As Oncodesign evolves into Oncodesign Services and begins its journey as an independent business, CEO Fabrice Viviani explains his hopes and plans for the company’s future.
Since the foundation back in 1995, Oncodesign has developed from an initial focus on preclinical discovery in oncology into a full-service CRO combining medicinal chemistry, biology, DMPK, pharmacology and pharmaco-imaging, along the way adding its own R&D portfolio of Nanocyclix that target kinases to treat cancer and other diseases.
With two assets now nearing the clinic, 2022 was marked with the decision to split the company in two. And the new companies Oncodesign Precision Medicine and Oncodesign Services made their debut this autumn.
Oncodesign Precision Medicine is now prosecuting the candidates, progressing the preclinical portfolio, and using AI to pinpoint new targets against cancer resistance using clinical data from patient monitoring. And Oncodesign Services encompasses all the aspects of the drug discovery CRO operations, being spun out with investment from French private equity fund Edmond de Rothschild Equity Strategies IV SLP, advised by Elyan Partners.
Even before the debut of the stand-alone Oncodesign Services company, Fabrice Viviani (now its CEO) had busy past years growing the business, with a particular focus on developing integrated programmes.
We have developed our integrated offers to run drug discovery programmes, with dedicated project teams where sponsors could use us as experts in oncology, inflammation and, in the light of the pandemic, in infectious diseases like Covid-19"
Fabrice Viviani, CEO, Oncodesign Services.
From small molecules to biologics…
And his ambition is now to grow these integrated operations. The business is focused around three modalities: small molecules, molecular radiotherapyand recently biologics. ‘Small molecule discovery is our historical strength, and I still want to progress in that area, either to increase capacity with organic growth, or with external acquisition,’ he says. ‘We can start with from target identification and validation, and go up to entry into the clinic, with backbone expertise in oncology and inflammation.’
But small molecules are not the only modality used to treat cancer, of course. Oncodesign Services is one of a small handful of CRO companies who can work with radioisotopes, whether for diagnostics or as molecular radiotherapy treatments. ‘These are systemic agents targeting specific cancer antigens, with a radioisotope chelated to a biologic or a small molecule, and there is a growing wave of investment in the field,’ Viviani says.
The company’s third modality was added earlier in 2022, in the form of biologics focused on therapeutic antibodies. ‘It’s a very large field, with good clinical precedence for antibodies and fragments of all kinds, being naked or conjugated to a small molecule drugs,’ he says.
DRIVE-IDDS : Integrated Drug Discovery Services
Importantly, Oncodesign Services is working with strategic partners to offer customers a broader, better service, via Drive-IDDS consortia that have been established for each of the three focus areas. ‘With 230 people, we can do a lot but are not equipped to do everything,’ Viviani says. ‘These are consortia of service companies, working together with the same mindset to develop drugs and customise programmes for clients.’
Each consortium has several partners. The one newly set up in 2022, DRIVE-Biologics, has two main partners: Abzena, based in Cambridge, UK, a CDMO whose biologics capabilities encompass services from biologics design and cell line development to commercial manufacture, and clinical advisory company Alira Health.
Expansion is coming…
The company’s sales and order book are both looking healthy, and Viviani is keen to focus heavily on science and technology, with areas ripe for development including protein degraders in the small molecules group, or chemistry around the manipulation of biologics.
And he sees the company’s new independence, with the backing of Elyan Partners PE fund, as a huge opportunity for growing the business. ‘Our sales are about €30-35m now, and we want to reach €100m in five years’ time,’ he says. ‘This will involve both organic growth and acquisition, in North America and Europe.’ The company already has an in vivo pharmacology lab team in Montréal, Canada to service North American clients, as well as commercial offices in the Boston area, but Viviani believes the business is ripe for expansion across the Atlantic.
Together, let’s stay connected to innovation
After a huge amount of effort by the whole team in the past few months, the company is all set to hit the ground running in 2023. ‘We will continue to do good science and develop our technology portfolio,’ he says. ‘In three years’ time, I want 70% of our sales to be for our integrated service offer. Multi-year contracts with clients enables us to better anticipate what we can do for them, both in execution and guidance.’
As Looking down the line, Viviani’s next ambition for the company is a second round of financing, which is why that €100m sales target is so important. ‘We don’t want to get too big – a maximum of about 500 people would be ideal as that would leave us agile and flexible,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to simply increase capacity: we want to expand our capabilities and the innovative technologies we offer to our clients, with a better, more customised service’.