The Importance of Co-Creation in Shaping the Treatments of the Future

Dec 09, 2021

Guest Blog by Emiliano Clo, Scientific Advisor at the Novo Nordisk Bio Innovation Hub

Novo Nordisk has recently established a new R&D unit in Cambridge, The Bio Innovation Hub. The aim is to co-create novel therapeutics and delivery solutions through the exploration of new platforms and emerging science.

The long history of Novo Nordisk started shortly after the discovery of insulin, with the aim to make insulin available in Europe. The following, century long journey highlighted the company’s capacity to find innovative solutions to improve the lives of people living with diabetes. During the last ten years, Novo Nordisk has expanded its research interests considerably. Diabetes care remains a central pillar, with the ambition to cure Type 1 Diabetes, but it is now expanded to a broader interest in the adjacent cardiometabolic space, including Obesity, NASH, Chronic Kidney Disease, Atherosclerosis and Heart Failure. In addition, we have increased our activities in a number of rare endocrinological and blood disorders. The toolbox of therapeutic modalities has also been expanded beyond peptides and proteins to encompass Stem Cell research, Oligonucleotides Therapeutics and Gene Editing. At the same time, we acknowledge that to master, single-handedly, all the emerging modalities would be virtually impossible. We believe that to bring the next generation of transformative medicines to patients it is instrumental to collaborate across innovation ecosystems in novel ways.

We believe that the “sweet spot” is to be found by means of co-creative approaches and by fostering a close dialogue between disease biology and emerging technologies and platforms. By leveraging the wealth of knowledge Novo Nordisk possesses, both in terms of core therapeutic areas expertise and know-how in pharmaceutical pipeline development, we want to prompt the most innovative academic institutions and biotech companies to explore therapeutic solutions that could lead to first in class product concepts — products which neither party could have succeeded with independently.

In support of this goal, Novo Nordisk established The Bio Innovation Hub in Cambridge, at the heart of the world’s most vibrant life sciences ecosystem. The Bio Innovation Hub is nimble in its structure and acts with a biotech startup mindset. Its overarching mission is to provide Novo Nordisk access to potentially transformative medicines and technology platforms build on emerging capabilities beyond its own.  It is supported by a budget framework and can operate independently from the main organization. The Hub is tasked to populate, over time, an externally anchored pipeline of early, high risk/high reward research projects which should remain anchored at the partner and driven in liaison until sufficiently de-risked to enter the internal development pathway.  The Bio Innovation Hub comprises of an interdisciplinary group of seasoned pharma talents collectively covering the main areas of active internal research spanning technology, biology, and device solutions. This enables us to navigate through the wealth of cutting-edge innovation and to devise co-creative efforts by leaning on the strengths Novo Nordisk possesses and can share, especially in terms of disease understanding in our core therapeutic areas. Moreover, we remain well connected with the global R&D sites and can timely involve internal subject matter experts as needed by each project setting. The Hub embraces risk-taking and is aware that failures are the necessary events which will inform our next steps en route to success.

Crucial is our desire to provide support and share our deep translational expertise to build trust with partners. This rationale, for example, led us to conceive the Co-creation Greenhouse collaboration model, an accelerator program we typically deploy as first line of interaction with young startups or academic ideas with potential commercial translatability. It is based on 3 simple principles: it is fast triggered, customizable regarding Novo Nordisk contribution and has no strings attached. The research effort is devised to jointly aid the growth of a specific research idea. It could pave the way to a more formalized research collaboration, but even if it should not, the partner shall remain the sole owner of the data generated throughout the Co-Creation Greenhouse. We successfully piloted this collaboration model earlier this year with three startups. We recently held another open call to attract early innovation to the Co-Creation Greenhouse and received an encouraging influx of ideas. We are excited to be part of this unique innovation environment and are convinced that co-creation will become a multiplier for many successful joint endeavors that will ultimately result in a new wave of opportunities to improve the quality of life of people living with serious chronic diseases.


Emiliano Clo
Scientific Advisor at the Novo Nordisk Bio Innovation Hub

Emiliano Clo is a Scientific Advisor at the Bio Innovation Hub. He provides strong expertise in the evaluation of technology platforms and the setup of co-creative efforts. Prior to joining the Hub in 2020 and its relocation to Boston, he was a Senior Research Scientist in Denmark working for 8 years across the early R&D pipeline. Through the years, he has been involved as a chemical expert in several internal due diligence processes, among which the one that led to the partnership with Dicerna. He also acted as internal innovation facilitator applying Design Thinking principles. He holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Aarhus University, DK.

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