“I think Dewpoint’s team is on a very promising pathway” says Dr. Eckhardt, EVP at Bayer.
As we celebrate our 5th anniversary, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the Dewpoint team to date and looking forward to the work still required to bring the science of condensates into the clinic and to patients. To put this in context, we interviewed a leading voice in the field of science and biotechs, Jürgen Eckhardt – a former Dewpoint board member and Head of Pharmaceutical Business Development, Licensing & Open Innovation and Member of the Executive Committee for Bayer, as well as Head of Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer.
One of the first investors in Dewpoint, Juergen is a medical doctor and venture investor in healthcare, biotech, and agriculture with more than 20 years of experience. He is a strong believer that scientific breakthroughs can help us overcome some of humanity’s biggest challenges, including to cure and prevent chronic disease and to feed an ever-growing world population in a sustainable way – in short: science for a better life. He holds an MD from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.
You first started your engagement with Dewpoint 5 years ago when you led the partnership deal with Bayer, what was it about the science of condensates that caught your interest?
Even though I studied medicine and cellular biology for many years, I only relatively recently had a view of the working of cells that was based on a very simplistic model. This meant that many key questions around why certain drugs did or didn’t work, or why they only worked in some people remained unanswered. However, learning that condensates existed was sort of an aha moment that opened up a whole new area of understanding and insight for me.
Historically, the model for finding new drugs was based on a sort of ‘lock and key’ model. We identified target proteins that were malfunctioning and searched for drugs that could influence them and change reactions. This linear model has been the standard in the industry for 100 years. But I think condensate science will be able to change this and open a whole new set of possibilities. Through the work of Dewpoint and pioneers like Tony Hyman (Dewpoint’s co-founder), we already have a totally new understanding of holistic disease mechanisms, and we can contemplate impacting entire disease systems rather than single reactions. The possibilities here could be huge and may allow us to treat diseases that we haven’t been able to before and completely change the experience for patients.
How do Bayer and Dewpoint complement each other through their partnership?
Bayer is and always has been very strong in the field of medicinal chemistry. We developed aspirin in the 19th century using this approach and we have maintained our skills in this field as our core strength. Now, we are looking at how we can complement this with new expertise and ideas.
So, when we heard about Dewpoint, we got excited, not just because of the potential of condensates themselves, but also thinking about how we could combine our expertise in medicinal chemistry with this new area of biophysics that Dewpoint is an expert in. We believe that these two areas of expertise combined can generate more interesting drug candidates that are truly transformational for patients.
Additionally, Bayer has significant experience in bringing drugs to market, which we know is not a straightforward process, and it can be an area where many drugs fail. So, we are in a strong position to support Dewpoint and help them make sure that our collaboration leads to drugs that can reach patients who need them, faster – and ultimately that’s what we are here for – to treat disease and positively impact patients’ lives.
How do you see the progress that Dewpoint has made over the last 5 years, and what do you think are the opportunities and challenges for the next 5 years?
Dewpoint has made tremendous progress. You know, when they all started, Dewpoint’s team was working with a very raw idea. There was a danger that the idea might become too broad and get lost in the science, but I’m proud to see that the team has really translated all of their knowledge into something very tangible. They have taken all their insights and learnings and built a very strong pipeline and an efficient discovery platform. It has been a real joy to observe that move from the broad view towards the labs and real drug targets that are showing promise in early-stage experiments. I believe we are now less than 24 months away from being in the clinic, with drugs that have a potential to significantly impact patients’ lives.
As for the challenges, well, there is just so much potential with this technology, and there is so much that we could learn and do… but for a small company, there are also limitations. I think Dewpoint will need to retain a clear focus in order to be very output driven. When it comes to drug development, we know challenges are endless and many, many fail on the way. So, you have to be flexible, you have to iterate and learn as you go. But I think Dewpoint’s team is on a promising pathway and I feel very, very confident in the future of this biotech company.