Part 1 of our interview with Dr. Guido Koopmans from Algiax Pharmaceuticals GmbH is about the complex clinical picture of neuropathy and the phase IIa study currently underway on the promising active substance AP-325. In the second part you will learn, among other things, what experiences sparked the fire in Dr. Koopmans to go into science and what a "typical" working day is like for him.
You are a co-founder of Algiax. What are the aims of your biotechnology company? Which diseases are you researching treatment options for?
We focus mainly on neuropathic pain. But we are also pursuing projects dedicated to metabolic diseases, for example diabetes mellitus or liver diseases. We also have a collaboration called KomIT: with the German Diabetes Centre in Düsseldorf and a group of other companies, we are building a kind of 'one-stop shop' to be able to investigate diabetes comprehensively at a single location. The EU has also released funding for this project in which we are working with substances that are very similar to AP-325 – so far the research is going quite well.
Where did you study and what kind of training did you receive?
I studied Biological Health Science at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands – that's the interface between biology and medicine, so to speak. So I am neither a biologist nor a medical doctor though I was trained to be a scientist during my studies. In the broadest sense, it was about doing research in medicine – researching health. After I finished my studies, which was in 2002 or 2001, I started my doctoral thesis. In which I dealt with the treatment of paraplegia.
What motivated you to work in clinical research?
Before my studies, at the age of 19, I did an internship in a rehabilitation clinic. There I had to deal with many types of patients: severe accidents, strokes or paraplegia – the whole broad spectrum of rehabilitation. These experiences sparked my interest in neurology. I wanted to specialise further in this field, just to try to help people like these in some way. That was my basic idea about 25 years ago.
What did you do before your job at Algiax?
After I finished my PhD in 2006, I ended up in Germany – at a small start-up company that wanted to develop a new drug-based paraplegia therapy. Unfortunately, this approach did not prove to be successful. My colleague Dr. Hasse, with whom I worked during this whole period, and I then had a few ideas of our own about how paraplegic patients might be treated. This led to our work with AP-325 and we founded Algiax.
What is a "typical" working day like for you?
At Algiax, I work as the Chief Scientific Officer (CSO). On the other hand, I take on the role of Managing Director together with the CEO, Dr. Lehrke. Of course, I am currently very busy with the ongoing study on AP-325. This includes simple things like reading through monitoring visit reports and signing them. But I also have to make sure that recruitment is progressing and, as the client, I also have a supervisory role, i.e. I have to make sure that the study is GCP-compliant. In addition, I keep track of the study participants by means of a checklist (eCRF) and enquire about the current status at the study centres and institutions. Overall, I work a lot in front of the computer and often have telephone conferences. Nevertheless, I naturally try to continue my research when possible on the side. For example, together with Dr. Hasse, I am investigating open questions in the preclinical phase in order to understand AP-325 even better. Apart from that, we often receive enquiries about our project from other companies – both very large and very small. As you can see I have to keep a lot of balls in the air, so to speak.
What do you say when strangers ask you about your job?
My first answer is usually that I am a scientist, because that is still how I see myself first and foremost. And then I add that I am a scientist in the field of neurology and especially in the field of pain treatment and I am trying to develop an active substance for this purpose. I don't see myself primarily as a managing director – since Algiax is a small company, this position is not the main part of my job – it isn't very time-consuming.
How do you know that you are doing a good job?
At the end of the day, I think you can only do a job really well if you enjoy it, if you enjoy doing it – then you don't feel like you' re doing a lot of work. That's the only way to get the best out of yourself.
In what ways do you think the clinical research sector still needs to be optimised?
What always bothers me and often catches me off guard is if, for example, when I get into a conversation with someone at a meeting and say that I develop medicine in pharmaceutical research, then I have the feeling of being driven into a corner pretty quickly and having to defend myself. Of course, that comes from the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is money-driven. At least, I think the balance is currently shifted too much towards making money and less towards the primary goal, which is to try to help people. That is a disadvantage of the pharmaceutical sector. I think we should put the patients more in the foreground again and not just the sales.
Dr. Koopmans, we at emovis would like to thank you for the interesting interview and are looking forward to the results of the Algiax study on your active substance AP-325!