BiognoSYS, a Swiss leader And Founder of Proteomics Discusses Opportunities In the Swiss Market

BiognoSYS, a Swiss leader and founder of proteomics in the Greater Zurich Area,  is developing targeted proteomics based on a novel mass spectrometric technology for discovering biomarkers, monitoring health, detecting the onset of diseases and preserving information for future advances in diagnostics. Below, CEO, Oliver Rinner is interviewed by OneMedRadio where he discusses opportunities using the Swiss market.



Click below to hear full audio interview and see transcript that follows.

Matt Margolis:  Greetings from OneMedRadio, I’m Matt Margolis. Today I’m with Dr. Oliver Rinner, Founder and CEO of BiognoSYS, a Swiss leader and founder of proteomics. BiognoSYS is developing targeted proteomics based on a novel mass spectrometric technology for discovering biomarkers, monitoring health, detecting the onset of diseases and preserving information for future advances in diagnostics. So today we are discussing opportunities using the Swiss market as well as the field of proteomics. Thank you for joining us, Dr Rinner.

Oliver Rinner: Thank you.

Matt Margolis: So I think first we should learn a little more about our guests. So what makes BiognoSYS unique, and can you talk your RND and business model?

Oliver Rinner: Right so, there are more than 20,00 different genes in our bodies. For each gene code for different protein, sometimes one even gene codes for various line of proteins.  It is the proteins that carry out the biological function and that is why you want to measure them, ideally all of them. State of the art technology allows you to either measure 1, the maximum 5, proteins at the same time at high accuracy. With antibodies mostly. Or thousands with low accuracy with mass spectrometry. Accuracy however is of the outermost importance for clinical research and diagnostics applications. That’s partly why proteomics based on mass spectrometry has sometimes failed. Our technology allows us to bridge the gap between multiplexing, meaning many proteins measured at the same time, and accuracy. We can accurately quantify hundreds to thousands of proteins at the same time in a single instrument run with higher up visibility.

MM: What is your development timeline, as well as your business model?

OR: One of the unique features of the platform is that you can develop this assays, meaning the the methods to measure specific proteins or many of them really fast. Much faster. It’s a matter of weeks until we have a validated assay once the target is defined.

For the business model it is essentially to market this technology as a technology itself, meaning we enable companies that perform clinical trials to run our methods our assays in house and provide and intergrate them with technology products that they can use to block into their mass spectroemeters that they use for quality control and perform proteomics and to our knowledge no other company has been able so far to really transfer this, method rather than doing it only in house.

MM: So I want to take a step back real quick. maybe you could tell us how your unique technology was developed?

OR: It was developed mainly at the ETH Zurich, by [indiscernible: 3:06] one of the pioneers in quantitative proteomics. From there, specific flavor or variance of proteomics came up where you target specific proteins rather than protemocs usually tended to randomly search for proteins. So it was the combination of the target approach that is known from ELIZA, known from in clinical research, with the multiplexing power of mass spectrometry. it was brought together and enabled us to conceptually do complete this new thing.

MM: Would you say that Switzerland is uniquely positioned to be a leader in fostering personalized medicine technology development and specifically in your area why is Swiss code so unique in fostering the development of this technology?

OR: If you ask me that I would like to take this question with parts. I think Switzerland is uniquely positioned when it comes to develop high level innovation technology. If you ask about personalized medicine in general, I think its still the US that is leading the field. But I think if you bring together the technology from Switzerland and the personalized meidicine in the US this could be a winning combination. That’s what we want to do

MM: Sure and I want to talk a little bit about the unique relationship between the academic institutions as well as the private sector in Switzerland?

OR: Right so what we found, so obviously there’s a lot of innovation and technical innovation in Switzerland, especially from the ETH and the other universities. Switzerland is very business friendly when it comes to support and commercializing this technology. the universities are very helpful, they love companies and you really feel that it is wanted that we do so. That people move from the academic field into business commercializing technology. And what’s the key important parts is that we have access to many high level people with really good technical skills that we could sample a team of excellent scientists and engineers quite quickly and this I can say that it is extremely important to develop technology.

Maybe cut 5:30. MM: And what about your personal experience and your background?

OR: My background I am a scientist by training, psychologist and biochemic, my PhD in molecular biology and psychophysics that is stimulating the racial stimuli [indiscernible: 5:53] and modifying the genome. It is really a passion for measuring things that brought me to a lecture by [indiscernible: 6:04] that finally convinced me to change the field and move into proteomics.

MM: What would you say is the current state of IP protection in Switzerland and compared to the United States?

