With its canals, the Little Mermaid and the oldest amusement park in the world, Copenhagen is at the heart of the world’s obsession with Scandinavia – and it has a biotech scene to match.
Pharma and biotech play a strong role in Denmark’s economy. The country is home to some key companies in the field, including the Novo group, which owns the giants Novo Nordisk and Novozymes. There are also a lot of successful pharmaceuticals, such as Leo Pharma, working in dermatology antibodies, ALK-Abelló in allergy immunotherapies and Lundbeck focusing on the nervous system. Chr. Hansen is also huge in industrial Biotech.
We already took a look at the ecosystem during Labiotech Tour Denmark. But which companies are making it in the Danish capital? As usual, the list is in no particular order.
Founded in 1999, Genmab is developing antibody therapies for cancer and is now the biggest European Biotech. It is listed on the Nasdaq Copenhagen, with a market cap of over €11Bn (DKK 87M DKK), and 186 employees.
On top of its antibody blockbuster daratumumab, licensed to Janssen, Genmab has recently ventured into antibody-drug conjugates for cancer with Seattle Genetics. Everyone seems to want to partner with the Danish giant, including Novo Nordisk, Novartis and the German mRNA expert BioNTech .
Developing cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases, Bavarian Nordic has a market cap of €1.6Bn (DKK 12Bn) on the Nasdaq Copenhagen, and has over 400 employees worldwide.
In its pipeline, the company counts with a vaccine against lethal RSV infections in the elderly; an Ebola vaccine in partnership with J&J and a treatment for cancer in combination with BMS’ PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo.
Acesion Pharma is developing safer drugs for cardiac arrhythmia. It was founded in 2011 with seed money from two Danish venture funds, Novo Seeds and SEED Capital. It has also received €3.7M from the UK’s Wellcome Trust.
Its preclinical studies focus on the inhibition of SK channels, which are ion channels that partly regulate heart rhythm. This mechanism shows a promising therapeutic effect for atrial fibrillation, the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia.
Biosyntia has been nominated one of top 5 most innovative small biotechs in Europe by EuropaBio and the best European startup in the 2012 Intel Business Challenge. It was founded in the same year and raised €1.68M in its seed round, led by Novo Seeds.
At Labiotech Refresh in Paris, Biosyntia’s co-founder Hans Genee explained how the company produces complex chemical compounds by fermentation — including flavours, fragrances, pigments and active pharmaceutical ingredients — using synthetic biology. The company has struck a deal with Swiss FGen to produce vitamin B.
Currently in the drug discovery phase, its strategy is to develop novel antifungals, focusing on a compound that effectively kills fungi by shutting down an essential plasma membrane transport system.
With a focus on rare diseases, Orphazyme is a private company with only 17 employees. It has raised over €37M, including a 2015’s series B of €20M. During our LabiotechTour Denmark, we interviewed its CEO, Anders Hinsby.
Orphazyme develops therapies for lysosomal storage diseases, a family of more than 45 diseases which are currently untreatable and often fatal. Its leading candidate is Arimoclomol, a heat shock inducer currently in Phase II/III for Niemann-Pick Disease.
With 110 employees and a market cap of €470M (DKK 3.5Bn) on Nasdaq Copenhagen, Zeal& (or Zealand Pharma) develops peptide therapeutics. The company is planning a €75M IPO on the exclusive Nasdaq Global Select Market.
Zeal& has several projects in its pipeline, including a combo pen for type 2 diabetes, in Phase III, partnered with Sanofi; and two preclinical programs for obesity and type 2 diabetes in partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim.
Galecto joins research from Lund (Sweden) and Edinburgh (UK) with 6 employees and a semi-virtual model. We’ve met CEO Hans Schambye and discussed its deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb, which is considering to acquire the company for $444M (€413M).
Galecto develops modulators of galectins, a group of proteins involved in diseases like fibrosis, inflammation and cancer. Its most advanced program is in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, currently in Phase Ib/IIa.
Developing therapies in the hot fields of inflammatory diseases and immuno-oncology, Nuevolution did its IPO in December 2015, raising €27M (SEK 250M) in Stockholm’s Nasdaq First North. It has since signed a €365M deal with pharma giant Amgen.
Nuevolution developed Chemetics, a drug discovery platform that creates a library of chemical compounds combined with a DNA tag used to quickly screen billions of small molecules faster, cheaper and more precisely than conventional screening platforms.
The company focuses on dimethyl fumarate and derivatives from the compound, which have immunomodulatory properties. Its most advanced candidate, FP187, is being evaluated for multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, including an upcoming Phase III trial.
A spin-out from the University of Copenhagen, Avilex Pharma has Novo and the Wellcome Trust as investors. It recently hired Mark Treherne as CEO, who has previously worked at Pfizer, Cambridge Drug Discovery and Senexis.
Avilex is developing inhibitors of PDZ domain proteins, which are involved in cell signaling. Its lead candidate, UCCB01-144, is in preclinical development for the treatment of ischemic heart disease, – the second biggest cause of death in the Western world according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a private biopharma, Symphogen develops mixtures of recombinant antibodies, what it calls ‘a symphony of antibodies‘. It has 100 employees and has succeeded in raising €249M from investors including the Novo group. The company was also the first founded by Danish biotech entrepreneur star John Haurum, who is now CEO at F-Star.
Its leading candidate, Sym004, is in Phase II in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) along with other programmes for gliobastoma and head and neck carcinoma. Symphogen also partnered with Genentech to tackle infectious disease and with Baxalta for immuno-oncology.
Most of the Danish biotech community is concentrated around Copenhagen, and is really well developed. Arguably though part of this success is due to Novo, which has invested in most of the companies in this list. All in all, the ecosystem is impressive compared to the size of the country, and definitely one of the leading bioclusters in Europe.
What do you think of this list? Do you know more cool Biotechs in Copenhagen?