We aim to bring novel antibiotics and medicines for high medical needs to patients
Polyphor’s goal is to be the leader in the development of novel antibiotics and other efficacious therapies against specialty diseases with high medical needs.
Polyphor was founded in 1996 and is a clinical stage, privately held Swiss specialty pharma company, based in Allschwil near Basel. It focuses on the development of macrocycle drugs that address antibiotic resistance and severe respiratory diseases.
Our lead drug candidates
A precision Outer Membrane Protein Targeting Antibiotic (OMPTA) against Pseudomonas aeruginosa
An inhaled inhibitor of neutrophil elastase for the treatment of Cystic Fibrosis and other severe lung diseases
An antagonist of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 for combination treatment in oncology
First new class of antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria
Polyphor has discovered the Outer Membrane Protein Targeting Antibiotics (OMPTA) class and is further developing it, including a broad-spectrum preclinical candidate, to address infections caused by difficult-to-treat, resistant Gram-negative pathogens – one of the most pressing emerging medical needs. The OMPTA represent the first new class of antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria reaching advanced clinical stage in the last 40 years.
Proprietary macrocycle technology platform for pharma companies
Another important area of activity for Polyphor is discovery technology partnerships to assist pharma companies in research programs addressing difficult targets through its proprietary macrocycle technology platform.
Giacomo Di Nepi, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Giacomo Di Nepi brings over 30 years’ experience in the industry, most recently as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Europe for InterMune Inc., where he launched Esbriet, an orphan drug, and built from scratch a USD 140 million and 200-person business – until the acquisition of InterMune by Roche for USD 8.3bn. Prior to that he held senior leadership positions with Takeda and Novartis, where he was also a member of the Pharma Executive Committee, and was a Partner with McKinsey&Co. He currently serves on the boards of Geneuro (GNRO.PA) and NTC, a privately held company. Giacomo Di Nepi holds a degree in Economics from Bocconi University, Milan, Italy and an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France.
Daniel Obrecht, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer
Daniel Obrecht spent 11 years at the Central Research Laboratories of Roche Basel. In his previous position he was Head of the Combinatorial Chemistry Group. Dr. Daniel Obrecht obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Zurich in 1985 under the supervision of Prof. H. Heimgartner, after which he was associated with Prof. R. E. Ireland at Caltech as a postdoctoral fellow for 2 years. Dr. Daniel Obrecht is the author of numerous publications and books and holds several patents in the field of pharmaceuticals. He was appointed Roche Lecturer in 1993.
Chief Financial Officer
Kalina Scott joined from Bank am Bellevue in Zurich, where she was Managing Director Corporate Finance, responsible for transactions in the fields of mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and private placements. A seasoned professional with 20 years of work experience in investment banking and corporate finance, she started her career at UBS in Zurich and London, working in structured finance and credit risk management, followed by leveraged finance as well as mergers & acquisitions. As Director of Corporate Finance at KPMG Zurich, she successfully created a corporate defense offering and supported the IPO advisory business of KPMG. Overall she has executed corporate finance transactions for more than 20 renowned companies – including the IPOs of Investis, Cassiopea, Molecular Partners, and more recently Galenica Santé, as well as strategic transactions for Berna Biotech, Sulzer Medica, Mathys Medical and the Hirslanden group. Kalina Scott studied Business and Economics at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Sofia University in Bulgaria.
Chief Medical & Development Officer
Dr. Debra Barker is a seasoned medical expert in clinical development and has extensive experience in infectious and respiratory diseases and in immunology. She joined Polyphor in May 2017 from Novartis, where she held various senior management positions as Global Head of Medical Affairs for the ophthalmology business and Head of Development for infectious diseases, transplants and immunology. From 1995 to 2001 she worked in clinical and commercial roles for Roche, and previously for Smithkline Beecham and Knoll/BASF. Debra Barker received an MD from Queens’ College, Cambridge, UK, and an MSc in immunology from King’s College, London, UK. Dr. Barker is a British citizen.
Steffen Weinbrenner, Ph.D.
Head of Discovery
Steffen Weinbrenner, Ph.D., joined Byk Gulden GmbH in 1996 as a research scientist working in the field of Combinatorial and Medicinal Chemistry on several drug discovery projects. In 2003 he was appointed Head of Department Lead Finding Chemistry at Altana Pharma AG. In 2007 he was promoted to Director of Global Medicinal Chemistry at Nycomed overseeing synthetic chemistry, chemical outsourcing, molecular modeling and drug design at sites in Konstanz (Germany) and Mumbai (India). In 2009 he became Director Discovery Technologies. In 2011 he joined Polyphor as Head of Project and Alliance Management. He obtained his Ph.D. on the total synthesis of cyclopeptidic natural products in 1995 under the supervision of Prof. Dr. U. Schmidt at the University of Stuttgart.