OR: Ok so I think the core value driver for BiognoSYS is still the technological processes of the reagents. And there my feelings is that the difference is not so great. And in a way we nationalize our patents in Switzerland, in the US in Europe anyway. So where there may be a difference – and obviously they’re we think cases like the Mayo Clinic vs. Prometheus and the US – there’s still fundamental questions regarding what you can patent in the field of life science. Now will this be highly relevant in the future I believe for personalized medicine indirectly for us, but at the moment it’s about protecting technological innovation.

MM: So you find that Switzerland is a favorable environment for protecting proprietary technology?

OR: Yeah, that’s the case. And also technology transfer offices from the universities tend to be very much in favor of providing licenses to companies like ours.

MM: Now we’ve touched on a few ways the Swiss government can foster technology development, specifically in biotech, so I was curios if you can talk about your experience in whether foreign companies can access this.

OR: So what was very helpful to us in the beginning as a spin off from scientists before we had business people join BiognoSYS was a variety of support offers regarding the business aspect of technology commercialization. But there are a number of programs that directly or indirectly funded by the government that help young scientists to get knowledge that is needed to fund a business. So it’s very helpful. Aside from this, which I already mentioned technology transfer offices which are very much in favor of licensing technology. I think the environment from the feelings, as an entrepreneur it is very business friendly. So we feel that we have welcome to do what it is we do and that you really get support.

MM: So can you talk about your financing in January from the Swiss Commision for technology and innovation. How did that come about?

OR: So, I’m a German, actually. And I know a bit of Germany. So Germany has a lot of directly financial support to companies and it’s less so in Switzerland. So there support is what I described before. And I think it’s a good thing. With one exception this is the funding of RND projects where business at the universities together through RND funded by the Commission CPI and the Commission for Research, and there we recently raised a funds of 1.5 million that enabled us to develop the key new novel technology in our field to develop it further with the inventor will get episodes that is certainly helpful for us. But I don’t consider as much funding, I mean its funding for specific projects but not like financing, there is a distinction, right. Financing you get from the market, from venture capital and private investors and funding of research, there certainly the CPI can help us.

MM: Now in October you did complete a series A financing so I was wondering if you could put that into perspective. You know how are you reinvesting the capital?

OR: So we have financing from a smaller VC, at the end of 2009, and in 2011 we closed a Series A series round with private investors and importantly also Ventures and Corporate VC. This money we certainly invested in to high capacity. Importantlyall the key people. So we got new people, especially out of the business field and then we’ve been developing our technology platform.

MM: And how do you reach out to foreign venture capitalists and investors?

OR: We just got back from a road show in the US actually, and we talk all together to more than twenty VC firms, trying to get funding there, with our European network, with an assisting investor that we can work through. We present at investor conferences and that a large part is coming from our personal network.

MM: So do you find being a Swiss company it’s easier to penetrate the America n venture capitalist network?

OR: Well, no, I think it’s definitely not easier compared to an American company. I think it’s a great opportunity. We know cases of Swiss companies that are funded by US investors. I think that’s certainly a hurdle coming over to another continent, but it’s possible and certainly very attractive, because we want to get our presence in the US as well.

MM: Do you think operating outside of the European Union and the crisis and hesitation associated with that could be an advantage for a Swiss company?

OR: So Switzerland is certainly not in the European Union right, but in terms of doing business and also research and science it’s still quite closely connected no question. So well, let’s see what the future brings. There’s one advantage certainly of Swiss being a stable country. You have the strong Swiss Franc. There’s no question that this effects the internal costs compared to other European countries, but on the other hand I think the Swiss quality and the well known Swiss quality in research and finance is helping us.

MM: So what is your relationship with big pharma companies like Roche and Novartis operating in your back yard?

OR: So on one hand the Swiss Market is definitely not big enough to sustain a company, so we did actually from day 1 work with international customers and reach out. On the other hand I think its great advantage that we do have these international companies very close and we have close relationships with them, and we have contact research with some the big Swiss companies and that’s certainly very helpful and I think there also contribute to the high quality of bioscience in general, indirectly.

MM: And lastly, we touched a little on your international financing effort. And I’m curious if you could comment as to whether you feel that the current liquidity in investor interest in Switzerland can sustain a company of your size and your development level?

OR: Yeah, I think it is sufficient to sustain a company of our size. The fact that we had thirty pick up lines to go beyond what I mentioned before of every technology product. In the end we want to revolutionize diagnostics by introducing personalized diagnostics based on our platform. I would say this is a grander plan that require another level of financing in the future, and for this development steps we will reach out to the edge. But [through] basic financing we are able to fine tune, and I’m optimistic that it will also sustain us a few years longer.

MM: That was a company snapshot with Dr. Oliver Rinner, Founder and CEO of BiognoSYS, a Swiss leader in proteomics. With OneMedRadio I’m Matt Margolis signing off.

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