European CEO: Injections aren’t anybody’s
favourite healthcare intervention. BioLingus, a Swiss biotech firm, has developed a technology
that can stabilise different molecules for sublingual delivery – a simple tablet that
goes under the tongue. With me is BioLingus CEO Yves Decadt.
Yves, tell me about the technology you’ve developed, and the new kinds of treatments
that it enables for sublingual delivery. Yves Decadt: So, sublingual delivery by itself
is not new; it has been used in industry for small molecules, organic molecules. What is
new is that we have redeveloped it for biological molecules. And that is new. And biological
molecules typically have to be injected. Because biological molecules are degrading in the
body – so we, our technology enables us to deliver these biological molecules
sublingually in a pill. So, what we’re working on is mainly treatments
in diabetes, on one hand; and inflammatory diseases. Because these are most suitable. European CEO: So what is it about the biological
component that makes it hard to deliver? And tell me about this SEED technology, because
this is what enables this. Yves Decadt: Indeed, it goes to the essence
of the technology, actually. The human body is designed by nature to degrade meat. Meat
consists of proteins and peptides – exactly the constituents of what we call biological
medicines. So if you take this biological medicines, they will be degrading completely
in the body. And so we have looked in nature,
to find other places where nature has stabilised these molecules. And
we have found that in the seeds of plants. So we have taken these lessons from nature,
bio-engineered it. And now we are able to stabilise such molecules for a very long time.
And that’s the basis of our technology, actually. European CEO: What are the benefits of sublingual
delivery compared with injections? Yves Decadt: First of all, if you take it
orally – well, it’s much more convenient. It’s also more low-cost, and that’s why governments
that are experiencing pressure on healthcare budgets are looking at it.
The other thing is that, if you have molecules that work on the immune system, then sublingual
delivery is also very good. Because it brings these molecules into the lymphatic system.
And the lymphatic system is the heart of the immune system. And so there, it’s not just
about convenience; we can actually increase the efficacy of these molecules.
So we’re working on one specific molecule, which is called interleukin-2; and there we
have shown in an allergy model that we can increase the efficacy almost 500 times. So
we may reduce the dose substantially. And if you can reduce the dose, of course you
reduce the cost; but you may also reduce the side-effects. European CEO: Tell me more about the cost-effectiveness, because it isn’t just in the delivery system itself, but the infrastructure that needs
to be built around injectable treatments. Yves Decadt: Yes, that’s correct. And that’s
kind of a different application that we have been coming up with for emerging countries.
The problem in these countries is that they need a cold chain. Because they’re biological
drugs, you need to refrigerate them up to the patient. Which is costly and difficult
in these countries. Our technology, in essence, is a stabilising technology. And as a result
of that, you may not need a cold chain. Secondly, there are a lot of infections due to the use of needles. And with our technology,
we can also prevent these infections due to injections. For instance, HIV, HCV, and so
on: very serious infections, actually. And thirdly, our technology is really a high-tech
approach, but it is essentially low cost. Which is also important for the payers in
those countries. So we just have been understanding that our technology is extremely well-suited
for those countries, although it was not our original intention. European CEO: So finally, what does the future
of BioLingus look like? What’s next in your project pipeline? What are you hoping to achieve
in the next three, four, five years? Yves Decadt: As a company we want to develop in
different ways; we will combine different types of innovation. So, incremental
innovation, disruptive innovation, and then social innovation. So these are the three
pillars we want to build the company on. And just to give an example in incremental
innovation, we are developing our version of exenatide, which is a diabetes drug. We’re
also working on an oral version of cannabis extracts. So this is incremental innovation:
it’s switching the injectable to an oral version. And then we are also working on some projects
that are really disruptive. One example is in diabetes type 1. Diabetes type 1 is an
auto-immune disease, actually. So the immune system attacks your own body in this case.
So if we give a certain molecule called interleukin-2, we can actually delay the onset of diabetes
type 1 in children. And of course children don’t like injections. So that’s really disruptive.
And then coming to the social innovation, one project we work on is on Leishmaniasis.
Leishmaniasis is actually a neglected tropical disease. It’s neglected because the economics
don’t work very well. But we want to work on it: we want to make an oral vaccine
for Leishmaniasis, because again we think our technology would be very
appropriate for that. So, we combine these different types of innovation,
we’re very excited about that, and we believe we can make a small change in a big world. European CEO: Yves, thank you very much. Yves Decadt: Thank you. You can find out more about BioLingus’ technology
at www.europeanceo.com And please subscribe for the latest business, finance and strategic insights transforming Europe.