Interview

Dr Jeanne-Marie Lecomte

Ceo and founder of bioprojet

""Bioprojet has now taken a considerable step forward by becoming worldwide. We are established in 6 European countries...""

Could you explain what prompted you to create Bioprojet and what was the focus point of this enterprise?

Bioprojet is an innovative and atypical pharmaceutical company, which Pr Schwartz and I created in 1982 because we shared the same philosophy and idea with respect to pharmaceutical research. It is atypical because it was built from fundamental research, which was rather unusual in those days.
By the way, more than a century ago, Pasteur already shared this idea when he said there aren’t two kinds of science: there is fundamental science and research applications which are both linked together like a tree and the fruit it bears.
This is even truer when talking about the research on a new drug to be carried out as early in the chain as possible, to a point where physiological and pathophysiological mechanisms are solved, and which must take an interdisciplinary approach.
Thus, on the basis of new biological targets of which we suspected they played a role in diseases, since the 1980’s we have been rationally trying to identify new therapeutic classes that could be useful in public health.
After ten years of research and development, we found an entirely new molecule in a field where innovation had been scarce for a long time. What we found was a pure antisecretory molecule which inhibited hypersecretions induced by diarrhea.

So, from our first product named Tiorfan®, we went on to create a second company named Bioprojet Pharma laboratory in 1992.

And was it a success ?

Yes indeed, in two years’ time, Tiorfan® became the leader of its category because it really had an added value. It is now developed, registered, and sold in 90 countries.
This success allowed us to continue our research and development strategy, and fortunately we acquired in 2001 the Bioprojet Biotech research laboratory.

Bioprojet has now taken a considerable step forward by becoming worldwide. We are established in 6 European countries (not counting France), and this presence enables Bioprojet to expand internationally.
The next step for Bioprojet is to establish our foothold in the United States through one of our products, Wakix®, which was registered in 2016 in Europe for the treatment of narcolepsy with or without cataplexy. Its registration in the USA is expected to occur in 2018.

We remain ambitious, but also faithful to our vocation for research and innovation, and we look forward to pursuing our mission: to be at the service of the sick.

Pr Jean-Charles Schwartz

Scientific director and founder of bioprojet

""The big advantage of our research center lies in our small teams...""

Could you explain what is in place at the St Grégoire research center, how the 4 units operate, what the whole approach of the center and its organization are?

The organization is all about working on a well identified and defined target. For that, the target needs to be produced. The molecular biology unit is in charge of making recombinant receptors and recombinant enzymes with current molecular genetics technology. This allows the testing of molecule interaction to target proteins in a test tube.
The second team is a chemistry group and they produce candidate molecules capable of adapting around the previously described target. To achieve this, the target is first studied by molecular modelling. Even if the target hasn’t been crystallized, in analogy with neighboring targets, we can now build a theoretical, highly dimensional model of the protein (namely the target), and with that we can test in silico the interactions of the molecule with the target. This gives us a direction to follow for the chemical synthesis. Then, the chemists synthesize (with traditional methods) the molecules able to act.
After that, we will need to test well selected molecules. It is the Pharmacology team who does tests on animals or animal tissues, to better understand what effect the new found and selected molecules will have, and from there plan potential therapeutic indications.
Finally, the last Pharmacokinetic team will dose the molecule with state of the art technology. They will follow its kinetics in the body tissues to understand its duration of action, its strength… and so make a final selection depending on these pharmacokinetic parameters.

All this seems to be a complex process, what advantages does the Bioprojet Biotech research center offer?

It is indeed a complex process, and the big advantage of our research center lies in our small teams which only count around fifty people. There is a strong interaction between them and so the programs are adaptable and can easily be modified.
We took over the center in 2001 and my collaborators and I have since built a remarkable tool (sufficiently recognized by the results achieved). This tool is as efficient as centers which count hundreds of researchers.
I am very proud of this achievement and hope it will contribute to the improvement of public health and the success of Bioprojet.

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