In this episode of the Ori Spotlight Podcast Jason C. Foster is joined by Jonathan Hay, Partner at Delin Ventures. They talk about Delin’s investment in Ori, where Jonathan sees potential and pitfalls in the cell and gene therapy sector, and how the shared vision of Ori and Delin to enable widespread patient access to precision medicines can be achieved.
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“Success for me would see the ecosystem in place to actually solve the accessibility problem we’ve been talking about, and that we would think of cell therapies sort of the way we think of small molecules and antibodies in terms of accessibility. They’re just there and we can get them when we need them. That for me would be success.”
From initially investing in technology, Delin Ventures shifted their focus onto biotech and healthcare in the past four years. They’ve identified the sectors as having enormous transformative potential but a lack of entrepreneurial capital. Something which they can help alleviate.
“I think that’s maybe where we’re a bit different from some of the other investors in the space in terms of what we focus on. It’s really early-stage life science I would say, with some areas that we’re particularly interested in. One of those is really autologous cell therapies. Ori’s been a real kind of pathfinder investor investment for us in terms of exploring that space.”– Jonathan Hay
Delin Ventures identified the need to invest in the cell and gene therapy industry, but they couldn’t decide what area to invest in. They wanted to invest in something that was solving a fundamental problem for the industry and landed on manufacturing as a key interest. This led them to discovering Ori, leading their seed round in 2019, and in Jonathan’s case, being part of Ori’s expert board of directors
“I remember getting kind of depressed that I couldn’t really find anything. And then we met Farlan and met Ori and got the taste of his vision with, really rethinking from the very beginning what technology would really fit the needs of this market in terms of being able to manufacture at scale, being able to create consistent process, being able to generate the types of data that would enable you to follow what’s going on at different stages of development and do trials in different locations and so on and so forth. I think that vision is what really caught us and I think you’ve executed on it beautifully. We’re excited about working with you and looking at other ways we can contribute to solving the problem of access to cell therapy. That’s really what it’s all about now.”– Jonathan Hay
To enable widespread patient access to cell and gene therapies, Jonathan identifies that the industry needs to provide researchers with platforms that can give them insight into their experiments. Only then can they understand their technologies, reduce variables, and develop processes that can be scaled.
“I think kind of where we need to get to in the industry is to a much earlier adoption of technologies like Ori at the research phase so that that data can translate more quickly into a drug development pipeline, and into trials that can be multi-site and get to approvals faster and with repeatable data… Fundamentally, we’ve got to offer something of value to the researcher. I suspect it’s going to be around the data side and around the ease of using the equipment and the ability to repeat experiments in a way that removes variables. That’s the frustrating thing. In research you’re always trying to figure out why did it go wrong.”– Jonathan Hay
The power of data is something that can change both discovery and manufacturing in the sector. If insights can be shared without infringing on proprietary information, Jonathan believes the benefits for cell and gene therapy developers will be huge. And it’s not a problem that he thinks is impossible to solve.
“We’re incubating a company on the therapy side now and there’s some huge process challenges. I just think about if you could give me some insights – I don’t need anyone’s data, but I need a few insights around some of the things we’re doing – If we did it this way, what would your system tell me? That would be hugely valuable. And my willingness to share data with you in return for getting those insights would be a no brainer from my point of view. I think there’s some nuances to work out in terms of how you share and what you share, but I think it’s a solvable problem. And there’s so much win-win for everyone that it’s going to happen.”– Jonathan Hay
When looking at the former trends and future trajectories, Delin’s view is that the industry is swinging back towards the dream of allogeneic therapies now that autologous therapies are being approved. Jonathan believes that the tipping point in the industry will be when cell therapy manufacturing becomes truly scalable, allowing autologous therapies to be a realistic solution for healthcare providers and patients around the world.
“We think the industry has kind of swung back towards allogeneic therapies, which of course are very promising and very exciting, but they’re not real yet. They’re going to take some time because of the challenges of durability and overcoming immune reaction and so on. And it swung away from autologous therapies. But autologous therapies are the ones that have been approved, are the ones that are the here and now of the industry. So I think the tipping point will be when we can show that the manufacturing side of that really is scalable in any context and any indication… I think that’ll be a huge inflection point for the industry and a great, great benefit for patients because we’ll be able to then take the therapies that are working and have been proven in humans and be able to really scale them.”– Jonathan Hay
“Trying to gain the COGs down is a critical piece. The supply chain, the end-to-end routing to patients, there’s a lot of complexity there and an explosion of types of cell therapies. As we move into not just cells but tissues, the potential is amazing, but there’s a ton of work to be done for sure.”