As Sanofi’s high enterprise partnering government, Alban de La Sablière led the pharmaceutical big’s collaboration talks with quite a few firms, together with $30 billion in acquisitions prior to now six years. Now he’s transferring to the opposite finish of the negotiating desk. De La Sablière has taken a new position at synthetic intelligence biotech Owkin, which occurs to be one of many companions he helped to safe for Sanofi in his earlier function.
Because the chief enterprise officer at Owkin, de La Sablière will look to seek out extra massive pharma alliances together with his new employer. The transfer comes at a time of transition for Owkin, which operates twin headquarters in Paris and New York. The corporate is increasing past its preliminary work of utilizing its AI tech to assist bigger firms uncover and develop new medicine. Its technique now contains creating its personal pipeline of recent merchandise.
“I’m actually captivated with how AI can affect the way forward for drug discovery and drug improvement,” de La Sablière stated. “It was too good [a job] to cross. Folks driving this revolution are usually in scaleup or startup [companies].”
Owkin, which was based in 2016, takes a “federated studying” strategy to information evaluation. The corporate companions with establishments and organizations, which give entry to their information. The info stay on the establishments however the firm deploys its machine-learning algorithms to these websites to find out about illness. After they’ve completed studying from one web site, they’ll return to a central location or be redeployed to a different web site to study extra. This strategy allows researchers to collaborate with out having to deliver the entire information collectively in a single place.
The earliest Owkin companions have been most cancers remedy facilities and hospitals. The corporate finally expanded its partnership scope to drugmakers. Beneath the Sanofi partnership introduced almost a yr in the past, the pharma big dedicated $180 million to the alliance, which is focused on finding cancer biomarkers that could be potential targets for new cancer drugs. Since then, Owkin has signed on ADC Therapeutics in a cancer-focused deal that goals to establish biomarkers which can be predictive of affected person outcomes from most cancers remedy.
De La Sablière was not in a position to talk about private details about the partnerships, however talking typically, he stated the flexibility to work with distinctive datasets and establish new biomarkers is making a distinction. The strategy is lowering drug discovery time and permitting many experiments to be completed in parallel.
“You possibly can transfer a lot sooner since you’re far more focused,” he stated. “The optimization from goal to a lead candidate is far faster.”
Owkin’s give attention to most cancers is a mirrored image of the corporate’s co-founders, de La Sablière stated. CEO Thomas Clozel introduced his expertise and perspective as an oncologist and professor. The background of Chief Science Officer Gilles Wainrib is in AI and machine studying. Whereas Owkin’s enterprise improvement work has been oriented round utilizing the corporate’s AI platform to assist companions advance their drug analysis, de La Sablière stated the imaginative and prescient from the start was to evolve past a fee-for-service enterprise mannequin.
A part of de La Sablière’s new function will embody discovering new drug belongings that Owkin can develop. These belongings may come to Owkin through acquisitions, licensing offers, or strategic partnerships with drug firms, stated de La Sablière, who led Morgan Stanley’s M&A apply in France previous to becoming a member of Sanofi in 2016. The corporate’s inner R&D work has already yielded new diagnostics. Final month, the European Union approved two of Owkin’s AI-based cancer diagnostics, one for breast most cancers and the opposite for colorectal most cancers.
Owkin goals to develop past most cancers. The corporate has already begun trying to different therapeutic areas through its partnerships. A multi-year collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb introduced earlier this yr is utilizing AI to provide you with extra exact and environment friendly scientific trials designs. Heart problems is the preliminary focus however the companions may develop to different indications sooner or later. De La Sablière stated that for Owkin’s inner drug analysis, immunology represents one other space of potential enlargement.
Owkin’s final financing was final yr, a Series B round that valued the company at more than €1 billion and vaulted it into “unicorn” territory. The valuation displays the maturation of Owkin’s expertise in addition to the corporate’s progress. With greater than 200 workers, de La Sablière stated Owkin is now not a startup.
“It’s not a big firm, but it surely’s not a small firm anymore,” he stated.
Photograph by Owkin