A Conversation With the New MetrioPharm CFO Sven Zimmermann
You have been working in the life science and healthcare sector for more than fifteen years. What makes this work so appealing?
The sector has its own special challenges. On the one hand, the costs for drug development are significant and the development itself is highly regulated. On the other hand, you can still make a decisive difference with a small, focused team. Making a contribution to the development of a drug is fulfilling for everyone involved, and I personally also find it ethically meaningful.
You have already met the MetrioPharm team. What is your impression?
My first impression is entirely positive. Starting with the preclinical and clinical settings over to the understanding of the mechanism of action: The team has made impressive progress in all important development stages. I think that the resources available have been used very efficiently so far. Such a development strategy requires a team of the right size and the right composition. MetrioPharm has obviously found a good mix here.
Have you met our shareholders?
Yes, I already know some of them personally. I look forward to getting to know more of them and to listening to their expectations for us in the future. This will be an important part of my work at MetrioPharm – and an intellectually engaging one as well. I value the investors in the healthcare sector as exceptionally qualified and challenging discussion partners.
How do you evaluate the current positioning of MetrioPharm as an independent developer in the pharmaceutical market?
Today, drugs are more and more being developed for ever smaller patient populations. The industry can only do this profitably through high-price strategies. In the future, it seems increasingly difficult to reach a critical mass of patients on the market. MetrioPharm has deliberately decided to target a rather broad market. I think this is a very good and commercially promising approach. Especially as MP1032 could be used in a variety of inflammation-based indications.
So the drug candidate MP1032 has the potential to be developed for several indications?
I definitely think so, yes. The potential applications for the substance certainly go beyond psoriasis or, for example, arthritis. In many therapeutic settings, MP1032 could play an important role in the transition between generic first-line therapies and much more expensive biologics. There is clearly a niche but this “niche” could be very significant.
Essentially, there would even be several niches?
Right, and each of these niches has specific requirements for a developer. We should therefore position MetrioPharm so that the company can optimally benefit from the expansion into these different indications. The potential for this certainly exists.
What should this development look like in practice? As CFO, you have already overseen successful IPOs. In your opinion, would MetrioPharm be a suitable candidate for this step?
From a company’s point of view, an IPO should of course not be an end in itself, but rather the continuation of a future-oriented strategy. This requires a long-term pipeline, something that MetrioPharm already has, thanks to the extensive list of additional target indications for MP1032. But the timing must be well-chosen and it must be well prepared. Some companies now initiate the IPO at a very early stage, in clinical Phase I or even in the pre-clinical phase. This may look impressive, but the question of course is: Does this really provide the best liquidity event for shareholders?
Can you say what a good timing would be for MetrioPharm?
If I were to announce a timeframe right now, I would be pre-empting the results from our strategy assessment. But when asked if we will prepare for this possibility, I can say: absolutely and as soon as possible. If we prepare our internal processes accordingly, we will certainly benefit from that. Be that in terms of a financing event or in terms of a possible deal with a partner, but definitely in terms of a possible IPO. Whatever the next step, this is not wasted time and we will be better off in each scenario.
Sven Zimmermann holds a doctorate in molecular biology and initially worked as an analyst for the European biotech sector at UBS in Zurich and London. He has extensive experience in corporate finance and capital raising and has worked on five successful exits. Most recently, as CFO of Novimmune SA, he helped with the sale of the company’s main asset to the Swedish Sobi AB for CHF 515 million.
In 2010, he supported the sale of PregLem SA to the Hungarian Gedeon Richter for CHF 445 million and, in 2014, the IPO of Auris Medical AG on NASDAQ. As a member of the Board of Directors of Aimago AG and Epiontis GmbH, he was also involved in the sales of these companies.