Forming immunotherapy partnerships
Title: Chief Business Officer
In May, fast-growing Immunocore appointed Eva-Lotta Allan to its board of directors as chief business officer, tasking her with scouting new partnerships and determining what forms those should take. It didn't take long for two deals to end more than a decade of waiting for the U.K.-based biotech. Its T cell receptor technology finally got pharma's attention, prompting collaborations with Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech in June and with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in July, each potentially worth north of $300 million in development and commercial milestone payments.
Now, it's up to Allan to determine how to maximize those partnerships, one of which, with GSK, has already achieved its first milestone. And, as one of the few people responsible for the company's day-to-day operations, she has an elevated role in helping Immunocore realize its business plan. "There are too many startups that fail and disappear to the wayside because they're not delivering on their promises," she told FierceBiotech.
But when it comes to business development, Allan has a wealth of experience that spans more than two decades. Though she started out working in the laboratory--at the Karolinska Institutet in her native Sweden, as well as for a year in the U.S.--the opportunity for "a greater variety of insights into discovering new medicines" prompted her to leave academia for the industry.
Since then, she's served in roles such as senior director of business development (Europe) for Vertex ($VRTX) and CBO at Ablynx, which she joined in 2006 and helped steer through an IPO, a second public offering and numerous deals.
The opportunity to grow and build a company again with Immunocore was part of what led her to sign on with the biotech. This time, with a seat at the boardroom table, she also has additional influence over the direction the company takes. But what it really all comes down to, she said, is the science.
"I could not really do this job successfully unless I really believed in the science," she told FierceBiotech. And like Ablynx, she said, Immunocore has a fantastic opportunity to build a company based on just that. Spun off from Oxford University's T cell receptor program in 1999, Immunocore's technology is part of an immunotherapy field that's been called the next frontier for cancer treatment. Exploiting the body's own immune system, Immunocore's technology and associated products--called ImmTACs--spur immune cells to seek out and destroy cancerous cells.
To Allan, the challenges of working in biotech center on financing, which Immunocore has been fortunate enough to receive from angel backers since its founding in 2008. Despite the "male-dominated environment," she hasn't experienced any particular challenges as a woman in the field, though she said it's important for women not to feel inferior.
"I don't actually distinguish in my day-to day-working," she said. "That's the only way you can succeed and be successful."
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-- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)