For the past 15 years, a group at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm led by Ph.D. Cecilia Götherström has been working on developing stem cell therapy for patients with Brittle Bones Disease.
To bring the solution to patients around the world, Cecilia Götherström has co-founded the company BOOST Pharma together with Senior Professor in obstetrics and gynecology, Magnus Westgren and Ph.D. Lilian Walther Jallow. With over 15 years of experience in drug development within the field of Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products, Lilian Walther Jallow has taken the role of CEO.
In February 2020, the company joined the Business Acceleration Academy at BioInnovation Institute to build a solid, initial business plan that can help the team commercialize their solution to eventually benefit patients.
We talked to Lilian Walther Jallow about the company and their decision to join the program.
How are patients with Brittle Bone Disease treated today?
Today, there is no cure or effective enough treatment for the disease. Osteogenesis Imperfecta or Brittle Bone Disease is caused by a mutation in the collagen gene, giving rise to multiple bone fractures, short body stature and pain. The disease is diagnosed before or soon after birth, and fractures can occur already in the mother’s womb, so we aim to treat as early as possible before too much irreversible damage has occurred. There are four main types of severity and we are focusing on Type 3 and Type 4 which are the most severe, but not lethal, types.
What is your solution?
We have developed a treatment where mesenchymal stem cells are injected into the patient’s blood. The cells then migrate to the bones where they integrate and produce healthy collagen which creates stronger bone. Although only a few percent of the cells are integrated they are very productive, and that has led to good results in patients. They experience fewer fractures, they grow taller and have less pain.
How far have you come with your clinical trials?
We have set up and are recruiting for two clinical trials. One is in Sweden and supported by EU’s Horizon 2020 program and the other is in India in collaboration with a local institute. The first child was treated in mid-March, but the trials are currently on hold due to the pandemic. Prior to this, we have treated on a case by case basis and the very first injections were made in 2002 to a patient who is 18 years old today.
Why did you apply for the BAA program?
Initially, we did not think about going in a commercial direction, but we realized that to make the treatment available to larger patient groups, it is necessary to commercialize. So far, we have learned as we go, but it takes a lot of time and we don’t have the competencies to do everything ourselves. At Nordic Life Science Days in Lund, we learned about BioInnovation Institute and the different programs and saw that the Business Acceleration Academy offered what we need to progress.
What have been the eye-openers in the program?
There have been many. We have learned that to bring this to larger patient groups, we will need to show investors that they can make money. We have great science and we have done a great job of getting into the clinic, but we have to present a business case to get the attention of investors. On a different note, we are very grateful and amazed by how involved the team at BioInnovation Institute is with our company’s progression. We expected lectures and tools, but we did not expect the team to put themselves and all of their energy into us. That is such a good experience.
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