Peakadilly nv biopharmaceutical firm created
The Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) and Ghent University have started up a new biopharmaceutical company named Peakadilly nv. Peakadilly will develop and market a new generation of molecular diagnostics − so-called protein bio-markers − using innovative proteomics technology developed by the research group under the direction of Joël Vandekerckhove. The markers can be used in the development of medicines, making the process much more efficient, effective and economical. The bio-markers will also enable doctors to detect diseases sooner and, because many medicines work effectively only with a limited group of patients, doctors will also be able to verify whether a particular medicine will work for certain patients. Peakadilly will be led by Koen Kas, who has been closely involved in the development of the technology platform.
Health care tailored to the patient
Today, it takes an average of 800 million euro and about 12 years to develop a new drug. Among other things, the time-consuming and expensive clinical studies test the safety and effectiveness of a potential medicine. Frequently, the studies indicate that the drug is not really effective at all, or only for a small number of patients. At present, nothing exists for measuring whether a candidate drug is truly effective during development. Bio-markers can bridge this gap and thus substantially lower the development costs and time.
Bio-markers will also make it possible to target therapies specifically to the patients for whom they are successful. Most drugs in the field of oncology, for example, help only a limited number of patients. Bio-markers will enable the appropriate therapy to be selected for the patient − a step toward patient-specific medicine. The bio-markers will also enable earlier detection of life-threatening diseases like cancer.
The impact of bio-markers for the patient − and, indirectly, for the social security system − will be profound. Whereas bio-markers are suitable and desired in every disease field, Peakadilly will initially focus on applications in oncology − operating at the interface of diagnostics and therapeutics.
The product of innovative proteomics technology
Proteins are responsible for all life processes in our cells − regulating the digestion of our food, communication between cells, and so on. Defects in (the activity of) particular proteins are at the basis of many diseases (such as diseases of the muscles and cancer), and the development of medicines focuses on restoring or positively affecting the proteins’ activity. Proteomics − the study of the proteome, or proteins in their entirety – is of crucial importance for this. The technology enables one to uncover all the differences between the proteome of a sick person and that of a healthy person, and between the proteome of a patient who reacts positively to a drug and of a patient who is not helped by it.
Proteomics can also provide insight into the origin and progression of diseases. The analysis of the effect of a drug on the proteome enables researchers to understand which protein(s) the drug acts upon. Until recently, however, there was no efficient way to study the proteome systematically. Pioneering research under the direction of Joël Vandekerckhove (Scientific Director of a VIB research department at Ghent University) has led to a technology that, for the first time, enables thousands of proteins to be analyzed in a systematic way.
Peakadilly will apply this proteomics technology to identify specific proteins and protein profiles that are related to a disease or the activity of a candidate drug. Then, with this knowledge, Peakadilly will develop the bio-markers. An advantage of the technology is that it can be used on blood. Blood samples are routinely used, of course, for diagnosing a number of (infectious) diseases − but the current techniques obtain only a limited amount of information from the sample. Peakadilly’s bio-markers should make it possible to detect diseases more quickly (giving medical treatment a much greater chance of success) and to gear the therapy to the patient more effectively.
Since the invention of the technology in 2001, the research team and VIB’s technology transfer team have been working on the development of a patented technology and product platform. When the technology and its product potential were presented in an early stage to a select group of (bio)pharmaceutical firms, the need for such a technology and products proved to be so large that R&D collaborations at a value of around 2 million euro were quickly established with 3 well-known firms.
These collaborations made it possible to house the technology in a new start-up enterprise: Peakadilly. The new company will be led by Koen Kas, who was a member of VIB’s tech-transfer team and fully involved in the development of the platform. The new CEO holds a doctorate in the bio-medical sciences, is an instructor at Ghent and Harvard Universities, and has previously held management positions in research at Tibotec, Virco and Galapagos.
Peakadilly will start out in the VIB bio-incubator, located in the Technology Park of Ghent University in Zwijnaarde. Among others, 4 VIB employees − all with extensive company experience − are transferring to Peakadilly to give the company a flying start. This start-up team will then be enlarged further. In addition, the company maintains its good relationship with the VIB department at Ghent University, where the technology was first developed and where it is being further developed with a team of 12 researchers.
Rudy Dekesyer | alfa