Member Spotlight: Q&A with Boehringer Ingelheim

Apr 02, 2019

Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. This month we spoke with Ioannis Sapountzis, Ph.D., Global Lead of Business Development & Licensing (BD&L) at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. with more than 16 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Ioannis joined Boehringer Ingelheim in 2005 as a medicinal chemist and project leader in the oncology therapeutic area, and later transitioned to strategic roles in the corporate Department of Research Networking. ​

Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives.

Boehringer Ingelheim is a family-owned, research-driven pharmaceutical company focused on therapeutic innovations that improve human and animal health by addressing unmet medical needs.  Because we plan not for the short-term but rather for generations, we achieve long-term success via a thriving environment for research and development. We sustain and grow R&D via our internal efforts as well as through our external partnerships and strategic alliances. Our three core businesses are human pharmaceuticals, animal health and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, and we have an independent subsidiary BI X that develops smart digital healthcare solutions.

Our human pharmaceutical business concentrates on developing novel and enhanced therapies for patients with diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists, particularly in the therapeutic areas of respiratory, immunologic, cardiometabolic, oncologic and CNS diseases. To address these diseases, we expand our direct approach by applying synergies from our immune modulation and fibrosis expertise as well as harnessing emerging science, such as that of regenerative medicine, the microbiome and gene therapies.

Such innovations enable us to target our medicines more precisely to individual patients, making our therapies more effective and increasing benefits to society. 

How do your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?

Boehringer Ingelheim works continuously to help patients – efforts that encompass far more than drug discovery. We want to develop safe health solutions quickly and make them accessible to patients. We also want to operate in ways responsible to the communities in which our patients, colleagues and families live and respectful of the resources we all share.

We optimize life science innovation within our own R&D and outside our walls. Our own discovery and improvement of candidate agents is augmented by partnerships and alliances with experts and entrepreneurs based in academia, government or the private sector. Such projects enable us to accelerate development timelines with the goal to make new medicines available to patients faster. 

Additionally, through our BI Cares Foundation Product Donation and Patient Assistance Programs, we provide our medicines free-of-charge to patients in need in the U.S. and around the world. We also have a robust Produce to Give Program that donates a committed inventory of medicines to clinics around the world to help build their capacity and improve health outcomes for underserved patients.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?

The life-sciences industry faces many challenges today, and one which Boehringer Ingelheim is addressing that I would like to share with your readers is how we bring together the right talent and the best tools efficiently and effectively work to get new therapies to patients faster. Our blueprint for innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim integrates research, pre-clinical and early clinical development, translational medicine and external partnering functions. To do so means having seamless and synergistic collaborations that excel at both sound science and smart risk-taking to generate the highest quality solutions. Because we value expertise both internally and externally, we mentor, foster and partner talent. For example, our Grass Roots programs address these three engagement channels by offering mentoring to small companies, bio-entrepreneurs and academics; networking for early-stage life-science companies to facilitate sharing of peer information and of industry perspective and feedback; and partnering initiatives. Furthermore, we have, a platform offering scientists free access to first-class, pre-clinical molecules from Boehringer Ingelheim to validate new disease biology or collaborate with scientists on new ideas.

What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?

Within our core therapeutic areas, we are investigating treatments based on small molecules, biologics and new modalities, such as oncolytic viruses and RNA therapeutics. We also have Research Beyond Borders (RBB), which is a part of our global research division specifically tasked with exploring emerging science and technologies for and beyond our current core therapeutic areas. RBB is on the lookout for exciting projects in areas as varied as regenerative medicine, gene therapy and the microbiome, for example. We select each project for its potential to have significant future implications for the health sector and patients, possibly delivering a candidate drug, technology or solution into our pipeline. We also will continue enhancing and expanding our partnerships and Grass Roots programs.

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