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. In April, we spoke with Yohan Tessier, Head of Commercial Operations & Business Development for Mispro Biotech Services. Yohan has been on the forefront of Mispro’s growth from a single facility to becoming North America’s leading contract vivarium company with facilities in all major U.S. biotech hubs. With a background in science as well as big pharma, Yohan brings years of experience with preclinical drug development to his leadership role with Mispro.
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives
Mispro is a contract vivarium company offering research organizations access to vivarium research space plus animal care and compliance services for preclinical drug development. We have facilities in major biotech hubs across the U.S., including here in Cambridge, where we’ve been since 2014. Similar to biotech incubators, we support multiple companies in a single coworking facility, offering them flexible options for space and services to fit their budget and privacy needs.
Our mission is, and has always been, to enable innovation in science by offering life science companies access to the space, services, and tools they need to be best positioned for success. A co-mission of ours, and just as important, is to be a staunch advocate for the ethical use of research animals in science. We believe it is a privilege to be able to use animals for research and, from our IACUC to our daily operations, we make it our responsibility to guide and ensure the ethical and humane treatment of each animal in every study conducted in our facilities.
One of the most important initiatives for our company right now is to raise awareness in the life sciences space for what it is that we offer and how effective it has been for our clients. Clarifying that we’re not a CRO is one challenge, but mostly we’d like to get to a place where the full life sciences ecosystem – from start-ups to funding arms – is not only aware that the option to control your own studies in a full-service vivarium exists, but also how that option might be their best chance for success. The benefits to our clients are many and significant, so awareness is a priority.
How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
By offering a low barrier of entry model, we enable innovative R&D. Many of our clients are entrepreneurs who are pursuing novel therapies that, typically, have limited access to funding in the early-stages, but can make a significant impact on patients’ lives if they can get to market. Additionally, most of these studies require a specific animal model be bred to test their novel pathway, which takes time and, thus, is cost-prohibitive to outsource. We give these companies an affordable, stable environment to develop a model and test the efficacy of their compound. If it fails, it’s back to the drawing board at a minimal expenditure. If they’re successful, they can get the funding they need to continue their research.
I’m proud to say we’ve had more than a few clients make it to market with life-changing therapies for patients, and we have several clients who came to us as start-ups and are now on track for clinical. Today, about 80% of our clients are pursuing novel therapies that could significantly impact the quality of life for patients suffering from untreated diseases and disorders.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
Drugs need to be accessible to patients that need them, whether that means it’s covered by insurance or affordable out-of-pocket. Which means that they have to be developed at a cost that makes sense. Of course, this is a major challenge because the development of drugs is largely backed by equity funding, and this equity needs to see corresponding risk-adjusted returns. So, rather than regulating these returns to reduce pricing, which would clearly be counterproductive to drug development, we need to think about how we can lower development costs to meet ROI expectations.
From our perspective, which is firmly entrenched in early-stage preclinical, we see an opportunity for more focus on data validation in early-stages, which would lead to fewer false-positives, which would result in increased reproducibility in later-stage studies. To simplify, by adopting de-risking strategies at earlier stages of development, which is not to spend less, necessarily, but to spend smarter, we very likely can reduce what is ultimately wasted funds on clinical trials that failed because of inaccurate preclinical data. Of course, we think what Mispro offers – and the results we see with our clients every day – is a good example of risk-mitigation in early-stages.
The vast majority of the billions of dollars invested in drug development are spent in clinical trials. So if we can reduce the number of failed clinical trials, the positive impact will be extremely significant and we should be able to see that trickle down to drugs that are more affordable for patients who need them.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
Well, right now, like everybody else, we’re managing the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our daily operations and the research schedules of our clients. Luckily for our clients, life sciences research has been categorized as essential, which allows our clients to maintain their timelines and current studies. We have put protocols and contingency plans in place in all of our facilities to maintain our staff and daily operations so our clients can conduct research in safe and stable environments.
Otherwise, our focus is to continue to grow our network in established and growing life sciences hubs, including here in Cambridge, and also in South San Francisco, where we just completed construction on a brand-new state-of-the-art facility that will introduce an innovative approach to our research environments to best support the diverse work of our clients.
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