WE NEED TO BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS THAT ARE HOLDING BACK INNOVATION

Simon Schnaiter is project manager at Oncotyrol, Center for Personalised Medicine in Austria. He speaks to PMF editor Mark Glover about the company’s involvement in the PERMIDES project and the advantages the initiative can bring to the sector.

How does Oncotyrol fit into the field of precision medicine?

Oncotyrol used to be a Public Private Partnership, where industry and academia worked together. The project was supported by the Austrian government who offered funding over a period of eight years which came to an end in June 2016. During this time, we conducted a huge amount of research which we published. After the public funding came to an end we continued as a Private Limited Company. Now, we are working on the outcomes of this research and are looking to further develop them. Any profits that we make we re-invest back into our own research and development.

We have three major strands: One is eHealth, where we are involved in Real World Evidence, Patient Reported Outcomes and Patient Empowerment solutions. Another strand is drug development based on high content screening. The third strand is health technology assessment in collaboration with the local university, UMIT.

What is your role in the PERMIDES project?

We are involved in the PERMIDES consortium as an expert in cancer research, representing Austria. I think the goal, ultimately of the PERMIDES project, is to try and break down the barriers between different disciplines that are holding back innovation in the field. I also think that collaboration in general, in Europe, can be improved by the initiative certainly between IT and life science, but also to improve communication within life science itself.  Even within one community, such as life science, with many small and highly innovative but hardly visible companies, it is very difficult to find a reliable and qualified partner for the right task at the right time.

Of course, it would be a pity if the network and the platform established were to dissolve with the end of the funding. Currently we are working on establishing an improved commercial matchmaking platform with additional features and tools further enhancing collaboration within the life science, medtech and IT community.

What are the major challenges of collaboration between life sciences and IT?

There is a language barrier. The IT sector talks a different language than life sciences, rendering it difficult to match the right partners. I think we need to enhance communication and the communication ability of both sides. The PERMIDES matchmaking platform is going some way to improve this.

What have you seen change in the field of precision medicine?

It has improved. Although I think now, following the initial hype, it has levelled out into a stable and rational state of development. When we first sequenced the genome, I think people thought that we would then quickly solve all diseases on a personal level, but it is definitely more complicated than that. I think that we perhaps need a more patient approach.

Oncytyrol is one of the chosen case studies being presented at the PERMIDES conference: Empowering Personalized Medicine through Digital Solutions, which forms part of the Benelux Precision Medicine Forum, taking place from 12 to 13 June in Utrecht. You can register for the event here.