Which therapeutics areas is Cureline most invested in today and what is the selected approach to target them?
For pharma & biotech companies, the interest lies in life threatening indications with unmet medical needs, because that is where the capital is; remember, the life sciences industry is an industry. When I was a Research Fellow in the NIH it was all about scientific knowledge and publications - when I joined a pharma company, our work was about the particular application of a scientific concept in a useful way; both are important and complementary approaches. We are now focusing on the latter.
At Cureline we focus on a wide range of cancer indications and auto-immune diseases, inherited conditions, infectious diseases, and other important disorders where targeted medicine approaches are applied. What most people frequently fail to understand in relation to cancer, for instance, is that it is not just one disease, but a multitude of different diseases. Depending on a person, on a genetic background and/or environment, available molecular data and other details of the diagnosis, a seemingly same cancer should be treated completely differently. The term “personalized medicine”, which I particularly appreciate, shows that for a successful treatment it is important to understand not only a disease but also the patient's specific disease features.
A colleague’s wife received a very negative diagnosis that would have been hopeless 20 years ago. But she was a candidate for recently developed targeted therapy, and she survived. That is why targeted therapy is such a great success for the industry - it prolongs life and improves its quality by paying attention not only to the illness, but also to the patient.
Will the U.S. continue being the global kernel of innovation in the life sciences after the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act?
The United States is the cradle of innovation and I believe this will never change. The life sciences infrastructure, academic research achievements, government support, available funding – it all makes the U.S. life sciences economy holding better than that in many other developed countries, even in difficult economic periods. I would also like to highlight how business friendly the U.S. is in comparison to other places; when I tell my friends in Europe that the time it takes to start a new company here is virtually non-existent, they look at me in awe. The U.S. economy is a unique thing because while reflecting the world trends, it is also ahead in many ways. When it comes to the life sciences, everyone, no matter where they are from, is interested in innovation, which will remain protected in North America.
Yet, you have recently expanded across the globe to places like Lithuania. Why go abroad when you have everything in America?
Our core business is in human biospecimens (HBS), and we ultimately help diagnostics and biopharma companies produce critical data for patients’ selection and their products approval. When a new drug candidate is advancing to clinical trials, it’s important to understand its mechanism of action and select a proper patient cohort for these very expensive studies. If the biology of the disease is misunderstood, the results could be catastrophic. This happened in the past with diseases like Alzheimer’s, where everyone was focusing on the wrong scientific concepts. Using human biospecimens validation studies, it’s possible to better reflect on what is happening with the patient, and with this knowledge you can make a great drug and save people’s lives.
Operating in different countries is crucial because people are genetically slightly different and this difference is enhanced by the environment, the nutrition, the cultural preferences, etc. We come from three main branches of Homo-sapiens (the original group is from Africa, one developed later in Europe, and one in Asia), and we are a great mix of these three! Current human population is distributed all over the world, creating different patient groups with different diseases prevalence and characteristics. Consequently, some ethnic groups have a predisposition to particular diseases. Studying Cystic Fibrosis, for instance, I learned that it’s much more prevalent in the Ashkenazi Jews and the Basques, while in Africa and among Latin-Americans it is a rare disease. The same is true for different illnesses and different genetic conditions. So, to treat different populations you need to address variety - and in our case, we need to diversify biospecimens. We are making sure that all qualified researchers will be able to access biospecimens from all over the world. We want to go to South America to understand if certain drugs work just as well in people there, and to Africa to work on certain strains of HIV; we have studied HIV in Kyrgyzstan and explored cancer in Eastern Europe - the more places we are in, the more we learn about the human body and its illnesses, and the more conditions we can cure.
What is priority number one for Cureline for the coming period?
We have grown and diversified both in terms of business lines and geographies, across four continents, and with collaborators from Argentina to Turkey to India - the number one mission now is to unify all Cureline Group business units, and work in sync, playing on everyone’s strengths. The biobanking industry is poised for massive growth, and AI and digitization are rippling across our industry - we wish to embrace this trend and take the company to the next level.
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