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Will Celther Poland find its niche in the biotech market? Interview with Dr. hab. Piotr Rie

Will Celther Poland find its niche in the biotech market? Interview with Dr. hab. Piotr Rieske

Publish date: 2013-01-16

Celther Poland is a young Polish biotech company, which was the first one in Poland to start works on the development of efficient and safe therapies concerning stem cells. Celther Poland is a great example of how successfully combine the potential of science and business to implement innovative scientific solutions into real industrial applications.

Tags: bioforum , biotechnology , poland

Interview about the history of the company, the role that of BioForum took in establishment of it as well as news and future plans of Celther Poland with the Project Manager – Dr. hab. Piotr Rieske.

 When and where did the idea of Celther Poland come from?

The idea to open a business, which would enable the commercialization of scientific knowledge, arose in me about in 2006-2007. When I did my habilitation I realized that I was quite satisfied with my scientific education and it was about the time to take advantage of my knowledge in commercial way. I confronted the thought with professor Tadeusz Pietrucha. He was looking for people who simply want to commercialize their knowledge. I was invited to BioForum where I received a stand and  had my chance to present mine idea to larger body of more experienced than me in bio-business. 

So BioForum directly contributed to the start of Celther Poland?

Yes. During BioForum in 2007, to our stand came head-hunters from major pharmaceutical companies. One of this pharma companies was seriously interested in our project and business plan. So it can be said that BioForum contributed a lot to the start-up of Celther.

Who was your target on BioForum?

We always looked at, let’s say, older than ourselves in biotech world. If you were able to talk to someone from e.g. Celon Pharma it would be already a really useful conversation. It is a little bit like a confrontation between our ideas and their experience.

In Celther Poland you work with stem cells. Why are you interested in this subject as it is quite risky field?

In 2006, when I did my habilitation, stem cells were extremely top-class subject. I worked for several years in the USA and came back home with couple open-ended ideas concerning stem cells. But I couldn’t work on it until the establishment of Celther. One of them survived until now, namely, the technology that enables preparations of fibroblast cells with the features of embryonic stem cells. This idea, that from cells of mature organisms e.g. from fibroblasts it is possible to prepare cells which will be pluripotent, has definitely been smouldering in the minds of many, including my boss with whom I worked in Philadelphia. But I decided to take advantage from this general concept. Worth mentioning is the fact that last year’s Nobel Prize was awarded for the best work in this particular field.

Return from the USA, habilitation, know-how in the subject of stem cells. It all coincided together and BioForum just gave opportunity for the action...

Yes. We could say that BioForum gave the beginning to all we have now.

Where did the name of company come from?

When we were creating the name Celther, at the beginning it was to have one message – we cut out the “l” from the word “cell” and added “ther” from the “therapy”. The name was supposed to show that we aimed to cell therapy. But in the meantime, we noticed that the term fit to one more important aspect of our company – targeted therapy. With time Celther for many reasons stopped dealing with cell therapy only and started to get interested in targeted therapy. So the name now refers to both cell and targeted therapies.

What are you working on now in Celther?

A few months ago we applied for grant for our first deployment. The project is generally advanced enough to start the production. We already have a prototype ready. However, to enter the market you should have already developed manufacturing department and the prototype has to be prepared especially for clinical trials.

And beyond that?

Apart from that, we have projects that concern other products aimed at the academic market. For example, we will produce induced pluripotent stem cells, which are hoped to provide a new model for laboratory tests. For some diseases induced pluripotent stem cells can replace the knock-out mice. Using these cells it is possible to build models of various diseases. So our task is to generate a variety of induced pluripotent and induced multipotent stem cells and introduce them to the research market. We have already sent patent applications.

So the Celther enters the service sector? Such cell-on-request service?

Yes. Cells obtained in our laboratory, when respectively deposited, will be then send to laboratories involved in this subject.

Coming back to the subject of prototype and preparation for its clinical trials. Did Celther decide to build its own manufacturing facility and not outsource the production?

Probably we will build. At least in this case. However, we have in Celther such projects that we are sure we will not be able to conduct clinical trials or take other action needed for their implementation. We will simply not be able to start the production on our own. For these cases we consider licensing of our products.

Is the market ready for Celther?

This is a very interesting question. I rather expected question if Celther is ready to enter the marker and not the other way around. We have the prototype, at the moment everything is ready for the clinical trials. If the product is as effective as we expect, then market is definitely ready for our products.

Do you already aim for global market?

The management board decided not to aim in narrow market. So in this case we do no limit ourselves only to the market in Central and Eastern Europe.

Will there be a demand for Celther products?

After careful analysis of the market, we expected so. This of course depends on many factors, variables, but most of all on the effectiveness of our product.

BioForum was a driving force for creation of Celther. From this perspective, how do you find the role of such event in our region?

Our opinion is definitely very subjective, however I think BioForum is a great place where, roughly speaking, head-hunters from major companies can meet people with good ideas. It allows meetings with business angels, which is just one more amazing feature of  BioForum. We also very much appreciated participation in the competition for the most innovative company organized in the framework of BioForum. I remember that during this 45 minute talk I had a chance to confront with really incredible authorities from the fields of business and science, which gave me a lot. From the financial point of view, you would have to spend up to several thousand dollars for such consultation, whereas during BioForum you just need to take part in the competition and such consolations are within the elimination stage. So it certainly was a very valuable initiative for us. But it was not the only benefit from BioForum. As during all networking we had an opportunity to meet people from  our industry.

On a side, it is worth mentioning that BioForum is great organized fun in  the best clubs.

Is the BioForum message concerning consolidation of Central and Eastern Europe, common war for protection of innovation and presentation of potential of CEE region  consistent with Celther business plan?

Celther has always put great emphasis on employees to become independent fast and start their own projects.  So far two of them have already become independent project managers in other companies. I am pleased with that as already some of Celther project are not under mine supervision. Celther recruited scientists who worked in UK, Ireland, Germany or even Japan, so we can be regarded as more than Central European. We are also involved in cooperation with many universities in Europe, mainly due to experience, equipment and potential of our company. More than 20 people have already found place here. Including student interns, etc. more than 30 people work in our laboratories at the same time.

So we can say that Celther contributed to the innovation growth in the region and in a way to the release of this innovation. In my opinion, through active participation in BioForum we show that all represented by this even ideas are close to us.

Trends in the market you aim are developing quite rapidly. will Celther keep up with these trends? Or maybe even appoint them?

It’s hard to say whether they change. I think that in our case the strategy of “not putting all your eggs into one basket” proves correct. We have something on the clinical trails stage that is relatively easy to introduce into the market. There is the idea of building the manufacturing facility. We have products that are targeted at scientific market and projects that are to be finished with license. So I don’t think that market is changing so rapidly...

...but Celther will find itself in it?

I hope so! Certainly the experience gained during BioForum helps us to do so.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Translation by Jacek Plewka

 

original Polish version available on: Biotechnologia.pl

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