Olivier KITTEN, Founder & CEO Affilogic
Atlanpole: What is the pitch of your business?
Olivier Kitten: Affilogic is a Biotech company specializing in the research and development of molecules in particular for the Pharmaceutical Industry. These molecules are based on a protein format, the Nanofitins, whose function is to cling to a biologically specifically chosen target in order to purify or detect it, or block its action. Our company designs these molecules in particular to inhibit pathological mechanisms. The major pathologies targeted are cancers, brain and inflammatory diseases. 60% are produced at the request of our customers, and 40% for our own projects. Affilogic has an economic model that is both close to that of a service company where one is paid (a little) to do research work, and a product development company where one is rewarded (much more) when one gets results. Once the products are tested, our customers can buy with a license, Affilogic remaining owner of the technology. Thus, we balance short-term needs and long-term prospects.
A.: How are your results up to now?
- Functional results: 13 contracts are currently underway worldwide (France – United States – Japan) to discover and develop medicines. Two are already converted into a license.
- Technical results: 2 projects are scheduled to enter into the clinical phase in 2018 with our partners.
- Economic results, which depend mainly on partnerships: in 2016 Affilogic generated a turnover of € 1.5 million (including European programs that generated € 500,000) mainly related to the discovery activity. The fruits of the licenses will actually show up this year.
“The economic success of the company depends on the partnerships signed, and especially on their success.”
A.: Could we go back to the beginning?
O.K. : The story began with a meeting with two researchers, now shareholders of Affilogic (Frédéric Pecorari and Charles Tellier), who had developed a technology. In 2009 Atlanpole advised them to develop their platform through a business creation. Having responsibilities at the time at Atlanpole, as head of Atlanpole Biotherapies, I was interested in the subject and immediately saw the possible applications. I then activated my network in the industry, to initiate the first contracts with Mérial and a Belgian consortium, who agreed to conduct tests, being in a company-company framework. This is what prompted us to create Affilogic in 2010.
A.: Could you tell us of a decisive moment?
O.K. : The day I threw my business plans into the trash and started working!
When setting up a business, you are “buried” in documentation for the first few months. I lived only in numbers and spreadsheets. Then I went to meet people, listen to their needs. Business is really a matter of human relationship.
Another real turning point was the first “big” contract, with Sanofi in 2015: it helps you to gain confidence, you then think that it is possible to work with a giant of the sector. It was especially the first one we were able to report on…
A.: What were the accelerators on your route?
O.K. : At the start, there were my former colleagues at Atlanpole and the national competition to support the creation of innovative companies by the Ministry of Research. The endowment made it possible to lay the first bricks and to develop a techno that was adapted to our needs. I can also mention a very useful regional plan: “objectif performance”. This is a joint venture for the recruitment of key positions (50% of the salary of a key job is covered for 1 year). It is a real support when you start, to have the means to recruit key skills for the company.
Europe acts as a real catalyst for our development, via European programs (resources are allocated to answer a question asked by Europe). As of 2012, Affilogic was involved in a big program over 5 years, without which, we would not be employing so many people today. Beside recruitment, these dynamics move projects forward and contribute to the creation of a European network (industrial partners).
A.: Are there any obstacles to progress?
O.K. : Our business model works, but is not intended to significantly boost our equity in the short term, which is quite unusual for a Biotech company. Since the level of aid that we could claim is based on capital, we are not in line with the analysts ‘requirements for certain public provisions. For example, we had a complicated negotiation on a program, for which we were initially accepted, because the level of our own funds was not secure.
What would help us is a more personalized reading of our situation and not being judged solely on our own funds but on our ability to generate income and therefore to self-finance some of our research.
“Affilogic should be judged on its ability to invest and not only on its own capital.”
A.: What is left for you to conquer?
O.K. : Our goal: to make medicines and so one day treat someone. Well, not just one person!
More generally, I want to develop the number of projects and, at the same time, the competence that we bring to our clients.
“An important milestone would be the first patient treated with our technology!”
A.: The essential for an innovative entrepreneur?
O.K. : The team. It is essential to surround oneself with the right people and create a relationship of trust with ones employees. The collaborative skills of my employees are very important to me, as well as to have a constructive attitude and to make progress, to be flexible … The entrepreneur himself must be focused on solutions.
A.: Is there a link with the Ecosystem network?
O.K. : Affilogic is a member of the Atlanpole Biotherapies cluster, and we are often part of the cluster’s stand at International Biotech meetings and exhibitions. We have CIFRE graduates (Industrial agreements for training through research) from Nantes University laboratories. For a short time, we were both in our microcosm and in the world, but today, we are beginning to develop more partnerships locally.
A.: What are our expected outcomes within 3 to 5 years?
O.K. : To have products in clinical phase and be a recurring partner of half of the top 10 companies of the world’s big Pharma. To be able to bring more added value to our customers, that is, to count about thirty employees in 3 years, in Nantes. It is likely that sub offices should be opened near the customers, but the research will remain in Nantes.