German multinational pharma company Bayer is set to drive breakthrough innovations in Life Sciences through an investment worth more than EUR 1.3 billion over the next three years in its impact investment unit Leaps by Bayer, focusing on leading pharmaceutical technology platforms such as Cell & Gene Therapy to deliver solutions to patients in areas of high unmet medical need. The company has also outlined how its innovations will enable farmers to ensure food security and to decarbonize agriculture.
Last week, on April 1st, Bayer held its first-ever Breakthrough Innovation Forum, focusing on longer-term opportunities for health and agriculture leveraging emerging technologies. The event followed Bayer’s recent short- and mid-term pipeline updates for its Pharma and Crop Science Divisions and shared further insights on Bayer’s ongoing progress to drive long-term breakthrough innovations in the Life Sciences. Renowned experts and Bayer executives illustrated how a forthcoming wave of innovations will open new opportunities in next-generation healthcare and in providing farming solutions to make agriculture more sustainable and less resource intensive. In conjunction with the event, Bayer announced that it is accelerating its investment in its Leaps by Bayer impact investment unit with more than 1.3 billion euros funding until end of 2024.
“We stand at the dawn of a new age of innovation in the Life Sciences,” said Werner Baumann, Chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG. “Our ability to tackle some of the greatest challenges is increasing rapidly. From providing answers for incurable diseases, equipping people with preventive tools to live healthier, better and longer lives, to producing more agricultural output whilst significantly reducing inputs and respecting the planetary boundaries. This ability is particularly driven by the accelerating confluence of biology, chemistry, advanced computing, data analytics and artificial intelligence. As a leader in health and nutrition, Bayer is further stepping up its efforts to be a driver of this new era of innovation. Ultimately, better innovation is the engine that drives superior business results and outperformance.”
Tackling humanity’s biggest challenges with Leaps by Bayer
Leaps by Bayer follows a unique approach aimed at tackling ten of humanity’s biggest challenges such as curing cancer or reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. “Over the past seven years, we have invested more than 1.3 billion euros across a portfolio comprising more than 50 companies – all geared towards shifting core paradigms in the sectors of Health and Agriculture,” said Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “With Bayer stepping up its investment in Leaps over the coming years, we will be able to continue on our successful path and provide funding for the brightest minds working on solutions that truly make a difference for people and the planet.” Leaps has embarked on numerous joint ventures – such as JoynBio or the former portfolio company BlueRock Therapeutics which is now fully owned by Bayer – and successfully led several investment rounds. One example is Recursion, an AI-focused company working to find new drug treatments for lung fibrosis and other fibrotic diseases, which successfully went public in April 2021. The Breakthrough Innovation Forum features CEOs of Leaps’ portfolio companies Cellino, Andes and Ukko to share insights on their missions and technologies in health and agriculture.
Driving breakthrough innovations in health and agriculture
The event also provided tangible examples of Bayer’s ongoing work to change the paradigms in Life Sciences.
In health, the prospects of this new era of innovation are expected to significantly enlarge the toolbox of technologies and enable scientists around the world to address areas of high unmet medical need. “The convergence of biology, chemistry and data is opening up fundamentally new ways to understand and treat disease. Breakthrough innovation, powered by new technologies, enables us to not only treat symptoms, but to potentially stop or reverse progression of a disease – and offers the promise of treatment options that are truly transformative for patients,” said Stefan Oelrich, Member of the Board of Bayer AG and President of the Pharmaceuticals division. Bayer is investing strongly in new areas of biomedical innovation, especially in the fields of cell and gene therapies. Over the past three years, Bayer has invested more than 2.5 billion euros to build up a Cell & Gene Therapy Platform, including the acquisitions of BlueRock Therapeutics and Asklepios BioPharmaceutical (AskBio). In addition, Bayer is driving innovation in strategic collaborations with partners such as Mammoth Biosciences to leverage the collaborative advantages of partnerships. Already today, the company’s strong preclinical and clinical cell and gene therapy portfolio is benefitting its pipeline, with eight projects in various stages of clinical development. These cover therapeutic areas with a high unmet medical need, with leading programs in Parkinson’s disease, Pompe disease and congestive heart failure. Bayer has also significantly strengthened its drug discovery capabilities through its acquisition of Vividion Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company utilizing novel discovery technologies to unlock high value, traditionally undruggable targets with precision therapeutics.
Moreover, the company is tapping into the potential of precision health in consumer healthcare. With its majority ownership of Care/of, a personalized nutrition company originally invested in by Bayer’s Leaps arm, Bayer is positioned to tap into the growth and future potential of the personalized supplements market. Further, the company has secured innovation partnerships in the field of healthy aging, which use novel biological insights to inform how the right nutrition and lifestyle choices can improve cellular health and promote healthy aging. These efforts complement the company`s portfolio of science-based nutritional supplements and preventive health products, which have seen double-digit year-over-year growth in each of the past two years. “The pandemic has heightened the importance of everyday health,” said Heiko Schipper, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and President of the Consumer Health division. “Advancing innovation-driven solutions in self-care will enable individuals to take more proactive, personalized care of their everyday health.”
In agriculture, Bayer is building on the power of emerging new technologies to create a sustainable and resilient food system and help growers around the world produce more with fewer resources while reducing emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. “Bayer’s R&D investment of 2 billion euros annually in our Crop Science division is unparalleled in the industry, leading to a robust innovation pipeline spanning seeds and trait technologies, crop protection and digital solutions valued at up to 30 billion euros peak sales potential over the next two decades – with approximately half accounting for incremental growth,” said Rodrigo Santos, Member of the Board of Bayer AG and President of the Crop Science division. On the basis of RNAi technology, Bayer recently launched the first-ever biotech defence against corn rootworm, enabling farmers to control a pest that costs around 1 billion euros annually in crop damage while reducing the need for crop protection. With its short-stature corn, planned to launch as part of Bayer’s newly introduced Smart Corn System in 2023, Bayer is going to bring a more weather resistant plant to the market. Short-stature corn is able to withstand extreme conditions emerging from climate change, thus reducing the risk of crop loss and contributing to food security. Leveraging its unparalleled digital farming platform, Bayer is a leading force in the decarbonization of agriculture. The Bayer Carbon Initiative incentivizes farmers to embrace the use of climate smart practices such as no-till or cover crops. In addition, it uses next-generation technology to quantify and track the impact of these practices, underlining Bayer’s pioneering role and its unique position in advancing digital capabilities for the food, feed, fuel, and fiber value chain.