Miguel Garcia is the co-founder and CEO of TechnoPhage, one of the companies with the highest R&D in Portugal. Miguel Garcia is also one of the promotors that envisioned a company that could provide multidisciplinary tailor-made solutions adjusted to SME Biotechs and Academia’s needs. A company that could solve complex problems by addressing the scattered capacities of the academic and industrial stakeholders in Portugal’s health biotechnology sector. In January 2019, Vector B2B – Drug Development was created as an association that gathers highly qualified human resources and state-of-the-art technology provided by recognized academic partners and biopharmaceutical companies. In this interview, Miguel talks about why he decided to take part in the creation of an association such as Vector B2B and why he chose Vector B2B to manage TechnoPhage’s clinical trials.
Can you tell us the story of TP-102, and what is the clinical significance of this IND?
The story of TP-102 closely relates to TechnoPhage history. TechnoPhage operates in three main technological areas. The initial area deals with infection from bacteriophage-based products, and there TP-102 is the most advanced pipeline molecule. It is, therefore, a molecule with great importance for us. Besides, it is the first molecule to achieve FDA approval to initiate clinical trials, an important milestone for any given biotechnology company engaged in drug discovery.
For these reasons, for being the first molecule of TechnoPhage’s pipeline to initiate clinical trials, TP-102 is very important. Not only to TechnoPhage because, as far as I know, I believe this is the first molecule with a Portuguese patent to achieve IND clearance by FDA, which is truly remarkable.
Why choosing Vector B2B as the primary partner to manage the Clinical Trials and Regulatory Support of TechnoPhage pipeline products?
After thorough research to identify the best partner to manage its first clinical trial, TechnoPhage chose Vector B2B for several reasons. Like many other biotechs initiating their first clinical trial, our needs were different from other companies. It was important to customize the clinical trial considerably. It was necessary to tailor the trial to this specific clinical trial’s needs and our company’s needs, the promotor. So, it was essential to match the market offer to our company’s real needs and not to buy a global CRO package. That was the first reason. The second reason was that VectorB2B has highly qualified human resources. Therefore, these are the two main reasons why TechnoPhage chose Vector B2B to manage its clinical trial.
You were one of the promoters of Vector B2B. Why have you felt the need to create an Association such as Vector B2B?
We have created Vector B2B to address two major needs that cross with supply and demand requirements. On the one hand, we know that Portugal has excellent scientists and exceptional basic research that, for several reasons, are not easily transferred into products or services or even into Society. That was one of the main reasons for Vector B2B’s creation: to transfer the enormous quality of Portuguese Academy and companies into the development of new products and services. The second reason is related to what I have mentioned before. Like TechnoPhage, many other companies need customized solutions adapted and adaptable to their real needs. Vector B2B aims to be a 360-degree service provider facing the real needs of SME drug development Biotechs or the Academia. My professional experience indicates that this is very difficult to find: the customized service I previously mentioned when referring to the clinical trial, associated with a 360-degree service profile. Vector B2B aims to customize and adapt its services to the real needs of its clients. These are the two main reasons.
In summary: on the one hand, transferring the extraordinary quality of Portuguese science, both from Academia and Biotech companies, into services that can become available to other groups (at a national or international level)—on the other hand, achieving true customization and adaptation of services to client’s real needs.
So basically, these are the two main reasons underlying the creation of Vector B2B.
What are the main challenges of Vector B2B?
The challenges are enormous, mainly because we compete with many other international institutions and companies. Vector B2B’s market positioning is not regional or national. Vector B2B offers services globally. The main challenge of Vector B2B is to make the company competitive within the shortest possible time. That is the biggest challenge as there is great competition in the areas where Vector B2B operates. I would say that the biggest challenge is to find for each area of the company’s activity the right positioning to add value to this sector. Another critical aspect is that Vector B2B aims to become a Business Development platform to attract and retain clients. Vector B2B seeks to become a platform of Business Development and service operationalization. Therefore, in terms of business development, we have competition, so we need to be competitive in pricing, and so on. In terms of service operationalization, we have several other challenges. The majority of our service providers are in Academia, therefore there is a need to identify how services can be offered in a reproducible and timely manner. Services should be provided in a foreseeable way.
So, there are two main challenges related to the attraction and retention of clients – being competitive and finding a space in terms of market positioning globally and per activity area. That is the way to retain clients. Service operationalization needs to be closer to excellence because we compete with other companies that offer outstanding, timely services.
How can Vector B2B overcome those challenges?
Vector B2B does not offer a verticalized model. Instead of providing all its services in a given area, Vector B2B intends to provide services to companies and groups developing new drugs in a 360-degree fashion. I believe this market positioning is very attractive for small and medium-sized biotechs and academic groups. A single point of contact can solve, adapt and customize solutions in a multidisciplinary way. That adds extraordinary value to small and medium-sized companies or early-stage small academic groups. That is how Vector B2B intends to operate. This model, where we have a single point of contact that can solve several problems in an integrated manner, allows companies to achieve a faster product development.
How do you think Vector B2B can help other companies like TechnoPhage?
As I referred, Vector B2B can be a single point of contact bridging small companies’ multiple multidisciplinary needs. These needs are often related, and Vector B2B succeeds in bridging those gaps and solving those problems. On the other hand, I genuinely believe that the increasing needs of the regulatory agencies demand service customization to the client’s real needs. That seems apparently obvious but is not common in this line of business.
Last question: Where do you see VectorB2B in the next five years?
The project of Vector B2B has several steps. The first stage is a three-plus two-year period.
Vector B2B has already overcome several milestones, namely establishing a high-level team able to add value to partners and clients. For the next five years, I see Vector B2B consolidating itself, identifying and testing its market positioning and business segment per activity, region, etc. Also, Vector B2B has a very ambitious goal: to become fully autonomous at a financial level. And that is the first level of challenge. In five years, I envision Vector B2B with the team that was planned (which already exists) and with growing activity. That will ground Vector B2B with the structure to achieve other targets. For the next five years, I see Vector B2B’s consolidation, which will allow us to reach other targets.
Thank you Miguel!