InterAx Biotech will discover better and safer therapeutics. Their unique combination of computational methods and innovative biological products allows for fast and comprehensive characterization of potential new drugs. Costly clinical trials can then be performed with reduced risks. We had a chat with CEO Martin Ostermaier about his startup and how they recently closed a seed investment round with a team of Boston-based biotech investors, which they met during the venture leaders trip this past summer.
Martin, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m a biochemist and have studied in Germany, USA and France. I have performed my PhD at the ETH Zurich and at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland.
What is InterAx Biotech? What problem do you solve?
InterAx is a spinoff from the ETH Zurich and the PSI. The startup is developing different assets for the discovery of functional selective drugs with improved efficacy and reduced side effects for the largest class of human receptors: the G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs).
How did you come up with InterAx Biotech?
InterAx was supported by both the PSI and the ETH Zurich. During my PhD Thesis, which I have conducted with Dr. Jörg Standfuss as PSI-project leader and ETH Prof. Gebhard Schertler as supervisor, a relevant patent application was filed. Afterwards, the ETH Foundation supported me in my goal in making a business out of it with the ETH Pioneer Fellowship. The core technology is an important part of InterAx. However, I would say that InterAx was born afterwards when all founders, an excellent interdisciplinary team of experts from science and business, decided to work together and create an innovative and highly competitive company.
How many employees does the startup have?
The company has currently three full time employees. I would like to take the opportunity to announce that Dr. Maria Waldhoer recently joined our team as Chief Scientific Officer and she will boost our R&D from February 2017 on. She brings in a wealth of knowledge as former professor for GPCR signaling and pharmacology and as manager in Pharma industry. Her outstanding track record both in academia and industry will be of great benefit for the company. We are also looking for a highly motivated laboratory technician with experience in signaling assays that will strengthen our passionate team.
Are there competitors out there?
InterAx, as common in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industry, faces strong competition for the discovery of new therapeutics. However, we are sure to be competitive in our field of functional-selective drug discovery. The competitive landscape ranges from internal programs in Pharma to specialized Biotech companies, which we have in part already approached as potential partners.
What makes you different/better?
The competitive advantage of InterAx lies in the combination of IP-protected biosensors with proprietary computational approaches, namely mathematical models of GPCR signaling pathways. Taken together with our highly efficient multigene expression system in primary cells, the InterAx technology allows efficient discovery of novel drug candidates with better safety profiles.
You were part of the venture leaders 2016. How did that trip help you to grow as a entrepreneur?
The trip was very well organized! The one week trip included pitching to venture funds, business angels as well as workshops with law firms, consulting companies and academic leaders. It was a key learning, to see how the Boston area created a world-leading flourishing ecosystem for Biotech startup companies, from which the whole state of Massachusetts could profit.
What did you learn there?
It was the toughest lecture in pitching I had so far, the most effective week of networking at the highest level possible in the Biotech field, but at the same time, it was great fun.
Would you recommend it to other entrepreneurs?
Definitively! Apply until March 5th, 2017 here.
You also won the Venture Kick final and received 130’000CHF. How did you invest the money?
The price money is only a part of the whole Venture Kick price. It allowed us to progress in business development and marketing, in prototyping, team recruitment and finally to show potential investors the quality stamp on the InterAx case.
What did you learn during the kicker camps?
I always appreciate the openness and directness of Beat’s and Jordi’s feedbacks in our discussions. It’s a very helpful program, fully focused on current start-up needs and problems. During the camps we were challenged and forced to improve our business case by getting very direct and highly valuable feedback from experienced entrepreneurs and investors. The lessons learned were essential and brought us faster and more focused forward.
— PaulScherrerInstitut (@psich_en) 17. Februar 2016
Recently you closed a seed investment round with a team of Boston-based biotech investors. How did this deal come about?
I have met one of our investors in person during venture leaders and I got the chance to pitch to him. After that and some follow ups, we entered a due diligence process with the team of investors, which we could welcome also here in Switzerland. We are very happy to have attracted such excellent people with their deep and diverse knowledge in important disciplines of successfully running Biotech companies.
How will you invest the money?
The money will be invested accordingly to company’s strategy agreed with the investors. Summarized, InterAx can now move towards the development and validation of its drug discovery platform for the discovery of the next generation of GPCR medicines.
What are the next steps?
Attracting new team members, including talented students within collaborative projects with academia: nationally and internationally. Furthermore, besides the hiring of the Chief Scientific Officer, a position for a laboratory technician is currently open.
Your idea works on a global scale. When will you go global?
InterAx Biotech’s potential partners are spread all over the world. Small and medium pharmaceutical companies as well as the big players in the industry belong to our target group.