Marc Thommen, Ph.D.
Head of Chemistry
Following his postdoctoral studies, Dr. Marc Thommen worked at the catalysis R&D department of Novartis in Basel and took over responsibility as lab head in the course of the spin-off of the Scientific Services department in 1999, which led to the foundation of Solvias AG. From 2000 until 2003 he managed numerous customer projects associated with preclinical and Phase 1 material supply, and later led the catalysis and chiral ligand commercialization project. In 2005 he was appointed head of the product management team for the Solvias company. Dr. Marc Thommen received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Bern in 1995 under the direction of Prof. Dr. Reinhard Keese. From 1996 to 1997 he studied in the group of Prof. Dr. Barry M. Trost at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow.
Peter Zbinden, Ph.D.
Head of Biostructural, ADMET & Technical Service
Peter Zbinden, Ph.D., is responsible for IT, information management, structural design and molecular modeling, analytics and bioanalytics as well as logistics and automation. He started his career in 1992 as an application scientist in life sciences at Molecular Simulations. After spending several years in scientific software development and industry collaborations in drug discovery at the Biografics Laboratory 3R in Basel, he joined Discovery Technologies Ltd in 1997 where he was responsible for data processing and analysis of HTS data, information management, molecular modeling, analytics and logistics of the compound archive. Peter Zbinden earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1992 at the ETH Zürich under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Max Dobler.
Helmut Kessmann, Ph.D.
Head of Business Development Pharma
Helmut Kessmann, Ph.D., has over 15 years’ experience in business development across several therapeutic areas and geographic regions. In 1996, he co-founded Discovery Technologies Ltd. in Basel, Switzerland, which was later integrated into US-based Discovery Partners International, followed by a successful IPO in 2000. He then joined Graffinity Pharmaceuticals, Heidelberg, Germany, which in 2004 merged with MyoContract Ltd to form Santhera Pharmaceuticals Ltd., a specialty pharma company focussing on orphan diseases. Santhera went public in 2006 (SIX: SANN). During the last 15 years he closed many in- and out-licensing deals for platform technologies and products at all stages in development, led cross-functional M&A teams, and was a member of the corporate leadership. Prior to that he held various research management positions at Ciba-Geigy, now Novartis. Dr. Kessmann studied biology, philosophy and business administration and completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1988 at the University of Münster, Germany.
Head of Human Resources
Franziska Müller is responsible for all strategic personnel-related topics at Polyphor as well as the management of the daily business in Human Resources. She joined the company in 2008 as an assistant in Human Resources. From 2005 to 2007 she completed internships at Credit Suisse and Basler Insurance in Human Resources and Management Development. Franziska Müller studied personnel and organizational psychology and holds a master’s degree from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. She is a Swiss citizen.
Argeris (“Jerry”) M. Karabelas, Ph.D.
Argeris (“Jerry”) M. Karabelas, Ph.D., is a Partner at Care Capital, LLC, a life sciences venture firm with $500MM under management. Previous to this position, Dr. Karabelas founded the Novartis BioVenture Fund. He was also the CEO of Worldwide Pharmaceuticals, and head of all healthcare businesses and a member of the Executive Committee at Novartis AG. Prior to that he held a number of senior executive positions at SmithKline Beecham. He was also a Professor of Pharmacokinetics. Dr. Karabelas has founded several companies: CytoTherapeutics, Inc., Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cyrenaic, and Somnus. He is currently a member of the Board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, and Regenxbio Pharmaceuticals. He is former Chairman of Human Genome Sciences, Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc., Renovo, NitroMed, Inc., and SkyePharma plc. Dr. Karabelas holds a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacokinetics from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and a Bachelor of Sciences in Biochemistry from the University of New Hampshire.
Kuno Sommer, Ph.D.
Kuno Sommer, Ph.D., joined F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd in 1986 and worked in various functions until 1999, spending 4 years in the US. In his last position at Roche he became a member of the Executive Committee, responsible for the Flavours and Fragrances division (today Givaudan Ltd). From 2000 until 2006 he was CEO of Berna Biotech Ltd, a listed global vaccine company, which was sold to Crucell N.V. in 2006 (today Johnson & Johnson). In his last operational role Dr. Kuno Sommer headed the contract research division of Harlan Laboratories Ltd, a leading player in this field. Today he focuses on active board memberships in the life sciences sector. In addition to various directorships with startup companies, in April 2012 he became Chairman of the Bachem group.
