Some of the most important stories emanating from the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region’s pharma industry, including Poland’s most promising biotech start-ups, an interview with Zentiva CEO Nick Haggar, and Takeda’s investment in an IT centre in the Slovak capital, Bratislava. Elsewhere, Pfizer has begun construction on a new EUR 100 million biotech production plant near Zagreb, and many patients in CEE are still struggling to access CAR-T therapies, despite regulatory approval.
These are the top 10 biotechnology companies at the forefront of Poland’s emerging biotech sector, which is becoming a hotspot for startups.
Over the last decade, Poland has seen the rise of its biotech industry. While the country’s pharmaceutical industry has traditionally focused on developing generics, many of these companies have started moving towards developing biologics. Meanwhile, biotech startups in Poland are working on developing brand new technologies, with a big focus on treatments for cancer and autoimmune disease.
Nick Haggar’s father suffered from a heart condition that required him to take medication for his entire life. As a child, Nick saw how the disease made simple things difficult or impossible for his dad, and this inspired him to pursue a career where he could help people with similar issues.
“My father didn’t enjoy a normal life,” Nick says. “At times, he was quite restricted in what he could do. So I wanted to be part of something that would be helpful – helpful to him and helpful to people like him.”
So, at the age of 21, Nick entered the healthcare industry. Today he is CEO of Zentiva, a Prague-based pharmaceutical company that specialises in off-patent medicines and serves around 100 million people a year across 50 countries. The firm employs around 4,700 people, with four manufacturing sites in Prague, Bucharest and Ankleshwar, and also has a physical presence in 30 countries.
Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda has big plans in Bratislava. For now, they are not linked to the development of new medicines, but to IT technologies.
The company’s Innovation Capability Center (ICC) in Bratislava, which it ceremonially launched in early April, is expected to drive its data, digital and technology agenda forward.
“The centre will play a key role in the successful digital transformation of the company,” said Gabriele Ricci, chief data and technology officer at Takeda, at the opening of the new premises in the recently reconstructed historical industrial building Pradiareň 1900, close to the main bus station in the Slovak capital.
Pharmaceuticals producer Pfizer said it has started construction works on a 100 million euro ($105 million) biotechnology production plant near the Croatian capital Zagreb.
“We have expanded our investment in Croatia. The work has begun on the construction of a new, high-tech production plant in Savski Marof, near Zagreb, with an investment worth about 100 million euros, which comes from a partnership with the Swedish international biopharmaceutical company SOBI and Pfizer CentreOne,” Francesca Russo, senior manager in charge of global media relations at Pfizer, said.
Access to CAR-T therapies in Central and Eastern Europe in “catch-up” mode compared to the West (Pharmaceutical Technology)
Certain EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe still struggle to access chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies compared to their Western counterparts despite regulatory approvals, say oncologists.
In June 2018, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended the first CAR-T treatments in Europe—Novartis‘s Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Gilead Sciences’ Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel)—for approval. When it comes to the rollout of these therapies, EU states like Poland and Romania remain behind larger European countries like Spain, which have seen greater use. While access to these treatments is improving in some countries, as more CAR-Ts get approved, their high price point could prove challenging for healthcare systems with smaller budgets, say experts. Consequently, the steep pricing could push pharma companies to focus on larger countries, potentially slowing the rollout of these treatments in smaller countries.