Biotech must work at the frontiers of biology and innovation while operating in a highly regulated environment says business development expert Nick Staples, the new CEO of Locate Bio.
UK-based cell and gene therapy firm Locate Bio has had a reshuffle at the top, hiring veteran biopharma business executive and industry analyst Dr Nick Staples as CEO.
BioProcess Insider spoke with Staples to find out his vision for Locate Bio, and how best to manage the often conflicting business and scientific elements of a regenerative medicine company.
Business and scientific acumen
Staples was most recently chief business officer of Artios Pharma, building out its development pipeline and leading several successful fundraisers. However, his career stretches over 20 years and comprises a strong track record in leading strategic growth projects and international transactions within the biopharma space.
He is set to bring a strategic, industry-orientated mindset to the role, along with operational experience and understanding gained from working in mostly smaller companies, both private and public.
“I think this sits well with a broader business responsibility as a CEO,” he told us. “Crucially, this translates into tying together the technology, commercial and financial aspects of the business to create a solid investment proposition, back up by creating a strong team to deliver operationally.”
Staples continued: “Biotech companies are pioneers. We are working at the frontiers of biology and innovation and yet operate in a highly regulated healthcare environment, with high safety requirements and relatively long development timelines. Thus we have to have stringent quality processes and adopt best practices, while being commercially astute to ensure we are bringing value added products to market.”
‘The future of medicine’
The role is a “compelling opportunity,” Staples told us. “Firstly, the company has a strong technology offering and development pipeline in the regenerative medicine space, which I firmly believe is the future of medicine.
“Secondly, the team and Board have the ambition to grow the business and exploit a wider opportunity for the company based on both its TAOS cell therapy platform and IntraStem, its non-viral transfection technology for cell and gene therapy.”
TAOS is Locate Bio’s technology platform designed to overcome the problem of stem cells remaining ‘located’ at the intended site of action and in an environment conducive to their exerting their effects, something which is deemed a major limitations of cell therapy. The platform is based on a bioabsorbable scaffold that effectively stops cells ‘washing away,’ allowing endogenous cells to permeate it to enable tissue regeneration.
Meanwhile, IntraStem is a non-viral transfection technology, that allows DNA, RNA or peptides to be delivered to cells in vivo or ex vivo. This overcomes many of the limitations of current viral approaches, said Staples, “This offers a wealth of opportunities in gene and cell therapy and we are currently evaluating how to best exploit this next-generation technology both in-house and through partnerships.”
And as to moving Locate forward, Staples said he has a very clear vision.
“Business and economies need to harness technology and innovation to thrive, if not just to survive, in the modern world. The UK has a very strong science base and we should be looking to capitalize on this to transform our economy and that of other countries. We are good originators, but we need to create more of a can-do attitude and a think big culture to translate these ideas into sustainable, next generation businesses,” he told us.
“For me, much of that is to do with moving away from the cash constrained business models and quick exits of the past, which are heavily investor influenced. I see encouraging changes happening there, in the biotech industry. I also see an opportunity for LocateBio to be a global player in the regenerative medicine field, delivering for patients and shareholders.”