With a chunk of his SAP software riches, Dietmar Hopp has helped champion the growth of the biotech sector in Germany. Dievini Hopp BioTech Holding, his life sciences investment shop, touts a portfolio of 15 drug and diagnostics developers, and his bets on risky biotech outfits come as raising funds for such companies has tested the wills of many traditional backers of the sector in Europe and elsewhere.
So cash-hungry drug developers in Germany should celebrate the $1 billion jump in Hopp's fortune during the year leading up to March, when his estimated net worth came in at $6.5 billion thanks to growth in the value of SAP shares, Forbes reported.
Hopp, who co-founded SAP in the 1970s and previously served as its co-CEO, became a billionaire through decades of hard work in the software sector. Yet the high-tech industry churns out new products annually compared with a decade or more to commercialize a biotech therapy. That Hopp comes to the biotech game with a software background makes his patience and long-term commitment to development-stage biotech companies laudable.
Tubingen, Germany-based CureVac, for instance, tapped Hopp's dievini for an €80 million ($104 million) financing round in September 2012 to advance experimental messenger RNA-based vaccines against prostate and lung cancers. The timeline for developing these complex therapies is long, with an estimated completion of a hoped-for Phase III study of the biotech's prostate cancer vaccine in the year 2020.
In February, Dutch regulators reversed an earlier decision and approved dievini-backed Cosmo Pharmaceuticals' ulcerative colitis therapy Cortiment MMX.
Yet for every win in biotech there are many more defeats. Wilex, another biotech in dievini's portfolio, served up a stinker in October with data from a Phase III study that showed no improvement in disease-free progression in kidney cancer patients on the company's experimental antibody therapy. Wilex terminated the study, but more recently the biotech has held out hope for the candidate after an analysis showed increased benefits for a genetically defined subgroup in the trial.
Wilex shares took a pounding on news of the major trial failure. Hopp, however, isn't investing in life sciences purely for financial returns. As FierceBiotech's John Carroll wrote in February, Hopp aims to support biotech in Germany in part to drive economic growth as well as to advance new therapies for serious illnesses.
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