Ignite Immunotherapy- Success story of novel “build to buy” business model with Pfizer

Lab to Startup

Jun 14 2022 • 48 mins

Dr. David Kirn MD, is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of 4DMT, a clinical gene therapy company, and was founder and CEO of Ignite Immunotherapeutics, recently acquired by Pfizer. David is a Physician-scientist and serial biotech entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in the industry with a focus on viral vector-based therapeutics including gene therapy and oncolytic virus cancer immunotherapy, and is also a Professor at UC Berkeley actively teaching and mentoring students in biotech entrepreneurship.

We talk about acquisition models in the pharma and biotech industries; the origins of the idea behind Ignite, how the relationship with Pfizer was initiated in a novel “Build to buy” model; details of how the relation worked; benefits of working with big pharma, and how startups should think about such relationships.

Show notes:
1. Business models for biotech companies
2. Oncolytic viruses to attack tumors and stimulate patient specific immune response
3. 100 year old technology to use viruses to lyse cancer cells
4. Onyx pharmaceuticals and use of Adenoviruses
5. Viruses didn't evolve enough to destroy cancer cells completely
6. Traditional nude mice not good enough for predicting behaviour in humans
7. PDX or mouse tumor models with intact immune systems slightly better- not one mode is good enough
8. Viruses good for oncolytic capabilities: Large transgene carrying capacity
9. Systemic delivery is important
10. Financing biotech startups- strengths and weaknesses
11. Pharma partnerships: Things to consider and how Ignite arrived at agreement to work with Pfizer (https://www.fiercepharma.com/vaccines/pfizer-backs-cancer-vaccine-startup-ignite-immunotherapy)
12. Terms of the business agreement
13. The role that Pfizer played in the relationship, and the acquisition
14. Track record and connections help with partnerships
15. Way to think about fundraising, success, resources in biotech startups
16. Mistakes to avoid and lessons learnt from partnering with big pharma/biotech