Bernard Bollag, MBA
Bernard Bollag, MBA, is a senior international executive with broad experience in corporate finance, capital markets and institutional investments. He is the founder and Managing Director of Beaufort Capital, a boutique dedicated to supporting HNW individuals in their search and selection of investments, since 2012. Prior to that, Bernard Bollag was CFO in private equity for six years, in UK renewable energy, and internationally across several sectors. Before that, Bernard Bollag was Group Treasurer at Syngenta, leading the company’s global funding and risk functions, as it spun off from Novartis and AstraZeneca. Prior to that his career had progressed through a typical finance path at Unisys. Bernard Bollag holds an MBA in Finance from the Columbia Business School in New York and a BA in Economics from the Bar-Ilan University of Tel-Aviv.
Jean-Jacques Garaud, M.D.
Jean-Jacques Garaud, M.D., served until 2012 as Head of Roche Pharma Research & Early Development and a Member of the Enlarged Roche Corporate Executive Committee. Prior to joining F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. in 2007, Dr. Garaud was the Global Head of Exploratory Development at Novartis Pharma in Switzerland. From 1985 until 2005, Dr. Garaud worked in clinical research with Marion Merrell Dow, Rhône-Poulenc Rorer, Schering-Plough and Novartis Pharma USA. He was Assistant Attaché in Infectious Diseases and Intensive Care Medicine at the Claude Bernard Hospital in Paris from 1981 to 1985. He is the founder and CEO of Inotrem, a French biotech company, and Board member of Circassia in the UK as well as Enyo in France. He earned his medical degree as well as a diploma in Tropical Medicine, Public Health & Epidemiology from the University of Paris.
Silvio Inderbitzin, Ph.D.
Silvio Inderbitzin, Ph.D., has a successful track record in the life sciences. After an 18-year career at Spirig Pharma he led the company’s trade sale in 2013 as delegate of the Board. Since then Silvio Inderbitzin has been active as a board member and an investor in various small to mid-sized life science companies in Switzerland. With his origin in pharmaceutical manufacturing, he built a corporate-wide GMP-quality assurance infrastructure as Head of Quality Assurance, and was responsible for product release as a Qualified Person at a medium-sized Swiss pharmaceutical company. He was later elected to the position of Technical Director and served on the Corporate Management Team, ultimately joining the Board of Directors and becoming co-owner of the privately-held 450-employee company. Prior to the successful sale of the company, he served as CEO and was responsible for its foreign subsidiaries. Dr. Inderbitzin studied Pharmacy at the University of Berne, holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Zurich/ETH, and obtained an Executive MBA from the University of St. Gallen.
Jean-Pierre Obrecht, Ph.D.
Jean-Pierre Obrecht, Ph.D., is co-founder and CEO of Polyphor Ltd since 1996. He has extensive experience in the chemical industry, starting in agrochemical research, then heading the production and engineering department of Dr. R. Maag AG, a former affiliate of Roche and later Ciba-Geigy. In his last position, he was responsible for the worldwide logistics of pharma active ingredients at Roche in Basel. J.-P. Obrecht obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from ETH Zurich in 1982 under the supervision of Prof. D. Arigoni, and an Executive MBA degree from Hochschule St. Gallen (HSG) in 1990.
Andreas Wallnöfer, Ph.D.
Andreas Wallnöfer is a senior executive leader with more than 25 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, including 12 years as a member of the F. Hoffmann-La Roche Pharma R&D Leadership Team and Portfolio Committee. At Roche he served from 2007 to 2009 as Global Head of Clinical Research & Exploratory Development and Senior Vice President. After Roche’s acquisition of Genentech he was appointed in 2010 as Head of Roche pRED Development and later took on the role of Head of Cardiovascular & Metabolism Disease (CVM). After the company decided, for strategic reasons, to exit CVM, he left Roche in 2015 and founded a life sciences consulting company. In 2016 Dr. Wallnöfer joined BioMedPartners, a leading Swiss venture capital company, and became a partner in the BioMedInvest III fund. From summer 2016 to April 2017, he acted as interim Head of Development at Polyphor. During this time he revised the clinical development plans and, with a core team, successfully led the company’s most advanced project, Murepavadin, through the end of Phase 2 meetings with the FDA.
Polyphor has around 100 employees. Half of them are PhDs, the other half mainly graduate chemists, biologists and technicians. We are a team of professionals that bring together profound life science knowledge, an entrepreneurial mindset and strong personal dedication to bring better therapies to those in desperate need.