Read the Conversation
EF: When we look back on 2022, what will the key talking points be regarding healthcare in Colombia?
When we look back on 2022, the post-pandemic topics will be the predominant topic and not even for Colombia but for the whole world. In particular, for Life Factors, the pandemic highlighted to the public, the need for biologicals as effective and trustworthy solutions for global health problems. When we look back to 2022, we will see the relevance biopharma gained as an industry, during this time, we will see how society realized that it is possible for one small company to create a worldwide solution to improve the lives of the population. We will also talk about how some therapeutic areas saw an increase in cases following the pandemic, especially in immunological diseases.
We will also talk, about how Life Factors became a pioneering company in Colombia and helped build the experience, capacities and knowledge for producing biological products, also how we faced the challenges, in technical adaptations, regulatory complexities availability of talent, long-term public policies, investment in R&D, and the building of a biopharma ecosystem of the region. All the previous was based on creating good communication channels with the different stakeholders that were working alongside us.
Another key challenge for a company like Life Factors is to create good evidence to demonstrate our potential to establish ourselves as a successful organization.
Finally, looking back to 2022, we will be talking about how one of the main reasons for our initial success, was the support from the triple helix model of university, industry and government in our surrounding ecosystem of innovation, in fact, our technology comes from the research of a university, one of our first allies has been Ruta N; the public innovation agency for Medellin, Colombia, and all of our founders and investors are entrepreneurs who serve with experience to improve health companies in Colombia and across Latin America and Europe. We maintain great relationships with universities because it is necessary for us to reach new talent and improve new knowledge and technology, especially about biopharmaceutical processes and drug development.
EF: Having previously worked in other industries, what opportunity did you see in this market, and what attracted you to the health sector?
Maintaining and improving the health sector is a social responsibility, and after some years of research, we discovered the public health issue of repeated shortages of Plasma Derived Medicinal Products (PDMP), not only in Latin America but all around the world. Among others, there are two main reasons for this shortage. The first one is the availability of human plasma, the limitation of how much PDMPs are offered in the market, is restrained by the amount of plasma available, nevertheless, most plasma from blood donations, is discarded and even more, due to the pandemic, donors were not able to donate, and the supply of plasma was reduced, negatively impacting the production of these essential medicines. The second reason is technology; the installation of facilities needed to produce this type of medicine is very complex and expensive, there is a small group of companies around the world that have the knowledge, expertise, and financial muscle to install this type of technology.
Life Factors understood the problem the world is facing and took advantage of the opportunity, working on the industrialization of a new, patented technology from a university that produces higher yields of PDMP from every litter of plasma processing, than it would be possible with traditional technology at lower operational costs and investment levels. This is how we have established ourselves in this industry, by needing less investment and producing more products, such as Immunoglobulin, Albumin, factor concentrates and other therapeutic proteins. Less plasma volume is required to reach the break-even point in comparison with traditional companies, enabling the construction of production facilities, where plasma is being discarded, with lower levels of risk for financers.
We believe to have a strong position to take advantage of this opportunity in the health sector and will continue to work to give better access to patients all over the world, starting from Latin America.
EF: What is your current footprint in Colombia?
Our current footprint in Colombia has various aspects, the most visible is the construction of an industrial size facility for the processing of plasma, that counts with its specialized laboratories for testing and its own distribution centre, we are also collaborating with a network of blood establishments, supporting their quality management. Moreover, we are generating 130 highly qualified jobs, that will reach over 300 upon full operation, we have local clinical research, and we are developing specialized scholar programs with national universities, generating medical staff training among other academic, professional and medical activities.
When developing a footprint, we are aware, that the opportunity to create PDMP facilities inside a region, not only comes with the supply of medicines, but with the strengthening of the whole medical chain from the donor to the patient, meaning that the intervention of the health system, considers, supporting donor recruitment, comfort, awareness and fidelity, enhancing blood establishments in infrastructure, technology, quality management and staff training, also adopting better hemovigilance and pharmacovigilance practices in the country, furthermore, the level of technical and medical knowledge is positively impacted with the need of specialized staff in areas such as transfusiology, pharmaceutical chemistry, bio-processes, immunology among many other disciplines surrounding life-sciences, and last but not least, improving the lives of highly, life-long impaired patients, with a medical system able to better diagnose and treat PDMP related disease.
