|Andreas Nechansky - co-founder of Vela Labs|
You’re one of the founders of the company. Whose was the idea of its creation and how did it happen? You and Mr. Markus Fido were working previously in Aphton Igeneon Biopharma. Is it where you found some niche or how you found a market opportunity to open your own business?
At this time I was heading the Aphton Igeneon Biopharma (AIB) Assay Development department and overseeing the analytical testing methods/procedures. Besides being scientifically sound and state-of-the-art, our methods were intended for the generation of high quality data for our clinical studies and had to be accurate and reproducible. This was guaranteed by the quality control and quality assurance department. I quickly released that offering such methods to clients might actually generate a self-sustaining business. However, at this time the senior management was reluctant to offer analytical services as AIB solely focused on their most advanced product which was in clinical phase III. Things dramatically changed after this study failed and - as a consequence - the company went bankrupt within six months. However, in the meantime I had aligned with Markus (who headed the QA department) and another colleague and together we had drafted our business plan. After lengthy and nerve-racking negotiations with the liquidator, we were able to acquire the former AIB labs here at Vienna with all equipment. During this period Armin Franz joined the management team and with his help we were able to secure the money needed for the acquisition. Fortunately, we were also able to get the GMP certificate (based on the last audit performed during AIB times) which added a huge value to our start‑up company and allowed us to hit the ground running. Within half a year we had acquired the first client through our personal network (which is still one of the main sources for client acquisition). This project was dealing with a Biosimilar and was challenging as at these times the regulatory guidelines were very new and additional complexity was added because the product was produced in India (non-EU).
As you correctly stated we had (and still have) to find niches that are not easily filled by our competitors. The approach we have chosen to achieve this is specialization (like for example Biological/Potency assays or Biosimilar analytic), a client oriented/tailored approach (modular work packages and flexibility) and competitive pricing.
What sort of a client is your target? Is it only pharma industry or maybe you had some clients from different branches of biotech?
Vela Labs is targeting worldwide any kind of companies working in the BioTech field: from small start-up’s and mid-size pharma to big pharma. Based on our personal skills and experience we are mainly working with proteins like Biopharmaceuticals, Biosimilars and Advanced Therapy Medical Products (ATMP’s). Only a small part consists of chemical entities and nucleic acids. Vela Labs also provides consulting regarding Quality and Regulatory issues and supports the transition of academic projects into a regulated environment. Right now we have about 15 clients mainly from Europe but also including companies from Canada and India. Noteworthy, we have also clients from the non-Biotech field: for a dentist we analysed the cytokine profile before and after setting the newly developed implants in animals and for another client, we analysed one compound in a hair extension formulation.
Summing up, the compound and/or the methodology is the deciding factor whether Vela can do the job (or not).
End of part I
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