Michael Ringel, PhD, JD, Managing Director & Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), … [+]
While I had very high expectations traveling to the 9th Aging Research and Drug Discovery (ARDD) forum, the largest five-day annual gathering of the longevity biotechnology industry organized by the University of Copenhagen, the event did not fail to impress. I can spend endless hours covering the lectures of top-tier academics, pharmaceutical industry leaders, and venture capitalists, but these would be better covered in the conference proceedings. However, one lecture titled “The Emerging Commercial Landscape for Aging Biology-Based Therapeutics” by Dr. Michael Ringel, captivated even the most experienced industry executives and the established aging researchers.
Dr. Michael Ringel at the 9th ARDD conference
The sheer fact that Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the world’s most venerated consulting firm specializing primarily in strategy and management consulting, became a knowledge partner of the ARDD indicates that the meeting has reached a certain level of credibility and longevity biotechnology is a clear trend. BCG is known for being very impartial, knowledge- and experience-driven, and providing valuable strategic insights to the boards and CEOs of the world’s largest corporations. The firm is used by governments all around the world when they want to get deep industry insights or when they want to formulate a national strategy around a specific trend. From what I know, BCG was used by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help formulate their famous Longevity Strategy, which resulted in the creation of the $1 Billion a year non-profit, Hevolution Foundation.
Dr. Michael Ringel, BCG presenting at the 9th ARDD in Copenhagen
One differentiating feature of BCG is the quality of its slides. They often manage to turn a very complicated story into a set of visually appealing, easy-to-comprehend slides that provide a clear problem definition, recommendation, situation assessment, and alternatives. These slides are rarely shared by the customers as they usually represent a substantial investment and intellectual property.
Therefore, when during his 30-minute talk, Dr. Ringel went through over thirty of these valuable slides, those of us who understand the value made sure to get the recording of the lecture.
Here are some of the top takeaways from Dr. Ringel’s presentation that I’m able to share:
Michael Ringel, PhD, JD, Managing Partner, BCG, presenting at the 9th Aging Research and Drug … [+]
I knew Dr. Michael Ringel prior to the ARDD as a well-known strategy and management consultant in the pharmaceutical industry. After almost 25 years at BCG in healthcare practice, he is on a first-name basis with every pharma CEO, board member, investor, and government official, and is a walking encyclopedia who also knows most of the emerging technologies and their applications.
From left to right: Eric Verdin, MD, CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Mehmood Khan, … [+]
Here, I asked Dr. Ringel a few questions to get his perspective on longevity biotechnology and the future of this exciting new field:
Alex Zhavoronkov: Michael, I know that aging biology is not only your professional focus but also your personal interest. What made you interested in this field?
Dr. Michael Ringel: Alex, thanks so much for having me. It truly is a pleasure to sit down with you. One disclosure before we start the discussion. One of the investors in your company, Insilico Medicine, is B Capital Group. My company, BCG, is a partner to B Capital Group, and so I have an indirect and small financial stake in your company that we need to mention.
As to my interest in the field, I’ve spent my career working in healthcare, trying to help companies bring better medicines to people. And when I found out there is an area of biology that underpins not just one, but the majority of the chronic diseases that burden us, I realized the impact it might have on human health. Preventing multiple diseases with one intervention is a potential game-changer, if you can make it work. The key word being *if*. But when you dig into the science, you find out in fact there’s really good evidence to support the notion. We just have to do the work to translate what we’ve seen in the lab to humans.
Alex Zhavoronkov: You have been in biopharma for over 25 years and you have seen everything. You saw Geron, Sirtris, ResTORbio, Unity, and many other companies in this area. How do you see the field of aging biology evolving and propagating into the biopharma industry and how did the field change over the past decade?
Dr. Michael Ringel: Understanding a new area of science can sometimes take a long time… and then sometimes there are these great leaps forward. In my youth in the 70s we knew about caloric restriction, which is still one of the best-validated interventions. But we didn’t know much about how it works. That began to change in the 90s, kicked off in part by Cynthia Kenyon’s seminal work in worms, as we began to understand the biological pathways involved. We saw the first pharmaceutical intervention proven to work in a mammal, in mice, just over a decade ago with the NIH’s Interventions Testing Program. Today there is a small but growing pipeline of drug candidates in clinical testing. I believe we are on the cusp of the first demonstrated effective intervention in humans, which I believe will be one of those great leap-forward moments that galvanize interest in the field.
Alex Zhavoronkov: In your opinion, how long will it take the pharmaceutical industry to buy into the concept of utilizing aging biology as a platform for drug discovery for a range of therapeutic areas?
Dr. Michael Ringel: We are already seeing activity. We know from publicly available information that many companies have external partnerships or internal units, including AbbVie, Novartis, Regeneron, and others. For instance, UCB has partnered with your own company, Insilico Medicine. So it has already started. I believe that over the next decade, we will see a burgeoning pipeline focused on various pathways of longevity biology, and once the first clinical studies demonstrate proof-of-concept, we will really see interest grow.
Alex Zhavoronkov: Of course, you can not talk about Saudi Arabia and Hevolution since these are clients but I was one of the key opinion leaders interviewed for this project in 2019, and BCG was clearly involved. Why is longevity biotechnology so important for any emerging economy and do you think other countries should prioritize longevity in a similar way?
Dr. Michael Ringel:I can’t give opinions on specific companies or foundations and would refer you to their leadership for questions about them. But as to the general point of why this matters all over the world, in developed and emerging economies, it is because it has the promise of being such a powerful way to improve human health. We’ve seen that just throwing more money at the current healthcare system has not improved lifespan or healthspan, and we even have had retrograde motion in some areas, with lifespans declining. In part, that is due to the growing burden of metabolic disorders like diabetes. What we need is a better way, more focused on prevention… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And that’s where longevity biology is critical. It is, at heart, a preventative approach. And the core pathways are the very same ones that are implicated in the metabolic disorders that are a growing issue all over the world.
Alex Zhavoronkov: What is your advice to the young entrepreneurs in this nascent longevity biotechnology industry?
Dr. Michael Ringel: There’s a lot that you need to do as an entrepreneur– you need to figure out funding, build a team, set up operations, choose your preclinical and development plans, develop partnerships, and a million other things… I’m always incredibly impressed by how much thesel young entrepreneurs can accomplish, juggling all these things at once. But the sine qua non, the thing you cannot do without in biotech, is good science. All the rest of the work is built on the foundation of a good idea, a new way to help people. So my advice is make sure you’re investing your time and energy getting as deep into the science as you can.
Alex Zhavoronkov: Finally, how did you like the ARDD conference, what were your major takeaways, and will you come again next year?
Dr. Michael Ringel: To me ARDD is a unique conference in longevity, bringing a heavyweight mix of the most impressive scientists in the field together with the most promising start-ups and a great set of investors. For anyone already in the field, it is the place to be, and for anyone looking to learn more, I cannot think of a better place to get a crash course. Particularly the large pharmaceutical companies would benefit by bolstering their attendance to get deeper into this field.
The 9th Aging Research and Drug Discovery meeting, Grand Hall, University of Copenhagen, September … [+]
Michael Ringel, PhD, JD, Managing Director and Senior Partner, Boston Consulting Group
Michael Ringel, PhD, JD, is Boston Consulting Group’s global leader for innovation analytics and research and product development, and is a core member of the firm’s Corporate Finance & Strategy practice. Michael is a frequent contributor to industry journals, including Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, and has coauthored numerous BCG reports on innovation, R&D, and corporate strategy. He received a BA in biology from Princeton, a PhD in biology from Imperial College London, and a JD from Harvard Law School.