Product | People | Potential – our chat with PetMedix
We caught up with Jolyon Martin, one of the founders of PetMedix, as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. PetMedix is using the highest quality science to make the medicines our pets need and deserve, keeping them healthier, happier, and for longer.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with great potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real-talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Zoe @ADLIB: Hi Jolyon, great to meet you! Please can you kick us off with an introduction to yourself and PetMedix.
Jolyon: I am one of the Founders of PetMedix and head up Business Development there. PetMedix is looking to bring the cutting-edge technology of human antibody therapeutics to the companion animal space (dogs and cats). We have built a transgenic platform that expresses fully canine antibody sequences to make novel therapeutics. In human medicine, antibody therapeutics have been used for the past 30 years. The most advanced way of making them is by editing the mouse genome to express the antibodies that are needed and then they become a “drug factory” that produce therapeutic-quality antibodies that you do not need to spend any time or money manipulating further.
In terms of financing, we have raised our Series A and have just kick-started our series B funding. We have built the first version of our dog platform; and our cat platform is underway. The platforms are being used for drug discovery, and we hope to have our first asset in dogs in the next 6 months. So 2021 will be focused primarily on early clinical development with the aim to be approved as a therapeutic by 2024/2025.
Zoe @ADLIB: Can you share the story behind the origin of PetMedix?
Jolyon: The background to PetMedix links to our scientific founder, Professor Allan Bradley, who has had a long and celebrated career in mouse genomics, including at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Cambridge. He has always been good at identifying translational scientific ideas, incubating them in his lab and then spinning them out into companies when it is the right time to do so. In 2010, during his time as the Director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, he spun out a human antibody company, Kymab, who have fully humanised the mouse immune system and have been successfully using it as a drug discovery platform.
I was building the early version of the dog mouse (Ky9™) during my PhD supervised by Professor Allan Bradley when the idea of PetMedix was born. Since then I have moved out of the lab and onto the business side of things. Something I find is helped by my understanding of the science.
The third Co-Founder is Dr Thomas Weaver, who has been a successful founding CEO of many life sciences companies in the UK. The company was spun out in February 2019, when we received our Series A funding and have since moved to labs on the Babraham Campus, Cambridge and have 30 employees.
Zoe @ADLIB: What has been your approach to understanding and implementing product-market fit?
Jolyon: Although we are still a few years away from having a product on the market, speaking to end-users has been critical. In our case, the end-users are the veterinarians that will be prescribing our medicines. Speaking to them about what their needs are and what areas they feel are underserved has been critical. It is also good to look at broader industry trends. The first antibody therapeutic for pets was introduced two and a half years ago when we were already underway with PetMedix. Prior to this point they were unsure it was possible, as human antibody therapies are very expensive, but now their potential in animal health at an affordable price-point is well established.
Zoe @ADLIB: What challenges have you had to overcome to create PetMedix?
Jolyon: Most of the team have come from a human therapeutics and mice genetics background, where the model systems are both well established. Less basic science has been done in animal health, so the team have had to adapt and develop many things from scratch. This ranges from identifying the canine antibody genes in the first place, through to developing custom in-house assays and reagents.
Zoe @ADLIB: Investment can often be a challenge for start-ups & scale-ups. Do you have any piece of wisdom you could share around best approach?
Jolyon: My three pieces of wisdom are that investment takes longer than you think, network widely, and do your homework. The process for fundraising typically takes six months to a year, so plan accordingly. In terms of networking widely, I would recommend looking at related industries that work with the VCs, for example bankers and lawyers, and take meetings with people who are not VCs, as they can often help you achieve your financing and company goals in ways you might not anticipate. The last point is to do your homework. Make sure you are only speaking to VCs that invest the amount you are looking for, and in the area you work in.
More generalist advice is to not underestimate the amount of free advice that people are willing to give. Find people that you aspire to be like and ask them how they got to where they are. Also, if you get a no from a VC then ask for feedback. Much of the time they won’t reply, a lot of time they will give you something generic, but sometimes they will respond with something you can action and that will help you going forwards.
Thank you so much for your time.