Immuno-Oncology, Biotech IPOs and the Berlin ecosystem with Noxxon’s CEO

Noxxon Pharma is a biotech in Berlin which targets the tumor microenvironment. Here, CEO Aram Mangasarian explains the state of finance in Europe, the challenge of being in Berlin for recruitment, and the ‘target sweetspot’ in Cancer.

Having started up back iNoxxon Pharma cancer n 1997 as a spin-out from the Free University of Berlin, Noxxon was investigating a new class of therapeutics based on protein ‘mirroring’ (Spiegelmers) and offered services in this area.

From there, they began developing their own drugs. After initially trying out the platform approach (to go after multiple targets), Aram explains they decided this wasn’t the best. As he explained, ‘it’s not possible to be an expert across [all of] these fields‘.

Instead they decided to focus on the tumor microenvironment. Generally, this is a good ‘all rounder’ for fighting cancer, as it has a critical role in all aspects of cancer biology: blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) and tumor spread (metastasis), which therefore means progression.

It’s a real sweetspot for these targets, which is extremely important in Immuno-Oncology.


(Credit: Noxxon Pharma)

Noxxon announced its intention to float its finances in October, with an IPO on Euronext Amsterdam and Paris. But, as Aram explained, their timing was a bit unfortunate, given ‘the slight dip in the market‘ in 2015.

And as the end of the year was also closing in on them, investors were quite worried. So the Noxxon team said ‘okay – January is always better, let’s wait’.

On the Atlantic divide in Biotech money, he acknowledged that in the US it’s a different style, where there are clearly many better funded companies. But there’s still plenty of good funding opportunities and investors in Europe.

I think you DO have very very smart investors in Europe.”

Yet many European companies are moving to European listings or directly over to the NASDAQ.

I think that during the transition over to the public markets, it becomes more difficult. That’s where I see the real difference“. Aram believes this is because they want a little more history on the public market – to have a little bit of a track record.

Noxxon Pharma finance biotech europe refresh

And the Biotech scene in Berlin?

Well, the thing is Berlin’s biotech scene is literally impacted by the distance between the key financial cities in Germany (i.e. Munich, Frankfurt etc.), because you don’t have the key clusters like you do in San Francisco or Boston. See our Labiotech Tour mini-documentaries for more on these ‘hotspots’.

Perhaps biotech is slightly less attractive in Berlin, given the spread in Germany.”

It’s also sometimes difficult to recruit across such a broad geography. You end up with perhaps a more local pool in terms of potential, and that’s a bit of an issue. You’re always in a rush to hire, and finding the right person to commit to the expat life in time is the challenge.

This could easily change with Brexit though, as recent reports are suggesting Berlin has become quite a hub for UK startups across many fields.

Feature Image Credit: Joachim Eeckhout interviewing Aram Mangasarian (CEO of Noxxon Pharma) at Labiotech Refresh in Berlin, May 24th, 2016.

More images of the conference speakers are available on our Flickr account under a Creative Commons 3.0 License. Feel free to share!

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