Life-saving and life-improving technologies in the Skygate: at the start of 2020, Pieris Pharmaceuticals GmbH, one of the leading international companies for immuno-oncology with over 100 employees, moved into its offices in the Skygate at the Munich Airport Business Park (MABP). Now the company has received the first funding decision of 14.2 million euros as part of the 50-million-euro Bavarian Therapy Strategy, which, together with the BMBF’s federal funding programme „Research and Development of Urgently Needed Therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2“, promotes the development of novel medicines with which potentially life-threatening diseases caused by the corona virus can be treated expediently. Pieris intends to use the money to accelerate the clinical development of its product candidate PRS-220.
Pieris is a clinical-stage biotechnology company with numerous compounds in preclinical and clinical development that discovers and develops drugs based on Anticalin® proteins. In addition to inhalable Anticalin® proteins for the treatment of respiratory diseases, the company’s pipeline also includes immuno-oncological multi-specifics tailored to the micro-environment of the tumour. As a new class of therapeutics, the proteins are owned by Pieris and are validated in clinical practice and through partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies. Although the company, which was originally founded in Munich, now has its headquarters in Boston, USA, the majority of the workforce is based at the new research and development centre in Hallbergmoos, Bavaria. This is also home to the MABP, which is also increasingly developing into an incubator for companies in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors. We spoke to Associate Director Alliance Management Goran Martić (PhD) about questions about the location and working at Pieris.
Pieris now has its headquarters in the USA. To what extent does the location in the immediate vicinity of the airport play a role for your company?
Goran Martić: The Hallbergmoos location is ideal for our many interactions with our parent company in Boston, but also for our international partnerships. Not only does the proximity to the airport provides additional opportunities for important and personal meetings, but the entire infrastructure, with its wide range of hotels and conference rooms, also enables and facilitates efficient cooperation.
And what is the focus of your work here at the site?
Goran Martić: The focus at the Hallbergmoos site is clearly on research and development, and our finance and personnel departments are also located here. Our laboratories in the Skygate specialise in the identification and development of new drug candidates, and in particular their functional and biophysical characterisation and production. We have also built up a great deal of expertise in the establishment of assays that map the biology of the diseases we are researching (Translational Sciences).
This is also (unfortunately) part of the process since 2020/21: a generously designed working environment has become increasingly important, especially with regard to distance and hygiene rules. To what extent do you find that the conditions here these requirements into account?
Goran Martić: We were fortunate that the move was completed shortly before the first pandemic wave hit Munich and the surrounding area and the associated lockdown, although we unfortunately had to cancel our planned inauguration celebration. We had to adapt quickly and took precautions to maintain distance and hygiene very early on. This has also enabled us to keep the Skygate area, which is designed for growth, in laboratory operation throughout without any significant loss of efficiency, thanks to stringently implemented measures. Sufficient space and ventilation facilities, but also a modern air conditioning system and large storage areas/stocks continue to safeguard important laboratory processes to this day.
What are Pieris‘ next steps and goals – here specifically and in the world generally?
Goran Martić: We want to use innovation to provide promising new treatment options for diseases that are difficult to cure or treat, thereby improving the lives of our fellow human beings and patients. Our focus is on cancer and respiratory diseases. This is also the starting point for our latest project to develop an inhaled anticalin protein for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) with the drug candidate PRS-220. In this context, a €14.2 million research grant from the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy additionally supports the accelerated development of PRS-220 for the treatment of post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the form of pulmonary fibrosis, also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome pulmonary fibrosis or „long-COVID“. This development project was recently awarded a prize in the category Leap Innovation by Pharma Trend. We are of course very pleased about this. Our goal as a company remains clear: consistent and gradual expansion to create a fully integrated biotech company, whereby the location in Hallbergmoos/Munich will continue to play a central role as Pieris‘ research and development hub.
Photo material © Claus Uhlendorf