Lyon is one of the hotspots for biotech in Europe. Here are 10 of the most successful biotech companies in this beautiful French city.
The second largest city in France (after Paris), Lyon boasts a thriving biotech ecosystem. In addition to the young startups and large biotech companies in the city, Lyon is also the home to Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of big pharma company Sanofi, as well as the production facilities of Sanofi Genzyme.
In such a fertile breeding ground for innovation, many entrepreneurs have found the ideal place to build strong biotech companies. With the help of local experts, we set out to identify the top 10 companies brewing in Lyon.
Adocia focuses on the improvement of existing diabetes treatments. The company develops chaperone proteins that bind to a target drug, shielding it against degradation and enhancing its performance. The most advanced application of this technology is an ultra-rapid insulin formulation, which outperformed Eli Lilly’s insulin Humalog in clinical trials and is now ready to enter a phase III study.
Adocia is also testing a solution of glucagon to combat severe hypoglycemia, and a combination of insulin and the hormone pramlintide to improve long-term glucose control.
Founded in 2005, Adocia has been listed on the Euronext Paris since 2012. In 2017, Eli Lilly walked away from a deal concerning the development of Adocia’s ultra-rapid insulin. Since then, both companies have had a legal dispute over intellectual property.
Poxel develops treatments for metabolic diseases. The company’s lead drug candidate is an oral treatment for type 2 diabetes that acts simultaneously in the pancreas, liver and muscles to reduce blood sugar levels. The drug has completed a phase III trial in Japan, where Poxel will be seeking approval before the US and Europe.
Poxel is also developing treatments for NASH, a chronic liver condition for which there is currently no approved treatment. The company was founded in 2009 and was listed on the Euronext Paris in 2015. Its Nasdaq IPO, originally planned for 2016, was delayed and has not yet happened.
The microbes living in our gut are known to be essential for our health, but harsh cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or antibiotics can kill them. MaaT Pharma develops fecal microbiota transplants that are intended to increase the chances of recovery of patients with blood cancer.
Founded in 2014, the company has shown in clinical trials that these transplants can restore most of the healthy gut microbiome. MaaT Pharma is now in the process of testing whether an off-the-shelf microbiome transplant can increase the survival of patients with leukemia.
A spin off from the French Infectiology Research Center in Lyon, Enyo Pharma takes inspiration from viruses to develop new drugs. In particular, the company aims to mimic viruses that have evolved to control the functions of their host cell without killing it. Using a huge database of known interactions between viruses and their host cells, the company designs drug candidates that take after a viral protein that targets the desired molecule.
Founded in 2014, Enyo Pharma is currently running two phase II clinical trials with its lead drug candidate. One of the trials is in chronic hepatitis B and the other in the chronic liver condition NASH.
Founded in 2010, Amoéba is developing the first eco-friendly fungicide for crops. Instead of a chemical, the product consists of a species of amoeba called Willaertia magna that blocks the germination of spores of fungi that produce crop infections such as rust.
In a recent trial in legumes, the company has shown that its alternative is as effective as currently available chemical treatments. Amoéba is also testing the potential of its product to remove dangerous microbes that can contaminate water systems.
Erytech uses red blood cells as a delivery vehicle for drugs. Encapsulated within the red blood cells, the drugs are protected and can act for longer while reducing the drug’s toxicity. The company’s most advanced therapy uses red blood cells to deliver asparaginase, an enzyme that starves tumor cells by removing the amino acid asparagine, which tumor cells need to survive.
Despite a clinical setback 2 years ago in treating leukemia, Erytech is running several clinical trials in pancreatic and triple negative breast cancer, some of the deadliest forms of the disease. Founded in 2004, Erytech listed in Euronext Paris in 2013, followed by a Nasdaq IPO in 2017.
Fab’entech specializes in the fast and efficient development of immunotherapies for emergency situations. In 2015, the company launched Fabenflu, a treatment for avian influenza. Fab’entech is now working on a therapy for ebola, a treatment against bioterrorism threats (in collaboration with the French army), and an antidote for drug intoxication.
The company was founded in 2009 with technology originally developed at Sanofi Pasteur.
Osivax was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of Imaxio, a biotech company based in Lyon. While Imaxio focuses on the commercialization of its vaccine for the infectious disease leptospirosis, Osivax has taken over the development of the rest of the drug pipeline.
The company is currently running two phase I clinical trials with its next-generation vaccines, one in influenza and the other in malaria. Its preclinical pipeline also includes immuno-oncology applications.
Theranexus develops drugs for disorders of the central nervous system. The company targets glial cells, which support neurons and have been found to play a role in how neurons respond to drugs. Its approach is to screen approved drugs for those that have an effect on glial cells, which can then be combined with drugs targeting neurons to enhance their effect.
Founded in 2013, Theranexus has three drug candidates being tested in clinical trials to treat narcolepsy, sleepiness in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and neuropathic pain. The company has been listed on the Euronext Paris since 2017.
Alizé Pharma 3
Alizé Pharma 3 develops peptide drugs for rare endocrine and metabolic diseases. Currently at the preclinical stage, the company’s lead program targets hypoparathyroidism, a condition affecting calcium levels in the body. Another program targets syndromes of severe insulin resistance.
Alizé Pharma 3 is the third of three companies founded by Thierry Abribat, former scientist at Sanofi. The other two were sold to Jazz Pharmaceuticals in 2016 and to Millendo Therapeutics in 2017.
This article was originally published in December 2016 and has since been updated.