A success story who starts at the IZB
Morphosys Celebrates 25th Anniversary: From the visionary idea to a leading antibody company
Morphosys AG, one of the premier biotechnology companies both at Martinsried and in Germany, celebrated its 25th company anniversary in July 2017. At a ceremony with approximately 500 guests from business and politics as well as employees of the antibody-based drug developer, Dr. Marcel Huber, Head of the State Chancellery of the Federal State of Bavaria Government, honored the successful development of the company: “Morphosys was one of the first companies located in Martinsried, to establish leading-edge research for therapeutic antibodies in Germany as a strong basis to develop drugs for the treatment of patients suffering from serious diseases. Today, the biotech hub in Planegg-Martinsried near Munich is a prime example of Bavaria’s success story in this dynamic future-oriented industry.”
In the summer of 1992, the team of founders around today’s CEO Dr. Simon Moroney started off with approximately DM 300,000 (EUR 150,000) in venture capital, and at that time, a completely new idea of building up a collection of over one billion different human antibodies as a basis for developing new drugs. In 1997 Morphosys was one of the first start-ups to move into the Innovation and Startup Center for Biotechnology (IZB). Susanne Simon interviewed the successful entrepreneur Dr. Simon Moroney.
© MorphoSys AG
”I am convinced that we will bring many more of our own medications on to the market, and I hope that we will be able to contribute to treating diseases for which there are no solutions today”
Dr. Simon Moroney
CEO, Morphosys AG
im Dialog: Dr. Moroney, you have led the company Morphosys for 25 years. The beginning was certainly not easy. Who supported you?
Dr. Moroney: I cannot list them all: Dr. Christian Schneider, for example, a chemist like myself and an untiring force in the founding period. Professor Andreas Plückthun, my second co-founder and antibody expert in the startup phase, who from the outset put enormous trust in Christian and myself. The first-time investors, for example, Michiel de Haan, at that time head of Atlas Venture, provided immense support in the company‘s first years. And our many great employees – for example, Achim Knappik, who came to Morphosys as the ninth employee and played a decisive role in the development of our very first antibody library.
im Dialog: Today, Morphosys is one of the leading antibody companies. Are you satisfied with your success?
Dr. Moroney: Yes. Today, human therapeutic antibodies are among the most successful class of drugs in medicine. Our development pipeline comprises more than 110 drug candidates, with more than 20 currently being clinically tested. I know of no other antibody technology that has produced more active compounds in clinical development than ours.
im Dialog: Morphosys announced on July 13, 2017 that its licensing partner Janssen has received US market approval for Tremfya™ (Guselkumab) from the FDA for the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis. How do you feel?
Dr. Moroney: It is a very exciting day for us all at Morphosys; the first antibody from our proprietary HuCAL antibody technology has received market approval. We would like to thank Janssen for its development of the candidate drug and look forward to the launch of Tremfya in the third quarter of this year. Plaque psoriasis is a chronic disease that affects millions of patients worldwide, and it is fantastic news that this therapy is now available for patients with moderate to severe forms of this disease. We are also very pleased that Janssen is also pursuing the development of Tremfya in other indications.
© MorphoSys AG
(v.l.n.r.) Prof. Andreas Plückthun, co-founder, Morphosys AG, Dr. Simon Moroney, CEO, Morphosys AG, Dr. Christian Schneider, co-founder, Morphosys AG
© MorphoSys AG
Dr. Simon Moroney, CEO, Morphosys AG
1997 at the IZB
im Dialog: What are your next goals?
Dr. Moroney: With a total of more than 100 Morphosys drug candidates currently under development, we are pleased about the success of Tremfya. We continue to pursue the goal of researching and developing new antibodies to treat a variety of serious diseases where we see a high medical need.
im Dialog: What is your success story as company manager?
Dr. Moroney: It takes courage to take risks and the willingness to ignore doubters until you succeed. This applies to all industries. Particularly here in Europe, we can still improve our willingness to take risks.
im Dialog: Where will Morphosys be in 10 years?
Dr. Moroney: I am convinced that we will bring many more of our own medications on to the market, and I hope that we will be able to contribute to treating diseases for which there are no solutions today.
im Dialog: What has changed since the company was founded?
Dr. Moroney: Our first successes were the cooperation with large pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis or Janssen. This enabled us to learn a lot about the development of drugs, as well as generate the financial resources that we are now using to drive forward our own cancer drugs. This is already a great success
Dr. Marlies Sproll, CSO, Morphosys AG, Dr. Markus Enzelberger, Interim CSO, Morphosys AG, Dr. Malte Peters, CDO, Morphosys AG, Katja Wunderlich, presenter, Bavarian broadcast, Jens Holstein, CFO, Morphosys AG, Dr. Simon Moroney, CEO, Morphosys AG