Ousia Pharma is a biotech spin-out from the University of Copenhagen developing novel peptide-drug conjugates for treating obesity and metabolic disease. We chatted with the CEO of Ousia Pharma, Christoffer Clemmensen, about the company’s mission and vision.
What is the idea behind the company?
The starting point for Ousia Pharma is our passion for the science of body weight biology and obesity pathophysiology. We have identified specific pathways in the brain essential for appetite regulation and found a unique way to target those pharmacologically. In a Trojan horse-like fashion, we use peptide hormones to target-specifically deliver modulators of synaptic plasticity with long-lasting effects on appetite and body weight. We have engineered a new drug class of peptide-drug conjugates to treat obesity and metabolic disease.
What is the critical driver for Ousia Pharma?
The main key driver for Ousia Pharma is the science and our passion for bridging insights into body weight biology with state-of-the-art medicinal chemistry to develop better therapies for the approximately 680 million people suffering from obesity.
What have you already learned from being part of the Venture Lab program?
We have had a fantastic learning experience during the Venture Lab program. Starting a company is not something we train for at the university. During the program, we have taken significant leaps to exploit the commercial potential of our science.
What would be the optimal outcome when finishing the program?
Our goal is to secure investments that will take us to the clinical evaluation of our lead candidate.
Who are your main competitors, and how do you differ from them?
For anti-obesity, the main competitors are major pharmaceutical companies working in this space. As such, they are both competitors and “customers” simultaneously. Compared to the industry, our approach is perhaps, in some ways, more innovative and bold. We attempt to address current therapies’ shortcomings in delivering disease-modifying and long-lasting benefits for the patients.
What has been the most challenging part of being a CEO in an early-stage startup?
Because I have no previous business experience, this has been a rewarding and challenging experience. I try to nurture my naivety in the whole process as I believe that not being biased from experience might provide some edge in terms of first-principle thinking while building the company.
What are the main differences between working in an academic and a commercial setting?
It might sound cliché, but in academia, it is all about scientific rigor and being self-critical regarding ideas, results, interpretation, and dissemination. In the commercial setting, it is more about communicating your vision and selling your business. Of course, science is the foundation, but there is an extra layer of necessity in communicating broadly, concisely, and with genuine passion. Finally, attracting funding for an academic project differs from attracting investors for a biotech company.
What considerations do you have regarding the fundraising process?
Our strategy is to build on our strengths, namely the science and the data. Anticipating solid results from our upcoming non-human primate studies, we should be in an excellent position to intensify fundraising toward the clinical evaluation of our lead drug candidate for weight loss.