The health crisis has demonstrated with a brutality that has shocked – and sometimes bruised – many of our fellow citizens: Europe, and in particular France, has lost control of the supply chain of its health products, particularly of some of its Medicines of Major Therapeutic Interest (MMTI). By allowing the manufacturing of active compounds and therapeutic intermediates to escape to South Asian countries (India, China), because they were unable to curb a guilty low-cost reflex, the public authorities have disarmed the nations of the Old Continent and unwittingly exposed their people to dramatic shortages.
Fortunately, a first reaction to this unbearable downgrading has been made. At the European level, Germany, France and most of the member countries have initiated proactive policies aimed at repatriating the manufacture of active therapeutic active compounds of critical origin. In France, support mechanisms – such as Capacity Building led by Bpifrance – have helped, often decisively, manufacturers – and sometimes subcontractors, major players in the drug value chain – to increase or restore capacities. This was long overdue, given France’s ranking, which in just a few years has fallen from the 1st to the 4th place in European drug production…
Better yet, the Health Innovation 2030 plan, supported with great determination by Emmanuel Macron, seems to have taken the measure of the stakes of sovereignty relating to the reindustrialization of the pharmaceutical sector. Out of a total of €7.5 billion dedicated to this plan, nearly €3.5 billion is intended to support capacity-driven projects. Moreover, this salutary awareness is no longer limited to mature products, often of chemical origin, which still make up the majority of the repertoire. These efforts will also support the biomanufacturing offer, which is clearly still largely underdeveloped on this side of the Alps. Yet, monoclonal antibodies, cell and gene therapy products and, of course, vaccines will be the ones bringing spectacular progress in the treatment of cancers, inflammatory, degenerative and autoimmune diseases, as well as better treatment for a large proportion of the 7,000 orphan diseases that cruelly affect thousands of patients. The world biopharmaceutical market is already estimated by the main research firms at more than $331 billion, which represents about 20% of the world drug market. Experts are already predicting that it will be the largest segment by 2026.
With this in mind, we can only agree with the government’s objective of producing at least 20 biomedicines in France by 2030… and lament the current situation! The report drawn up by the Strategic Committee for the Health Sector (“CSF Santé”) at the beginning of 2021 estimated that only 8 biotherapies were produced in France out of a total of 167 approved within the European Union by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). A Europe-wide examination of the mapping of biomanufacturing supply also reveals worrying vulnerabilities that deserve a powerful and coordinated response to avoid the shortages of tomorrow and beyond.
We are convinced that the time has come to equip France with a leader in bioproduction. This goal is within our reach. We believe that the eureKARE investment platform, supported by leading investors and family offices, and eureKING, the first SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) formed with the objective of creating a French leader in biomedical outsourcing, are major and indispensable levers to achieve this strategic goal.
The time seems right. Although the bio-CDMOS (Contract Development Manufacturing Organisations) sector is experiencing strong growth, it remains highly fragmented. Only 5 major players in the industry hold a quarter of the world market. There are more than a thousand small companies, more than half of which have sales of less than $50 million. Sometimes undercapitalized, they compete for the remaining share of the business volume generated by these innovative, high-potential products, sometimes at the origin of immense therapeutic progress. However, the characteristics and format of these companies can cause difficulties in bringing processes into compliance with regulatory requirements. These difficulties generate additional delays that are detrimental to the availability of products that are highly anticipated by the medical community and patients. And these fragile companies may be subject to opportunity purchases or even hostile raids by non-European players.
Backed by a management team composed of world-renowned experts, eureKING can and must be the pillar of the essential consolidation that is about to take place and which alone can provide France with a biomanufacturing champion. Three targets have already been identified: companies producing biologic drugs and, in particular, new generations of monoclonal antibodies or complex proteins, those active in the segment of cell and gene therapies, that have expanded rapidly in recent years with the advent of messenger RNA (mRNA) technologies, and those producing new categories of biotreatment specifically targeting disorders and pathologies of the gut microbiome. While 800 biopharmas worldwide are engaged in the development of these latter products, only 5 European CDMOs are able to provide the full spectrum of services, from clinical evaluation to commercialization.
Within three to five years, after having made a first major acquisition, we intend to build a leading company with a turnover of between €300 and €500 million and an enterprise value of over €1 billion through successive acquisitions. Already, more than fifty of these nuggets – of which a dozen are based in France – have been identified by the eureKING and eureKARE teams, which have been on the alert for several months now. The eureKING SPAC was listed on Euronext on May 12. The device is ready to hatch this French leader of the subcontracting of biological products which will be deployed on an ultra-dynamic market: it is necessary to recall that during the last 5 years, the production and the conditioning of the new molecular entities were entrusted to CDMOs. In this context, the outsourcing of biopharmaceutical products, which has been estimated at $13 billion in 2020, should reach $25 billion by 2025.
It is unimaginable that France and Europe should watch the train of this industrial revolution pass by, a new source of economic and social progress, but also of major improvements in therapeutic care. The authors of these lines are convinced that, behind the creation of this European pillar of pharmaceutical subcontracting, the question of the independence of the Old Continent and the securing of patient access to the most innovative treatments is at stake. Our initiative will make it possible to preserve the continuum that links research and production in our territories, right up to the patient’s bedside. A continuum that is currently under threat.
Alexandre Mouradian, a philanthropic entrepreneur in the life sciences field, is the founder and president of eureKARE, a €50M startup studio through which he created and founded eureKING. He leads a network of world-renowned investors.