EF: What is the global vision of the company?
We are a company hatched in Medellín Colombia but our plans are to rapidly impact the whole continent; we are currently expanding our footprint in Mexico, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Brazil. Life Factors as a new phenomenon in the industry has a global solution for a global problem, and we can provide Strategic Independence for PDMPs for every region. We have the ambition to help humanity. We aim to democratize access to this type of medicine to provide adequate health care at a fair price and with high-value support at the clinical level.
At the moment, we are establishing partnerships worldwide; it is necessary to have local partners in each country because each region has different policies and visions about plasma and PDMPs, and each has a unique health system. We are partnering with governments, blood establishments, industrial partners, engineers, consultants, service companies, financial institutions, and corporations because the vision of LifeFactors is to bring our solutions all over the world, so establishing these relationships is fundamental to us. We are open to working with other organizations, always with the goal of creating more sustainable products and building confidence and value.
EF: How important is innovation to Life Factors?
It is the most important aspect of the organization, is actually the aspect that gave birth to the company, and this is not only something we say, we have recently been recognized by ANDI (National Association of Entrepreneurs) as one the top 5 most innovative start-ups in the country, for our constant and deliberate efforts in innovation; receiving this kind of recognition is the evidence of our investment in R&D.
We are constantly investing a lot of time, effort, and money into our portfolio pipeline, so it is valuable for us. We are also working in the Life Science economy, which has transformed our ecosystem. We are pioneers in this area, also doing our part to attract investment to the country; we strive to be an inspiration for other organizations developing products in Colombia.
Finally, we are currently filing our public official recognition from our R&D and Scientific department to be an official actor in the Colombian scientific ecosystem and keep contributing in these aspects.
EF: As a Colombian entrepreneur, how attractive is Colombia to individuals looking to start a company in the health sector? How did you pitch to investors?
Colombia is a great healthcare innovation lab. The health system in Colombia is well-developed and internationally recognized as such. Colombia has clear price regulations, which enhances competition in supply. We need to demonstrate value, not just price, as well as services and clinical evidence. This suits us, as it allows us to compete with the big players worldwide.
Additionally, Colombia has a strong regulatory agency: INVIMA. It is well respected in Latin American markets because they require evidence related to all aspects of development and production. This is advantageous, as once you have approval from INVIMA, it assists in opening pathways across Latin America. Our mission is to provide solutions around the globe, and we are proud to do so from Colombia.
My pitch to investors, always has this component of Colombia, as a place that shares the characteristics of early-progressing countries with great opportunities.
EF: What skill sets are important for the next generation of leaders?
To have a strong bio-economy sector in Colombia, we must invest in education, in order to develop the skills of, creativity, resilience and patient-oriented solution. Not only in universities, but we also need to introduce the concept of life sciences in schools and companies as well. We need to create a new generation that believes it is possible to create companies in the biopharmaceutical industry. I hope we are an inspiration to young students and entrepreneurs, but it is not easy. We are just getting started, and this is something that requires investment over the next 10 to 20 years. Typically, in this region, we are concerned with solving local problems, but life sciences provide us with the opportunity to create global solutions; people must understand this strategic international vision. The next generation must be given the correct platform to create new products, start-ups, and ideas in this area.
EF: What are your greatest achievements over these first five years?
We are proud of our successful transfer from a university to the company and then being able to industrialize and introduce it to the market. We are creating a good connection between knowledge and technology to transform them into complete solutions, which resulted in the construction of the production plants, 2 drugs developed and at least 5 new biologics in the development line, great advances in quality management, availability of human plasma, and a well-qualified and passionate team. We have built the foundations for relatable growth in this company, not just in Colombia but also in Latin America and beyond. We are helping to improve the various health systems around the continent, allowing them to operate more efficiently and sustainably
EF: If we interview you again in five years, what do you hope to be telling us?
I would like to be informing you of how Life Factors has become a revolutionary player in the plasma-derived medicines industry, gaining a relevant position in the market with a steady path to providing BioSolutions for humanity. I would like to be telling you, how we are transforming the whole ecosystem from the donors to patients, in countries around the world, integrating multiple production facilities worldwide. Finally, I would like to be commenting to you, on the development and delivery process of medicines to be well connected with the clinical services and health systems, based on a Translational Medicine concept. Our aspiration is: "Provide life for people".