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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Business Speak

EBR: What attracted you to the pharmaceutical industry?

Jean-Pierre Wery: Health, or the lack of it, can have a profound impact on someone’s life. The pharmaceutical industry – by discovering and developing innovative therapeutic solutions and addressing unmet medical needs – can have such a positive effect on the lives of so many people. I just wanted to be part of that effort.

How has the industry changed since you entered it?

I think the more pertinent question is: “What has not changed in the industry?” If you analyse the novel medicine introduction rate of the market over the past 50 years, you will find that it has essentially remained the same. Despite many – much hyped – technological advances, we are not discovering drugs any faster or more efficiently today than we did half a century ago. We are, however, asking deeper and more pertinent questions. As with any extremely complex system, such as human biology, it will take time for the impact of new technologies to result in tangible efficiency gains.

What will be the big trends in pharma over the next few years?

I think that the technology advances of the past years, such as genomics, proteomics and imaging, and their ability to quantify and characterise human biology like never before, will finally bear fruit. I believe we will understand disease (at the individual level) much better than before, and this knowledge will be used to bring novel therapies to market in a more efficient way.

What should the industry focus on in 2014?

Translational sciences. We have made great progress in creating very exciting drug candidates preclinically. However, these promising molecules often fail when they are tested in a clinical setting. Translational approaches will address these problems and increase the success rate in the clinic for promising drug candidates.

What are your goals for the coming year?

To continue developing preclinical models that would prove more predictive of clinical results. This year, we have seen increasing evidence that the patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model allows you to fully understand how an oncology drug candidate will perform when it is used in clinical trials. We are well on our way to building the world’s largest, most diverse and best characterised PDX collection. We will strive to further our understanding and improve the ways in which we can use these models to dramatically increase the clinical success rate of these drugs.

What inspires you in your daily life?

Building a company is very much about creating a place where people can come and achieve great things – things that matter to them. So the very act of establishing such a company and seeing our employees’ satisfaction in creating, discovering and developing new technologies and products is really inspiring.

What is the secret to your success?

Success in our industry really requires a rich blend of science and engineering. We need the science to bring us the innovations, which are critical in addressing unmet medical needs. And we need the engineering to turn these innovations into products that actually reach the market and the patients. If there is too much science, your company might not strive as a business and fulfi l the promises of your discoveries; on the other hand, if there is too much engineering, you might lose the innovative spirit of your enterprise. It is a delicate balancing act.

How do you think the pharmaceutical industry as a whole will change over the next 10 years?

I believe we will finally realise the benefits of all the technological advances of the past few decades, allowing us to bring innovative therapies to market much more efficiently. I think these therapies will be much more ‘personalised’ and will really address the particular medical need of an individual patient.

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Dr Jean-Pierre Wery is currently President of Crown Bioscience. Prior to this he held positions at Monarch Life Sciences as Chief Scientific Officer and Vitae Pharmaceuticals, Inc as Vice President of Computational Drug Discovery. He received his BS and PhD in Physics from the University of Liege, Belgium.
Dr Jean-Pierre Wery
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