Not many companies can celebrate 20 years of collaboration after reporting their best revenues ever and having become a successful multinational group, but contract research organization KYMOS and top biopharmaceutical innovator PHARMAMAR are just going to do that. How the evolution of pharmaceutical outsourcing over the last two decades has changed the trajectory of these two old-time partners is a story worth reading. Kymos’ Co-Founder and Site General Manager Dr. Lluïsa García takes a moment with PharmaMar’s Manager of Nonclinical Toxicology and Pharmacology Dr. Pablo Avilés to look back at all we have achieved since 2001.
“Before becoming a contract research organization (CRO) we began as part of Menarini’s R&D team where we were involved in all steps throughout the drug development process: From drug discovery to commercialization.” Dr. García begins. “From the very foundation of Kymos we were already familiar with all services required by our clients. If our customers had a problem, we always tried to help as if we were an extension of their own R&D division.”
But emerging market trends in the early 2000s would soon have a strong influence in the evolution of Kymos as a CRO and its perception by pharmaceutical companies like PharmaMar. Dr. Pablo Avilés shares his perspective:
“Back then corporate drug development was very different.” Dr. Avilés begins. “At these days the general tendency was to maintain most tasks internalized, which could only be achieved at great expense, but a complete rethinking of the model led us to outsource certain tasks to CROs like Kymos. Not only did they carry out assays at a lower cost, but they could also offer superior historical expertise and know-how by being exposed to so many different clients, pharmacological compounds, and therapeutic areas. They addressed and anticipated very diverse problems.”
“This was particularly true for CMC activities” continues Dr. García. “In the beginning local sponsors only considered outsourcing preclinical and clinical bioanalysis while CMC was mostly performed in-house. We first focused on R&D but soon expanded towards quality control and stabilities: With PharmaMar, bioanalysis also gave way to purification optimizations, in vitro metabolism, human microsome preparation, structural identifications, etc. Our integrated bioanalysis/CMC portfolio brought about quite an unexpected boost and provided a competitive edge over other CROs.”
When asked about the secret of this successful 20 years partnership Pablo Avilés explains how in his line of work, discovering and developing antitumor Dr.ug candidates obtained from marine organisms, he expects a lot from his CRO counterparts:
“Continuity is key” Dr. Avilés explains. “Basic bioanalytical R+D requires very robust methods to ensure a smooth transition to bioanalysts, nonclinical toxicologists and Phase I clinical trials down the line. Kymos’ expertise and problem solving during nonclinical stages helps us design methods better suited for implementation, allowing us to advance much faster during clinical stages. It is all down to true bilateral teamwork,” he continues “where Kymos learns compound handling with our input and we can better anticipate issues at later, more complex stages of development.”
Today Kymos celebrates its 20th anniversary, making it a good time for both partners to look back and reflect on the journey they have shared over the past decades, a path of extraordinary accomplishments and an unwavering commitment to innovation and diversification:
“Back in 2001 we began with only a handful of clients” Dr. Lluïsa García remembers, “but the constant support of recurring customers like PharmaMar facilitated the early internationalization of our organic activities; also in the expansion and internationalization of Kymos two events in 2011 played a key role, on the one hand the deal with French multinational Ipsen to take over part of their biologics R&D activities in Barcelona, and the incorporation of our CEO, Joan Puig, who promoted a robust inorganic growth strategy marked by the acquisition of our Italian and German subsidiaries. Kymos ended 2020 up 28% from 2019 after reporting record earnings and serving over 300 clients in 58 countries. Today Kymos is one of the few European CROs able to cover nearly all stages of Dr.ug development working with large and small molecules, conventional and topical generics, biosimilars, antibodies, biomarkers, ADCs, hormones, enzymes and nucleic acids” Dr. García asserts.
And Dr. Avilés’ story is just as enviable, if not more so: “PharmaMar has been able to register three anticancer products: YONDELIS® (trabectedin) registered in the US and EU for the treatment of sarcoma and ovarian cancer and present in more than 80 countries; APLIDIN® (plitidepsin) registered in Australia for the treatment of multiple myeloma and currently tested against SARS-CoV-2; and ZEPZELCA® (lurbinectedin) registered in the US for the treatment of SCLC, the first time a Spanish product was granted an FDA accelerated approval. The treatment for this indication has hardly changed in more than 20 years, since the last chemical entity was approved by the FDA in this setting, in 1996. On top of that, 2020 was the best in the company’s history with total revenues of €270 million; up 215% relative to 2019. I doubt many companies of our size can say the same” claims Dr. Avilés, “and that’s coming from an entirely innovative premise such as Dr.ug development from marine organisms.”
PharmaMar and Kymos certainly show a good synergy, beginning with their respective CEOs Dr. José María Fernández Sousa-Faro and Joan Puig de Dou, both with a robust scientific background and poised to continue their focus on innovation in the future. Indeed, one can only wonder what the future has in store for them. After all, anniversaries are a good time to look back but also to look forward. Dr. Lluïsa García is the first to comment:
“We have come a long way since our beginnings at the Parc Científic de Barcelona (PCB) and it is very gratifying to see how our customers have grown alongside our business. It is always exciting to hear about our PharmaMar friends in the news” she adds enthusiastically. “Both firms are involved in the research of new advanced therapies, including gene silencing, therapeutic RNA as well as the development of new COVID-19 treatments. Kymos will be proud to continue cooperating with the PharmaMar group in their multiple preclinical and clinical stage projects.”
Dr. Avilés picks up where Dr. García left off: “Since its foundation PharmaMar has pledged to introduce as many Phase I for new compounds as possible. Besides our flagship DPs we have initiated several new clinical developments worldwide and funded multiple developments, including a new virology unit, plitidepsin’s antiviral repositioning and two new compounds entering Phase I this year. This enormous undertaking has been key to our growth but wouldn’t have been possible without the support of high-value partners such as Kymos” he concludes.
Two decades is a long time to be in business, especially in a sector in constant evolution like pharmaceuticals, but for our two confident speakers it would seem but a fleeting instant. During this interview we have had the opportunity to learn about the evolution of pharmaceutical outsourcing, the power of diversification and innovation, and above all, the inspiring tale of two firms that found each other at the right time and succeeded in growing together.
Here’s to 20 more years of success!
PharmaMar is a biopharmaceutical world leader in the discovery of antitumor drugs of marine origin. PharmaMar owns GENOMICA, a molecular diagnostics company and SYLENTIS, dedicated to therapeutic gene silencing R&D. To learn more about PharmaMar visit www.pharmamar.com.
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