Jaap Koopman, the CEO of Fibriant, is an experienced entrepreneur and start-up founder. In 2004, he founded ProFibrix, which was sold three years ago to a US-based biopharmaceutical company. His new start-up Fibriant uses TNO knowledge for improving the success rate of bypass surgeries.
What product does Fibriant market?
‘None at the moment. We are currently developing on what, for now, I'll just call a support stocking for bypass surgery. Bypass surgeries are needed when a patient has suffered a heart attack as a result of a blockage in the coronary artery. Surgeons will then create a detour, or bypass, around the blocked artery. Sometimes it is necessary to use a vein instead of an artery. However, veins are not as strong as arteries and need to adjust to the elevated blood pressure. These veins require temporary extra support in order to prevent new problems from occurring. Our support stocking can provide this support.’
This sounds like a helpful product. What did TNO contribute to its development?
‘TNO holds the patents that we need to further develop this product. We want to make use of the blood clotting protein, or factor, fibrinogen. When bleeding occurs, the soluble fibrinogen is converted into an insoluble fibrin matrix. This fibrin is one of the strongest polymers in nature, and it is this protein from which we want to make our support stocking. Fibrinogen is a substance that is naturally produced by the body and breaks down over time, making it perfect for our application.’
How did you come into contact with TNO?
‘In the early 1980s I worked at TNO as a biomedical analyst, and was already involved in blood clotting research. With the support from TNO, I became one of the first students from a university of applied sciences to receive a PhD and I was awarded the first Dr. Dekker scholarship from the Nederlandse Hartstichting (Dutch heart foundation). After that I worked at different research institutes and commercial businesses. Finally, I co-founded ProFibrix in 2004. This company was able to successfully develop a blood-clotting product. The sale of ProFibrix to a US company in 2013 had the added benefit of allowing me to found Fibriant with a share of the profits. I am currently the CEO at Fibriant.’
What is the value of the TNO patents?
‘We have obtained an exclusive license for the patents. This means that we are the only company that is allowed to apply the underlying technology. This is always the best approach: no half measures and always insist on quality. This license enables us to carry on with our research and keeps our competitors at bay. Fibrinogen exists in different variations and we want to understand this better. We have plans for about four other biomedical products and we can now research which variant of fibrinogen is best suited to each of these products.’
Can you tell us more about these products?
‘The support stocking for bypass surgery is one of these products. We have high expectations for this stocking. Currently, thirty to forty per cent of transplanted veins will close up again within two years. We hope to drastically reduce this number to perhaps even less than ten per cent. This will be a notable improvement, as the surgery to replace a transplanted vein remains high-risk and ultimately, it will also save the costs of a second surgery.’
Currently, thirty to forty per cent of transplanted veins will close up again within two years
What is next for Fibriant?
‘Currently, Fibriant employs six staff members. This is not enough to develop new medicines or other healthcare products. For that you require a wide range of knowledge and capital. Thus, we are going to create a platform where we can work with other companies and gather as much knowledge as possible about fibrinogen and ways in which to effectively utilize this protein. This would include using knowledge about recombinant DNA technology to produce fibrinogen variants. We also want to work on keeping costs as low as possible.’
Will you be working with TNO again?
‘We are now only a short-term licensee. When one of our product reaches the testing phase we will approach TNO again, as it has excellent testing models. As I mentioned before, I always opt for quality.
What are the commercial prospects?
‘The commercial prospects are positive. There is a clear demand for the products that we are researching, so there will be customers. Soon we will be able to combine returns with improving healthcare for seriously ill people. The future certainly is bright.’