Biotech Innovation in Europe and Germany

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

How could Europe create a global ‘hotspot’ of biotech innovation? In this Falling Walls Circle Table, panelists discuss what Europe can uniquely offer, and the challenges it must overcome before it could compete with biotech powerhouses in America and China.

Within Europe, Berlin presents a promising option as a biotech hotspot, as it shares many crucial traits with the world’s leading hub – Boston.  The capital of Germany offers a rich balance of ingredients including researchers, policymakers, regulators and – of course – money.  What’s more, the boundaries between these sectors are increasingly blurred, as processes become more fluid.

Nevertheless, Boston brings not only innovative biotech companies, but also pharmaceutical giants.  This provides both employment security and an environment where entrepreneurial willingness to fail is encouraged, drawing talented biotech workers in.  Berlin – or any European city – must create the right framework to support people as they translate research into commercial products.  For this, the network between industry, academia and regulators must continue to be strengthened – something that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates can yield unprecedented results from biotech.

Lisa Melton is Nature Biotechnology’s Senior News Editor. She has a degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Nutrition and Gut Immunology, from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. After moving to London to pursue her postdocs, she swapped lab work for storytelling, and published in The Economist, the New Scientist and Scientific American among others. Now as an editor, she still loves the science related to food and the gut, especially fermentation—it’s biotech after all!

Stefan Oelrich is a member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of its Pharmaceuticals Division, a position he has held since November 2018. Prior to joining the company, he was on the Executive Committee of Sanofi, leading its global Diabetes & Cardiovascular business. During his seven-year tenure, he was also at the helm of Sanofi Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as well as the Diabetes and Cardiovascular business unit in Europe. From 1989 to 2011, Mr. Oelrich held various leadership positions in the health care business of Bayer AG with extensive international experience spanning Latin America (Argentina, Uruguay), Europe (France, Belgium) and the United States. Mr. Oelrich is a member of the Supervisory Board of the university hospital Charité, member of the Supervisory Board of the Berlin Institute of Health and member of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.

Dr. Ludewig is a German Politician and since April 2018 Director General Digitalisation and Innovation of the German Federal Ministry of Health. In his capacity as Director General, he is responsible for new legislation such as the Digital Care Act (2019) and the Patient Data Protection Act (2020). He is in charge of the implementation of the new scheme to assess and reimburse digital health applications as well as the new Research Data Hub. In addition, he managed the development and rollout of the German contact-tracing app (Corona Warn App) as well as of the Digital Vaccination Certificate Service (CovPass) in Germany. Between 2011 and 2018, he has been member of the Berlin Parliament. There he served as speaker for health policy with focus on digitalisation in healthcare. With his current position at the German Federal Ministry of Health he aims to promote digitalisation and innovation in healthcare for a better and more efficient health care for patients in Germany.

Amir is a managing partner in Polaris’ Boston office. He joined Polaris in 2002 and focuses on investments in healthcare.

Amir currently represents Polaris as a Director of AgBiome, CAMP4 Therapeutics, Dewpoint Therapeutics, Freenome, Metacrine Therapeutics, Morphic Therapeutic (NASDAQ: MORF), Scholar Rock (NASDAQ: SRRK), and Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS).

Additionally, Amir has served as a director of Adnexus Therapeutics (Bristol Myers Squibb), Athenix Corporation (Bayer), Avila Therapeutics (Celgene), Fate Therapeutics (NASDAQ: FATE), Living Proof (Unilever), Promedior Pharmaceuticals, Receptos (Celgene), Selecta Biosciences (NASDAQ: SELB), Sun Catalytix (Lockheed Martin), and TARIS Biomedical (J&J).

In addition to his investment role, Amir has served as the CEO of Dewpoint, Jnana, Living Proof, Olivo Labs, and Sun Catalytix. Amir also serves on the Partners Innovation Fund and the Investment Advisory Committee for The Engine at MIT, and helped launch the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund as its active president.

He has been named to the Forbes Midas List of “Top 100 Venture Capitalists.”

Prior to joining Polaris, Amir completed his ScD as a Hertz Fellow in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a minor in Biology under the guidance of Dr. Robert Langer. Amir also earned both his MS and BS in Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

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