We talked to Troels Jordansen, CEO at Glycostem on taking cellular immunotherapy to the next level and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Troels Jordansen: Thank you for asking; we are all well in my family. Also, at Glycostem, we have avoided any COVID-19 contaminations, which is a great testimonial of the way our staff has behaved at work and in their private lives.
Tell us about you, your career, how you ended up at Glycostem.
Troels Jordansen: By nature, I am an entrepreneur – tell me it is not possible, and I get interested. Doing what others have done before is not as interesting as ‘exploring’ what others have not yet done. Back in 1996, I joined Genzyme Tissue Repair due to the incredible promise of using cells to heal diseased bodies – it was an amazing thought for me, having worked with orthopedic devices and pharmaceutical drugs so far. Since then, I have been involved with cellular therapies and from 2014 with cellular immunotherapies at Glycostem. I joined as the independent chairman, but after 2.5 years, I was offered the CEO role, which I happily accepted. I have seen how Natural Killers cells could potentially make a huge impact on cancer patients.
How does Glycostem innovate?
Troels Jordansen: Having chosen Natural Killer (NK) cells as our main focus and knowing that the process is the product, we have had ample space for innovation. NK cells were previously little known or understood, but Glycostem staff has made some significant innovations. This includes developing a proprietary medium to allow for feeder-free cell growth; this is very significant when it comes to regulatory review ahead of approvals. Setting up a closed production system is another piece of major innovation with many advantages. For instance, we will significantly reduce the risk of contamination, our set-up investments and ongoing maintenance costs will also be significantly reduced. We are amongst the first companies to enter a phase I/II clinical trial where the product is truly off the shelf, so no HLA/KIR matching is needed, and the product arrives at the hospital in a frozen state.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Troels Jordansen: COVID-19 delayed our external development activities for several months. This delay was imposed due to suppliers’ inability to provide us various supplies, but the good news is that the Dutch government has financially supported our company. On this background, Glycostem is pretty much in the same financial health as we would have been without COVID-19.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Troels Jordansen: One of the conditions for getting Dutch government help was that we did not lay-off any staff. On the contrary, we have employed 8-10 new staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. We were very lucky that we had just introduced Microsoft 365 with Teams, SharePoint, etc., so we were ready to start working from home if we were not needed in our laboratories. There was no rule book for this pandemic, so we, like everybody else, had to make it up as we went along but working from home is here to stay for some groups of staff.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Troels Jordansen: We are a pre-revenue biotech company, so we have limited customer relationships. The few we have actually grown in closeness during the pandemic and are now stronger than ever.
Your final thoughts?
Troels Jordansen: Today, we get the sense that the world is opening up again. Companies are looking longer term than during the pandemic, but we in the healthcare industry have been very fortunate as investments have continued, and the awareness of what healthcare can do is at an all-time high. It is going to be very interesting to see what the long-term effect of this will be.
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