Dutch biopharma company establishes in Gothenburg
Life science company CFM Pharma has opened an office in Gothenburg, in AstraZeneca's BioVentureHub. The Dutch firm is the second overseas company to join the accelerator since the start of this year.
The mother company CFM Pharma BV is a private Dutch biopharmaceutical company that develops treatments for patients in fields where there are no sufficient options available.
CFM Pharma has a unique patented tissue protection and tissue- repair technology platform, based on the use of vanadium compounds. The current product applications are on burns and heart attacks, both of which have serious impacts on quality of life and mortality.
“For burns only topical applications exist which only affect the direct symptoms and not the indirect injury, leaving patients with lifelong debilitating scars and other trauma. Up till now, there is no drug that remarkably reduces the tissue damage after a heart attack,” says Lekhram Changoer, Co-founder and CEO at CFM Pharma.
He explains that the company was searching for better ways to prevent apoptosis and enhance tissue healing/regeneration and a Dutch professor suggested to look at vanadium.
“This has led to several ground-breaking discoveries over the years and to high potential compounds for a series of unmet medical needs,” says Lekhram.
“The Right competence is crucial”
The company’s main drug compound VANADIS has demonstrated excellent results, but it is still under development. The company has no revenue or marketed product.
Lekhram explains why it chose to also set up in Gothenburg.
“Long time relations with AstraZeneca and especially professor Li Ming Gan, a top Cardio researcher, are behind our decision. Other main reasons were the excellent high-tech research facilities and specialists, a knowledge centre and a really appealing work atmosphere with very accessible management, as well as labour force at the AstraZeneca BioVentureHub. Apart from great support from the Swedish and local authorities on several levels.”
He explains that finding the rights skills when starting a business in a knowledge-intensive field like biopharma is a “crucial” factor.
“Knowledge expands exponentially and it is impossible for a few people to keep up with all important research fields apart from all matters related to competition, regulation and market access.”
“Specialists have to become super-specialists because there is too much you need to know. You need to identify those experts that can cover your exact needs in each development phase. For instance, in our case, for developing a group of compounds, which themselves are already part of a huge research field; for myocardial infarction and heart failure.”
“Important to be part of an innovative environment”
Regarding CFM’s plans for the future, Lekhram says that the company’s main indications are expected to be out-licensed.
“Some orphan drugs could be commercialised by CFM Pharma, together with larger partners. We envision the development of new compounds and delivery formulations in the long run. There are several interesting indications that are further away from the current focus but have huge potential. Whenever the time is ripe CFM Pharma, will start targeting those as well,” says Lekhram.
“There is also the possibility that CFM will be bought as a company, in which case it is hard to foresee what will happen to the focus.”
Lekhram also highlights the importance of being in an innovative environment where you can get fresh ideas and insights from other disciplines.
“This can lead to breakthrough inventions that would otherwise not be possible. Gothenburg offers this, that’s why we have just started a collaboration and research project with Professor Maria Johansson at Dept. of Physiology Inst. of Neuroscience and Physiology at the Sahlgrenska Academy. We look forward to even more collaborations and synergies.”
Strong historical ties and cultural similarities
The Dutch have played a role in Gothenburg’s development since day one, nearly 400 years ago - they helped design and build the city. Today there are around 130 Dutch-owned companies in the Gothenburg region and they continue to play an important role in the region’s development.
“Both countries originate from the Vikings. Both are egalitarian societies with a social community that cares about the other. As far as we can see, the cultures are quite close, friendly and no-nonsense, both feet on the ground, highly educated, hard-working and effective. Both countries love fish like herring and have many cyclists. They have a strong history of sailing and discovering, and conquering the world,” says Lekhram.
These cultural similarities are good for business, according to Lekhram.
“We think that being quite similar makes communicating a hell of a lot easier. You know what to expect and don’t have to wonder about where you’re standing.”
Top of page photo credit: Alexander Farnsworth/Most Photos