium-sized companies in the commercial as well as the financial sector, most recently from 2006 to 2012 as Chief Financial Officer and Member of the Executive Board of WILEX AG, Munich. Prior to this, he was Managing Director of Müller Dairy (UK) and Executive Director Finance at Süd-Chemie AG. Mr. Llewellyn-Davies read business management, banking, marketing and controlling in London, St. Gallen and Munich, and has a certificate in business studies from the University of London.
Prof. Dr. Dolores J. Schendel
Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)
Prof. Dolores J. Schendel holds the position as CSO of Medigene AG since May 2014 and has been co-founder of Trianta Immunotherapies GmbH (now Medigene Immunotherapies GmbH) which was acquired by Medigene in January 2014. Dolores Schendel served from 1998-2014 as Director of the Institute of Molecular Immunology of the Helmholtz-Center Munich - German Research Center for Environmental Health and has held a professorship in immunology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich since 1986. Her research focuses on human immunology and immunotherapy. Dolores Schendel served as a member of the German Cancer Aid Grants Review Panel and the Immunology Grants Panel of the German Research Foundation and also as Member and Chair of a Life Science Study Panel of the European Research Council.