akampion Meets… Martin Austin, Founder & Managing Director of TransformRx and Director of Alma Bio Therapeutics
akampion: When we first met, you were with Paul Capital Partners and very actively scouting the European biotech scene for potential deals. Since then, you have founded TransformRx and now you are also a Director at Alma Bio Therapeutics – how did that come about?
Martin Austin: I left Paul Capital because in my view, the market for royalty funds was beginning to narrow and only companies with sufficient revenues could really fit into the investment model. At the same time, the market trend moved more towards development and R&D. So I was wondering how to address these developments, and so I eventually acquired the Swiss subsidiary of Paul Capital and founded TransformRx GmbH.
Since I know operations in the pharma and the investment industries very well, the idea was to offer financial intermediation services. How can a biotech get money? How to invest in biotech?
akampion: We definitely believe there must have been a market for financial intermediation in the biotech sector – there still is!
Martin Austin: Indeed. But in addition, I also had clients calling up to get support in business development and commercialization, since I have been working in that space for a long time. So I took on these projects and had a request to develop a my commercial BD course with CELforPharma in Brussels into a format for a business development course at the University of Basel. It is part of a Master´s program at the European Center of Pharmaceutical Medicine ECPM which offers a range of training courses in the field of drug development, including leadership and biobusiness development. And then I had an invitation to run a course in China, which I have been running annually since 2007.
akampion: So one project led to another…
Martin Austin: Yes – and it continues! I received similar requests from France and elsewhere which led to my first book on Business Development in the Pharmaceutical Industry being published.The next book is out this year, by the way, and will focus on commercializing IP in healthcare. Just to give you some background, I have also been advising various technology transfer offices for a several years and this sparked the idea for the second book.
akampion: And now you´re also with Alma Bio Therapeutics, a company developing novel antiinflammatory drugs to treat Crohn´s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Martin Austin: Right. The CEO is a former “student” of mine. She contacted me because in Israel, the conditions for biotech companies are not very favorable, so the idea was to transfer IP and the company from Israel to Europe. Alma, for example, has a product licensed from the Weizmann Institute. The company is now situated at the Basel incubator and is looking for further funding from angel investors and VCs. The lead product is a synthetic gene sequence encouraging the body to produce a protein called HSP70. HSP70 acts as a transient signal to T-regulatory cells in the immune system which re-harmonises the body’s responses to inflammation. The initial mouse experiments have yielded very good results, so we have a mammalian proof-of-principle – and the manufacturing is already in place as well. I am very glad to be part of the company´s team because I believe that Alma as a start-up company is very well set. So we are ready for investment!
akampion: Thank you, Martin! We will keep our fingers crossed for Alma´s financing and hope to be able to read your new book soon.