Proteon Pharmaceuticals recently secured €21 million to expand its global presence through distribution partners and continue to invest in its Phage Product Development Platform. Ahead of the summit, we spoke to Chief Operating Officer, Matthew Tebeau about the company’s exciting journey into phages, accelerating the commercialization of its products and making new connections.
In 2019, you presented your company’s technology solution at the first ever Technology Showcase at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in Amsterdam. What has been the best and least favourite part of the journey so far?
The best part of the journey has been bringing our first new product to market and seeing the difference it is making on farms as well as how we are raising awareness of antibiotic alternatives. Knowing that we can, with phages, improve the sustainability of agriculture, specifically livestock and aquaculture farming is rewarding and encouraging. The hardest part is building a company introducing a new, precision biology, solution in a market that is sceptical to antibiotic alternatives. The novelty of our solution means that there are unique challenges to overcome. So far, the rewards outweigh any frustrations from the challenges!
Congratulations on securing an investment of €21 million. What are your next steps and priorities with this funding?
We are planning to expand our global presence, through distribution partners, with a goal of serving clients on five continents. We are continuing our investment in our Phage Product Development Platform, both in terms of technology advancement and developing new products. We are investing in Phage education to bring awareness of our solutions to a broader market. Finally, we are expanding our production capacity to serve the new markets and products.
How do you aim to accelerate the commercialization of your products and who are you looking to collaborate with in the industry?
We are looking for distribution partners to distribute the poultry and dairy products in our portfolio and we are looking for partners to license or jointly develop new products. There are a variety of applications and solutions where bacteriophage products solve difficult to address problems or improve/extend existing technology. However, the marketplace is not fully aware of how well bacteriophages increase sustainability and performance on the farm. The same goes for the animal health and feed additive industries where the benefits of partnering are not fully recognized. As a result, we aim to spend efforts in the near future demonstrating the case for bacteriophage solutions. More broadly, we are also looking for partners in technologies that help deliver and measure sustainable performance, whether they are data/IT, AI or diagnostic related.
What is the roadmap for you and where do you want to be in the next 5-10 years? Where does regulation and policy play a role in this?
We aim to be known as the Phage Company, the experts on developing and delivering bacteriophage products to the marketplace. This is an exciting and game changing new technology that dramatically increases the protein production sustainability goals and expectations of consumers, livestock/aquaculture farmers, the animal health/feed additive industries and government regulators.
Unfortunately, the regulatory frameworks and awareness have not caught up with the new opportunities created by microbiome centered solutions like our bacteriophage-based products. We advocate a strong and urgent re-examination of regulatory frameworks to support sustainable agriculture because the current focus which rewards reactive and traditional approaches is limiting the ability of farmer’s to meet the market (and their own) expectations in terms of sustainability.
What connections are important for you to make at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit, and how does connection and partnership benefit your own organisation and the industry at large?
Introducing a new category is a long journey, we are looking for partners who are committed to sustainable protein production. The Animal AgTech Innovation Summit is an efficient way to start and continue discussions. We especially appreciate the feedback from the livestock and aquaculture production industry itself. Finally, more generally it is valuable to better understand the AgTech innovation ecosystem, especially IT and AI related developments, to assess upcoming changes to business models that are coming. Agriculture is under pressure from many sides, environmental change, market pressures as well as the opportunities presented by a plethora of new technologies. In the 21st century, partnering is an essential tool to deliver value to customers and build robust innovation that is implemented, and therefore actually makes a difference.
Join Matthew at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit on October 20 where he’ll discuss ‘Fostering Greater Collaboration to Fast-Track Adoption of New Technologies’ during the Closing Panel at 17.20 CEST.