Philip talked to Stefan Weber, CEO of Newron Pharmaceuticals, in our first meetup in Munich last week. His company has launched a new drug that could offer many more benefits than current medications to patients with Parkinson’s. Stefan discussed how failure can be an important part of success and what being European means in biotech.
After struggling with the FDA regulations for two years, Newron received approval for Xadago (safinamide) last month, following EMA approval in 2015. “It was the first new drug, new chemical entity, that was approved globally, [in the] US and Europe, in the last 11 years,” Stefan told Philip. “It comes with two real advantage over current therapies, and that is why we are so proud.”
As Stefan explains, Xadago has a unique mechanism of action that tackles the side effects of current medication And it is the only drug whose effects in clinical trials lasted 2 years. “If you take this drug, after two years you will still be doing better than the day when you first got it. That is a huge promise.”
However, not everything has been so bright for the company during its journey. “Our meltdown was in 2011, when our partner Merck Serono, just 5 months ahead of the last two Phase III data in Parkinson’s global studies, decided to terminate the agreement and return the rights to us. The market cap imploded.” But Newron managed to recover, and he sees it as an experience to learn from: “Never forget that whoever gets to success has gone through a lot of ups and downs.”
Stefan Weber also commented on the advantages of working in European biotech. “In Europe, there is still much more diversity, it’s so thrilling and exciting. I believe we should be much more proud of being European, valuing what Europe has given to us.” He highlighted his decision to live and work in Italy at Newron: “Nobody has the right to keep me from doing so. That’s Europe, and it’s brilliant.“