The first biotechs will be able to apply in early 2023, the time for the first part of renovation work on the Hôtel-Dieu to be completed. The incubator and the space dedicated to it will grow as the work progresses. As one of the two pharma founding sponsors, Ipsen will be part of the member selection committee.
The number of biotechs hosted will depend upon the stage of development they are at and how many employees they have. In the short term, the startups selected will be at the early stage of development of their innovations. In the longer term, the incubator may accept companies at a more advanced stage.
The startups pay a monthly rent and may leave at any time, which is more flexible for their finances than a traditional lease. They will have their own research area, equipment to carry out their experiments and also specific expensive shared equipment (low-temperature refrigerators, centrifuges,…) made available by BioLabs.
The presence of other young startups alongside them is also intended to encourage a spirit of emulation, exchanges of ideas, or even a degree of collaboration. Ipsen will provide them with regular updates, whether they work in its areas of therapy or not, “to help them to think through their development, anticipate any opportunities and risks that they may take and advise them to open their doors to partnerships and financing,” said Philippe Lopes-Fernandes, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer at Ipsen. The French laboratory also hopes of course to find biotechs that can provide it with projects.
“By opening this biotech startups incubator at Hotel-Dieu, we are keen to work with BioLabs on the creation of a robust ecosystem. This will drive real change in France, that will have a significant long-term impact. (…) French innovation has nothing to be ashamed of when compared with the USA. However, the fundamental research patents, filed for example by INSERM and the CNRS, need to be highlighted by pre-clinical and toxicological experiments on cells and clinical phases I, II, III in order one day to become solutions for patients worldwide,” Philippe Lopes-Fernandes, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer at Ipsen.
Highlighting the innovation by research centers and public universities is of benefit to them as, once the product has been made available to the market, they will receive royalties. Given that between €1 and €2 billion are needed to develop a drug candidate, private funds are essential at the various stages of development. “A well-structured approach is necessary if effort is to be applied at the right place and in the right direction. This is a complicated matter, which explains the need for us to work with partners such as Ipsen, who have direct access to the patients,” said Philippe Lopes-Fernandes.
Ipsen and BioLabs have been working together since 2018, in particular in Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA), where a joint incubator was set up. Over 60 companies have been hosted there thus far. It has since been transferred to Watertown in the suburbs of Boston.
BioLabs is a US network of laboratories installed in biotechnological innovation clusters. It offers its members shared infrastructures and work areas that are carefully arranged and fully equipped, at a number of sites in the USA and, increasingly, abroad.
BioLabs has responded to the call for tenders by the Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP), in respect of the renovation, transformation and optimization of part of the premises of the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital, which is located in the heart of Paris. The US network has invited Ipsen to join it in this innovative project.
A partnership agreement (funding sponsor) was signed in October 2022. This agreement will be for a minimum of 5 years. The proximity of Hôtel Dieu with the AP-HP is an undeniable advantage. This close relationship with high-performance health services and patients could for example facilitate clinical studies, as happens in the USA. “This is Boston’s secret – combining the presence of biotechs and state-of-the-art hospital facilities with university research, in particular Harvard,” said Philippe Lopes-Fernandes. This makes the BioLabs initiative unique in Europe.
For Ipsen, taking part in this incubator forms part of a strategy started two years ago by the new CEO, David Loew, that offers support to innovative biotechs.
The group’s current momentum is aimed at creating a portfolio of innovative products at different stages of development, in order to add value to the innovation long before it reaches the market. Twenty-one projects have thus been supported in 18 months. This pipeline consists of products that are still at the research stage, or solutions that are already on the market, in the three therapeutic areas of interest to Ipsen:- oncology, rare diseases and neurosciences.
The business will set aside €3.5 billion for the creation of this portfolio of products by 2024, i.e. more than its total sales in 2021 (€2.6 billion). For example Ipsen took an 8% stake in the equity of Genfit in 2021, i.e. an initial investment of €120 million, in order to obtain the rights to their phase III rare diseases program.
Founded in 1929, the pharmaceutical group markets around 20 drugs in 115 countries and has over 5,000 employees worldwide. It achieves 30% of its sales in North America, one third in the principal countries of Western Europe, the rest in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.