Tell us more about KYBORA.
KYBORA is inspired by a word from Rwanda that means “guide”; this is where our CEO Alan Vanderborght was born and raised. Our mission is to help and support the growth of our Life Sciences clients by focusing on transactions as well as on strategic consulting services. Our specialty is in M&A (on the buy-side as well as on the sell-side), licensing (in and out) and fundraising.
What is unique about KYBORA is that our team members all come from the industry enabling us to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes; we know what it takes to be successful. Collectively, we offer a global reach and local knowledge with presence in Latin America (with representatives in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico), the US (with representatives in Princeton, where KYBORA is headquartered, San Francisco and Miami), in Europe (with representatives in France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland, where KYBORA just set-up its first fully owned affiliate), CIS-CEE (with representative in Hungary, Russia and Ukraine) and MENA-GCC (with representatives in Saudi Arabia) as well as partners in Japan, China, India and, Argentina. As part of its expansion, KYBORA is planning to open its second fully owned affiliate in China in 2022.
We have a good network and knowledge of the key players in the marketplaces including the decision makers such as CEOs and/or Board members in large BioPharma companies and Biotech. Our strong network also covers the R&D, medical and clinical areas which is key as we sometimes need internal champions to move certain initiatives such as licensing forward.
We are very close to our clients and sometimes we would rather miss a deal than push for a deal that makes no sense as we value long-term relationships. If you have been in the Life Sciences business for some time, you will realise that it is a small industry and reputation is key. We try to distinguish ourselves by being able to deliver high valued services, to say what we do and do what we say.
Tell us more about your clients.
We are agnostic, from a therapeutic area and clients’ profile point of view, but also selective at the same time. Our clients include large Life Sciences (BioPharma/MedTech) companies, mid-size Biotech and, start-up companies. Through our networks and global presence, we are often able to identify opportunities that larger investment banks can’t and, more valuable to our clients, we are often able to identify buyers they just never heard of before.
We recently helped STADA partner Ranibizumab to Bausch in the US and Canada and we advised a large BioPharma to sell a Priority Review Voucher to a renowned publicly listed Biotech. We did this transaction in two months and our client was very happy with our performance given the tight deadline.
Why did you choose to set up KYBORA in Basel?
We went through the whole exercise of determining where will be the best place to set up our European entity. Prior to that, we had to figure out why do we even need a European entity. As we offer a one-stop solution, there is demand from European companies that may find our global solutions very attractive.
We analysed the various advantages of each country (taxes, salary charges, etc.) and, at the end, we favoured a place where it makes most sense business-wise. We believe that Basel is a good place to be for business because it is at the crossroads of three mature countries and markets in Europe. Secondly, there is a huge dynamic within the Biotech Industry in Basel with two large Pharma companies and, more across Switzerland.
Why did you decide to join KYBORA?
I think that there are two reasons. I’ve been a client of KYBORA when I was the Chief Business Officer of Besins Healthcare, headquartered in Monaco. While working with KYBORA that indeed, sped-up and strengthened my corporate and business development capabilities, I liked the (my current) CEO Alan Vanderborght very much.
Sometimes, you don’t pick a job, but you pick the leader. I find his values on integrity and altruism very important. I don’t believe that keeping information to yourself is the way to succeed in this world, but rather how you use information. While respecting the constraints of confidentiality, we were even exchanging opportunities despite the competitive landscape that we are in. It’s just a question of mindset while respecting good business practices.
The second reason is that I like the idea of being an agnostic, jumping from one project to another. We diversify and move from a therapeutic area, marketplaces dynamics, etc. to a transaction point of view, and so on.
You’re a scientist by background but moved quickly into the business stream. Why this change?
Business Development is a bit like science. You have multiple parameters that you need to take care of and use the best combination of parameters in order to get a successful experiment. It’s the same to get a successful transaction.
After 4 years of Postdoc in Cambridge and with the inspiration of Sir Greg Winter (now Nobel prize winner) and Ian Tomlinson (who both at the time were setting up Domantis, now GSK), I decided to become an entrepreneur. I was 29 years old and soon realised that it was quite a tough game, and that I needed to go back to learn exactly what the whole industry is about.
Any lessons learnt that you could share?
There is no need to be shy or ashamed if you don’t know something, then you must say, “I don’t know.” That is the first step to learn things. I remembered when John Walker, a Nobel prize winner in chemistry in Cambridge (UK) told me that what is easy has already been done. It is vital to start by recognising that you don’t have all the answers and begin to ask the right questions.
I see this from my experience, when working with high profile people such as the BD Lead for Sanofi when negotiating a deal for Micromet (now Amgen), who clarified the questions that we were asking to make sure that his team understood correctly.
This is especially important now that we have so many ways to communicate, and we communicate too much sometimes making it easy to get lost. There is also the element of cultural and background differences. Ask the right questions to get the right answers to move ahead; asking “why?” is often a good start.
Any success stories you can share?
From a professional point of view, I would say that it’s to be part of a team when I joined Micromet back in 2007 when it was the pioneer of the field of bi-specific antibodies, paving the way of immuno-oncology (IO), but there was no proof of concept in the clinical trials yet. In 2008, they published for the first time ever, the first phase one clinical results in Science, a very high-profile science journal in the US.
From there, large BioPharma focusing on oncology showed an increasing appetite for bi-specific antibodies applied to IO. I had the opportunity to participate in several major transactions for Micromet, from A to Z, up to the closings, in particular the Sanofi transaction. It was one of the largest deals that I’ve sourced and contributed to at the time, the reason I am very proud of it.
Yet, at the end of the day, the transactions are important because patients will benefit from new treatments, at a time when these treatments are not yet viable. We should always remember that we are all serving one single client, the patient.
Anything else to add?
To last long, in this business you need to have a certain level of ethics. Once, I was discussing with a Biotech company, for obvious reasons I can’t disclose the name. We had signed an exclusive license agreement for their product which they did not countersign in the end. In fact, they signed it with our key competitor a few days later.
It teaches you that until you get a signature in the contract, you get nothing. And the next thing you learn is, until you get the money in the bank, you get nothing. Unfortunately, in business, sometimes you cross paths with people that do not care much about ethics.