An Interview with Nathaniel Martin, CEO of Karveel Pharmaceuticals

The drug discovery pipeline: a risky road

The rapid emergence of drug-resistant bacteria poses a severe threat to world health and underscores the importance of developing new antibiotics that operate via novel modes of action. This need was also seen by a team of academic researchers from Utrecht University and a group of experienced Dutch biotech entrepreneurs. In November 2014, they founded Karveel Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company developing first-in-class antibiotics for the treatment of serious drug-resistant infections. An ambitious startup with high potential, which brought them the victory of the Venture Challenge in 2015.

Turning point

"Recent data has revealed that the antibiotic compound class that Karveel was origionally founded on likely does not posses the level ofin vivo activity needed to become a systemic therapeutic," says Nathaniel Martin, CEO of Karveel Pharmaceuticals. "The compound showed promising activity in vitro, but this activity did not translate in animal infection models. This is not unusual in the drug discovery pipeline and further illustrates the challenge of antibiotic development. On the other hand, success in animal models of infection is often predictive for success in further preclinical development stages and is therefore a critical turning point."

New opportunities

"I have an entrepreneurial view on research and my current academic research group at Leiden University has an eye towards translation. I therefore remain positive and look for new opportunities." Martin hints that new opportunities are in progress. "We are now talking with the Technology Transfer Office in Leiden to decide whether to patent one of the new technologies that is under development in our lab. Karveel Pharmaceuticals may well be the logical destination for it to be licensed to."

Nathaniel Martin, CEO of Karveel Pharmaceuticals: "It is an incredibly ambitious goal to turn a lead from an academic research lab into a clinically used anitbiotic."

An academic with an entrepreneurial spirit

"It has been such a good learning experience throughout these couple of years. And there is an increasing encouragement of academic researchers to have some appreciation and willingness to see what they can do with their research outside the wall of academia," explains Martin. "It is an incredibly ambitious goal to turn a lead from an academic research lab into a clinically used anitbiotic. The odds are against us, but we are driven and will keep trying!"

Nathaniel Martin and his team were the winners of Venture Challenge Fall 2015.