Big3Bio Spotlight: Bridging Kraków and San Francisco
Selvita, the largest the largest drug discovery company in Central and Eastern Europe, has just recently opened its West Coast US office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Selvita provides integrated drug discovery services for medium and large biotech and pharmaceutical companies. It has also an early proprietary oncology pipeline. The company employs 330 people from ten different nationalities including 102 PhDs. In the past year the company opened its international offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as well as Cambridge, UK.
We are catching up with Selvita Chief Executive Officer, Pawel Przewiezlikowski, who has spent the last few days here in San Francisco meeting up with business partners and celebrating the new West Coast office opening.
Q: Selvita comes to US. So what brings you here?
A: The US drug discovery market is already the largest for Selvita and absolutely strategic for the future development of the company. Appreciating the importance of the local biotechnology and pharmaceutical market, we decided to come closer to our US partners and clients and open a fully-owned subsidiary in US. The new company, Selvita Inc. at this point, has two offices located in what we consider as the most strategic locations – in Greater Boston and in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Q: Why is the US market that important to you? Western Europe, UK, Switzerland – it’s all a blooming biotech and pharma region, so why go as far as US?
A: Even before we established our permanent presence here in US, we had managed to build a significant client base and business here. This is a region with an enormous potential and we realize that in order to grow and become a truly global drug discovery company, we have to be here. Our presence in US will not only bring us closer both to our current and potential US clients, but at the same time will facilitate the bidirectional transfer of know-how between our labs in Poland and the partner base in the US.
When it comes to Europe, we believe that we have already achieved a number of important milestones in that market and now taking the leap across the Atlantic is a natural way for us. We invest in top-class facilities and equipment, and employ highly skilled and experienced professionals. We have more than 30,000 sq. ft. of brand-new research facility as well as modern and versatile chemical, biological, biochemical and analytical equipment. Our labs are GLP and GMP certified.
Establishing permanent presence in the US is an investment in the quality of service and sales, and becoming even more easy to do business with for our US-based customers. The US market is also important for us from the investment perspective. It is much easier to be noticed and appreciated by the US investors, once you are locally in the US. That is something we definitely count on, and in fact already receiving positive feedback about from our existing US. investor base.
Q: And why San Francisco?
A: In order to make the customer service and sales as effective as possible, despite the distance and time difference between two coasts of US and Poland, we had to establish our local presence both on the East and West coast of US. Both Greater Boston Area and San Francisco Bay Area are key to the whole biotechnology industry, this is where the heart of the biotechnology industry beats. If you want to succeed, you have to be here.
We already have business partners here in the San Francisco Bay region. We established our first cooperation with a local pharma company in 2014, and we’ve been enjoying a fruitful collaboration ever since. We work with several large biotech companies from San Diego and San Francisco as well as with the leading universities in California. Thanks to that, settling down in here was a little easier. San Francisco is also only an hour flight from San Diego or Los Angeles, so it’s a perfect location to start off on the West Coast.
What may be interesting, there is a symbolic aspect to it as well, since Kraków, where Selvita is originally from, and San Francisco are sister cities.
Q: The past year constitutes a very dynamic development for Selvita. New offices, plans for a new research site. Tell us a little about what you consider the highlights of the past year and what you are your plans for the rest of 2016?
That’s true, the past 18 months were great for Selvita. We moved to the main market of Warsaw Stock Exchange raising over $8MM USD, and gained attention from Polish and European investors that resulted in Selvita winning the European Rising Star Award in the prestigious European Small and Mid-Cap Awards competition, organized by the Federation of European Stock Exchanges (FESE) and the European Issuers Association, in collaboration with the European Commission.
In addition to that, we have extended our R&D oncology collaborations with H3 Biomedicine and Merck. We signed several truly significant services contracts, received numerous awards and grew to well over 300 employees. But I truly believe that what’s best is still ahead of us.
In the 2nd half of 2016, we will initiate our first ever Phase I clinical trial for our proprietary oncology program, SEL24. SEL24 is our flagship R&D initiative, a dual PIM/FLT3 inhibitor developed for acute myeloid leukemia. It is a potential therapeutic which we believe may constitute a breakthrough in the treatment of AML patients. Our second most advanced program, SEL120, will enter the preclinical development in 2016, and if all goes well Phase I will follow in 2017.
We are continuously investing in top class-facilities and best professionals. In summer 2016 we are opening our second research facility in Poznan, Poland, expanding our drug discovery outsourcing capabilities and offer. We’re also currently working on establishing further foreign offices. As you can see there is a lot we have planned for Selvita is 2016, and believe me, we’re just getting started.
Q: Last question: how did the opening reception for the new office go?
A: Oh it was great. It took place in the Bay Room at EPIC Roasthouse restaurant. The views of the bay and the Bay Bridge from there are absolutely sensational. The turnout was great, over 70 people, our closest business alliances and partners attended. I believe we all enjoyed a great night of inspiring conversations, along with delicious food, drinks and fantastic music from The Lee Waterman Trio. I do hope this lovely night marks a great beginning for Selvita on the West Coast.