In this interview, Meritxell Teixidó tells us about her transition from IRB Barcelona research associate to CEO and CSO of the spin-off Gate2Brain, promoted by IRB Barcelona.
Gate2Brain is set up to exploit the technology developed over the last 15 years in the Peptides and Proteins laboratory at IRB Barcelona, of which Meritxell Teixidó has been a research associate.
Meritxell Teixidó (Barcelona, 1974) defines herself as a team player. This is why, in her words, she has really enjoyed the years spent working at IRB Barcelona. “I am very excited about setting up the company because it is a team effort,” she says.
Her adventure began around 2015, when Ernest Giralt, Head of the Design, Synthesis and Peptides and Proteins Lab at IRB Barcelona, and her—Research Associate in the same group—were discussing future plans. At that time, the group had developed promising technology: peptides to transport drugs into the brain that could not reach this organ unaided. This is when they started to get excited about patenting the technology and planning the route to take in the following years.
While this project was still hatching, Ernest Giralt was considering his retirement in five years’ time. With good timing, they saw that could achieve a goal, namely the setup of a company which would exploit the results of more than 10 doctoral theses on peptide shuttles to cross the blood-brain barrier, which they had co-supervised.
At this stage, Meritxell Teixidó decided to approach the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital (Barcelona) to propose a collaboration for the first application of the transporters. In this regard, a five-year collaboration was signed that led to the identification of a paediatric brain tumour for which treatment was based on a drug that, at that time, could not be delivered to the brain properly. This is how the spin-off Gate2Brain came about.
Through IRB Barcelona’s Innovation Department, an application was made to the “Mind the Gap” call, run by the Botín Foundation, an initiative that offers funding and mentorship to selected emerging business projects based on the life sciences developed in research centres in Spain. The selection of the project for funding greatly propelled the launch of the company. “The project was progressing in such a way that now would have been the time to take the step to turn it into a business venture.
This achievement has been down to everyone’s hard work to align the closure of Ernest Giralt’s lab, giving fruit to peptide laboratories derived from his school all over the world, and one of them will be this great project that is Gate2brain ”.
“I always say it takes 15 years to develop a technology (the 15 years I have been at IRB Barcelona). Putting together the team for the Gate2Brain spin-off has taken three of four years,” explains Meritxell. “These people don’t come from academia but have very diverse profiles. One of them is in charge of the business aspects and another with dealings with the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, while the third person, who did her thesis under Fernando Albericio’s supervision, has forged a brilliant career in the pharma sector. None of them are leaving their current jobs and will all be working part-time in Gate2Brain, and I will take on the positions of CEO and CSO,” she explains.
Meritxell has continuously sought training to prepare for her roles as CEO and CSO of the company. In this regard, she has just started an Executive MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation run by the UOC. Her enthusiasm is palpable, and it is clear that it comes about from a collective effort and passion.
“I have devoted the last ten years to research into improving drug delivery to the brain. It is now time to take the technology to patients via Gate2Brain, and it is a challenge and an honour to be the CEO and CSO of the company,” she says. “We know it will be a rough ride because not everything will work out right first time, so … may the science be with us!”.
Get to know more about Meritxell Teixidó's experience at IRB Barcelona in this video: