BioBoss

#13 - Yuval Cohen: CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals

December 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 13
BioBoss
#13 - Yuval Cohen: CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals
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BioBoss
#13 - Yuval Cohen: CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals
Dec 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 13

“It's Biology that I love the most. It has a beauty in it that's actually quite hard to capture in numbers." - Yuval Cohen, CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals

Show Notes Transcript

“It's Biology that I love the most. It has a beauty in it that's actually quite hard to capture in numbers." - Yuval Cohen, CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals

Yuval Cohen:

It's biology that I love the most. It has a beauty in it that's actually quite hard to capture in numbers.

John Simboli:

That's Yuval Cohen, CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals. Join me now to hear my conversation with Yuval at Corbus headquarters in Norwood, Massachusetts. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss. This morning I'm in Norwood, Massachusetts with Co - founder and CEO of Corbus Pharmaceuticals, Yuval Cohen. Yuval, thanks for speaking with me today.

Yuval Cohen:

Thank you, John, for having me on your show.

John Simboli:

Yuval, how did you find yourself here at Corbus Pharmaceuticals?

Yuval Cohen:

In 2013 I had left my previous company and I thought I would take a six month sabbatical. It lasted for about a week and a good friend, a good, a very persistent friend of mine , insisted on introducing me to the other Co-founder, of Corbus. And it was a meeting in New York City and I just fell in love with the project and the rest has just been a really wonderful adventure ever since.

John Simboli:

Was that a surprise to you? How quickly that happened?

Yuval Cohen:

It's interesting, you know, in retrospect, so we are officially . . . Corbus was founded in April of 2014, so if you think, we're about five and a half years old, we started with initially two individuals the day we were founded. I think we had three individuals in the company and today there are about 130 of us. We started with an idea for a drug and no clinical data per se. Today we have a pipeline that includes our lead drug and four separate clinical programs—probably close to a thousand patients in clinical studies. We're probably approaching that and a second drug that will be heading into the clinic soon. And then a library of preclinical compounds — in the hundreds. So if we look back, yes, it, it has been very, very fast, but every day is . . . we take it one day at a time. And every day is . . . it just , tends to have something about it. That's pretty remarkable.

John Simboli:

How about the decision point when you began to look and you thought it might be a six month process? Did that come hurtling a t you? Did that decision . . . like "this is the place." Did that come as a surprise?

Yuval Cohen:

It is. So it really was a love at first sight. It was one of these things that was very binary. I sat down, I heard the story and even at that stage o f the story I found to be fairly exciting and very scientifically robust. What appealed to me about it is there are elements in the story that were things that I was very passionate about—rare diseases, inflammation, and there were also a combination of here's this entire new area of biology. These canabinoids coupled with here is something that is based on very, very robust science. It was really . . . even now looking back . . . quite unusual just how much data there was around that foundational asset we had. Just so many cellular experiments, animal model experiments, even some human models—and that's very unusual to find an asset that's on the one hand so fresh and undiscovered . . . on the other hand just comes with a very, very large amount of data.

John Simboli:

Yuval, how did you decide you wanted to found and lead a biopharma company as opposed to go to work for some big biopharma company?

Yuval Cohen:

It's a very good question. I think it's a combination of two things. One of them is just good fortune having a series of things happen in your life that lead you to these opportunities. I had trained as a scientist, I did my PhD at the Curie Institute in Paris and, like all people who start their PhD, typically are very naive and idealistic and think I'm going to become a member of academia and a professor. And the attrition rate for that is pretty high. It takes a very special kind of person to survive. For example, you know, experiments t hat lasts for 17 hours and then go, "I want to do this for the rest of my life." And that wasn't me. I finished my PhD. I was very pleased with it. It was an incredible opportunity in so many ways. It taught me so many things. But I knew that academia was just not something I was going to be passionate about it. And I believe that if you're not passionate about something, you're probably not going to be very good at it. And it seems a little bit of a waste of a life to do something you're not good at. So one of them was sort of that background, good fortune. And the other one I think was, t o a certain extent, temperamental, which is, I enjoy working so much collaboratively with people, b uilding teams, et cetera. But I think I would find it difficult to work in a very large organization. I probably just don't have the temperament for it. So founding companies, growing companies, to me has been, so far, just a wonderful fit. The ability to have an impact. If you think about Corbus, if all goes well, and we're very optimistic about it, our lead drug, Lenabasusm, for our four indications, will target four indications where the combined member of patients i s around 700,000 people in between North America, Europe, Japan, and Korea. The diseases we're targeting have a devastating effect on the individual. These are not diseases of inconvenience. These are not mild diseases. These are diseases that we are at a minimum and probably, as an understatement, disruptive. The morbidity can be severe. So in other words, the effect on the patient's physical wellbeing, their ability to work, their ability to function, their ability to be part of society. If you have a disease, for example, like dermatomyositis,, one of the rare autoimmune diseases we target, one of the challenges, many challenges these patients face is t hey're photo sensitive. So think about what it's like to have a disease where exposure to sunlight is excruciating. Think about the isolation that that creates. So there are diseases o f really very significant morbidity and, sadly, i n all of our diseases to various degrees. These are diseases that have mortality involved with them, ranging from diseases where, for example, dermatomyositis, the latest statistics we have is roughly one in four patients will not survive the disease and going all the way to cystic fibrosis, which tragically is still a terminal disease. And so the stakes are very, very high for these patients. And going back to our conversation, John, you know, why we do what we do, the ability to impact, again, potentially hundreds of thousands of patients who are living with these diseases is something that I think really galvanizes everyone a t Corbus.

John Simboli:

What were you hoping to achieve that could be done here and not at another company?

Yuval Cohen:

Corbus, I think, is a combination of a number of things. The one is, obviously, our pipeline. These are unique compounds by definition because they're patent protected. No one else has them. And so these assets are proprietary and are ours . The second aspect is the team we've built and the knowledge and expertise that we have. We're not a large company by any stretch of imagination. We really are a very small company still. But the team we've assembled, collectively, has a knowledge base and an expertise base which I think really is quite out of the ordinary. We consider ourselves to be the world's specialist company when it comes to the biology of the endocannabinoid system. And we consider ourselves to be a company that executes really very, very well when it comes to clinical development of these rare inflammatory diseases. And interesting enough, I think because of our size, what we don't have in scale, we gain in nimbleness and creativity in our ability to maneuver very, very quickly to be very responsive. And if you look again at what we've achieved in five and a half years, it certainly, I think by any objective measure, has been a much faster development program than what a, for example, a big pharma would do while preserving the robustness of the program and the high standards of execution.

John Simboli:

When people ask you, what do you do for a living, how do you like to answer that?

Yuval Cohen:

I think the most generic answer I say is, you know, I'm in the pharmaceutical industry. I work on development of novel drugs. There are certain settings, especially these days, where I find myself saying, Oh, I'm in cannabinoids, and that, I have to tell, you always triggers a response. Oddly enough, a very positive response. Nine times out of 10 it's not the cannabinoids they think of when we mentioned that term. But I do think on a somewhat serious note, it is a barometer to how society at large has changed its perception and has become also much more familiar with this term that I think up until even a year ago, maybe two years ago, was a term that was probably . . . would cause, at a minimum, confusion and probably not a lot of positive feelings from the majority of societies. On college campuses. I suspect it's always been a little bit of a different answer. And now what we've seen is an extraordinary change in how society thinks of this term cannabinoids and what this biology, because really, what the term denotes is a biology. Even though most people probably don't think of it that way, but we really talking about biology and what this biology actually holds in potential for human health.

John Simboli:

What have you learned over the years about which management style is you or works best for you?

Yuval Cohen:

I think that a manager . . . and I think a CEO is a special type of manager . . . you know, ultimately I'm responsible for everything. And that's part of what I signed up to do. At the same time, I think the challenge of any CEO is, by definition, he or she, "A," doesn't know everything that will be possible and c an't possibly make all the decisions. Again, you can do that maybe when a company has three people in it. Doing so when you have a larger and larger workforce is unrealistic a nd probably counterproductive. And so I think the challenge for anyone is finding the balance between leadership and management. Leadership for me is strategy, the direction of the company, and providing a vision that I hope is inspiring both internally and externally. Incredible. That's really important. Management is execution. And what I find works for me, and I'm guessing it's a fairly generic answer, is the key is to surround myself with people who are exceptional, who know much more than I do. I think nearly all of them do, although it's a low bar, I'll be the first to admit it. And, who have on the one hand the level of experience where they can act autonomously and don't require day to day management or don't require expertise from the CEO. But on the other hand are, themselves, great leaders, great listeners and collaborative. I think that's really important in a company of any size. But again, especially a company of our size. It's so important that this notion of a team, as generic as that term is, really is in the front of everyone's mind. We are, on the one hand, both t oo small and on the other hand, both t oo large for folks to sort of do their own thing, for folks t o sort of spin off to another direction that's not aligned with what we're doing. So again, to summarize, I think it's a combination of being there, being able to guide people through the vision that we have, but on the other hand, empowering people, not stifling people, and acknowledging that they have this expertise that is precisely what you need for t he job. You know, I'd say that what is unique about the Corbus culture , we have many ingredients that are fairly common. You know, this notion that we're very patient centric. I should hope that everyone in our industry is patient centric. If they're not, they're not doing something, they're doing something you shouldn't be doing. This notion of, sort of engagement, et cetera, all of those things are important. Where we do stand apart, I think, is we've built a corporate culture in a corporate structure where we take people who would normally be pigeonholed. In other words, we take someone . . . clinical trial monitoring, for example, and normally that individual will be seen in our industry as someone who's highly specialized and should be kept in that box for the rest of their career. And what we've done really well here, and sometimes it's chaotic and sometimes it's a nail biter, but overall, I wouldn't change it for the world, is we take these people and we start to expose them, to introduce them to skillsets and problems and challenges and teams that are outside of the scope of what, on paper, they're designed to do. And for some folks that's scary and some folks, you know, they have their own . . . But going back to what I think makes us unusual, what makes our culture stand out, what's different about us is most of the time they thrive, they just flower. And we've had folks who started at Corbus with one set of talents and have actually matured and evolved and now do something at Corbus that is entirely, entirely different. And for me, if we think about culture, inward facing culture, that's remarkable. That's so, so, so exciting. So I'm immensely proud of that .

John Simboli:

Do you remember what it was you wanted to do when you were eight or nine and does that have anything to do with what you're doing now?

Yuval Cohen:

So my dad's an engineer and my mom's a biochemist, so I guess I could have ended up either in life sciences or fixing stuff. I'm terrible at fixing things so I guess I was due to go into life sciences and the rest, the rest is history.

John Simboli:

Did you have that image, as several CEOs I've talked to, said they've watched, especially UK guys and women, "I watched TV shows and I saw myself wearing that lab coat or I saw myself as that pilot or you know, whatever. Did you create any kind of visual imagery yourself at that point?

Yuval Cohen:

Not really. I have to tell you, it was interesting. I never had an interest in becoming a physician because it always occurred to me that it's such an enormously . . . the responsibility is so enormous there. And the thought of being responsible for another person's life is terrifying. I think it really takes a very special type of individual to wake up every day and go, I'm going to deal with a problem. And the risk is the problem might kill the person I'm dealing with. So, you know, that's why it's so incredible what they do. I've always found science to be fascinating and the biological sciences more than the physical sciences. I think my worst course in college was organic chemistry. And so the only course I ever almost flunked. Although physical chemistry was a lot more fun because it was a lot more like mathematics. But it's biology that I love the most. It has a beauty in it that's actually quite hard to capture in numbers, whereas mathematicians can actually do that, I just don't have that circuitry in my brain.

John Simboli:

Yuval, what's new at Corbus Pharmaceuticals?bas

Yuval Cohen:

Last year in September we made an announcement, which I think was quite transformational for us. Up until then Corbus was a company really focused on the biology of the endocannabinoid system, but exclusively around a single drug candidate, experimental drug candidate lenabasum. And the way we think of it is the lenabasum is, we think, tremendously exciting, but it's also how we cut our teeth. It's around the lenabasum that we built our team. It's around lenabasum that we gained our experience and insights into this biology. And last September we announced that we had brought in what we believe is the world's most exciting and largest library of novel cannabinoid drugs, drug candidates. And overnight we went from having a single drug in our arsenal to having, I think these days, around 700 of them. Now, the vast majority, of course, are very early stage. There is one outlier that we're very excited about. It's called CRB 4001. The transformation has been, therefore, from a single asset company to a company that now has a robust platform , that has a library of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of putative future drugs and can now use the expertise we built around lenabasum, and again, the team around lenabasum, to tackle or analyze and advance more and more of these compounds. And I think the change is, philosophically, between a company that will have, we hope so, a very successful drug that happens to be in this biology, which is a great outcome. I mean, monetarily that's a wonderful outcome. And of course for patients that's a wonderful outcome. But the shift is now to a company that could really be a leader, a shaping voice in an entire biology, entire field of biology. And that, John, doesn't happen a lot. There are some examples, they're all very successful. They're all remarkable, but it's not everyday you come across a whole biological system in the human body and go, wait a minute, we understand that biology so well. How come there are no drugs targeting this biology or how come the drugs that are targeting it are so imperfect or are very niche drugs, et cetera? So that's been, I think, a remarkable change for us.

John Simboli:

When you tell the story of Corbus, the way you just began to for me a moment ago, some people afterwards, when you kind of test to hear what they heard will say, yeah, I get it. Thank you, Yuval., Some will say, yeah, I get it, but they won't have gotten it. They'll play back to you some things , not what you intended. When they misunderstand, what do you help them, what do you say, "Oh no, this is actually this."

Yuval Cohen:

The thing that comes to mind is not so much about the company but about the biology we target. So, by far, I think the thing that would come to mind is people will go, "What are cannabinoids, what is the endocannabinoid system?" Some people will have never heard of it, although these days, I have to tell you that's becoming almost unheard of. Some people will say, on the other side of the spectrum, some people b will be highly, highly knowledgeable. They will have had familiarity with the receptors of the system, the signaling molecules in the body that target these receptors, what it does in the body. But again, that's probably a tiny minority. These tend to be scientists or medical folk. And I'd say the folks in between fall into two camps. The smaller of the camps, just because it's been shrinking, are the folks who will have a negative reaction, thinking, Oh, this is . . . cannabinoids have to do with cannabis, with pot, with what they perceive to be a narcotic. And so the stigma around them. I think the reason that group of people is shrinking in number is because there's been, such an extraordinary conversion, if I can use that term, from that camp to the camp that now goes "This very same concept is not a bad thing. It's actually a very exciting thing." And this is where society's changing. We're seeing in a number of points, John, sort of the most scientifically robust aspects of it are we're seeing cannabis-derived drugs being approved by the FDA and going out there—no different than any other prescription drug made by the pharmaceutical industry.Our colleagues at GW Pharma have Epidiolex, which is highly-purified CBD for rare forms of childhood epilepsy. In Europe they have Sativex, which is a combination of CBD and THC for spasticity, multiple sclerosis. Both of these drugs are as robust as any other pharmaceutical and certainly seem to be very efficient and really have made a difference in patient's lives. There are other drugs, in fact, that have been around for, in some cases, decades that people never think of that they're made out of THC for example. So Marinol , Marinol is a drug that's given to patients undergoing chemotherapy to deal with nausea, to stimulate hunger. It's THC, it's been around for probably 25, 30 years. But beyond that, I think the societal changes around cannabis, to a certain extent, but primarily around CBD as its component. And the notion that this plant has these components that are useful in human wellness is endemic. I mean, it's ubiquitous. You see it everywhere. In the neighborhood I live in, it's very difficult to walk more than 10 paces before you encounter coffee with CBD, toothpaste with CBD, dog treats with CBD. I think some of that perhaps is, you know, to use the famous saying, irrational exuberance. But a lot of it is actually scientifically very robust. Again, literature dating back 20 years. The opening I think that gives Corbus is it allows us to start talking about, on the one hand what is very complex biology that normally would only be understandable to scientists and physicians, but to start to be able to engage society at large through the prism of these cannabinoids that you are excited about. Here is what they do scientifically, here's what they do medically, biologically and in a sense you're preaching to the converted, which is a very good starting point. And then the next point, and that it goes back now to your original question of what, what do we find ourselves sometimes having to clarify to people, the next step from that, John, is to be able to say now though you're excited about the biology, let me tell you how we at Corbus are using novel chemical entities that have nothing to do with the plant that are not naturally made, that are made in that sense, like most of our pharmaceuticals are made by designing novel structures. How we're using those compounds in order to harness the power of that biology. Because the challenge that we have is, and this is the case across all pharma, so many of our traditional pharma started with what is now known as herbal remedies. You know, if you wanted aspirin , you'd go to the bark of a willow tree and you'd boil it and you make tea out of it and there's a tiny amount of aspirin in there. But that's how we discovered this biology, whether it's stuff that came from plants, whether it's stuff that came from venom, whether it's stuff that came from other animal life. And what we've done in the pharmaceutical industry in the last pretty much 100 years is taken that knowledge base and amplified it by creating novel compounds that don't exist in nature, that interact with the biology that nature was telling us was there. And that is what Corbus is doing around the endocannabinoid system. And that's where we're so excited about.

John Simboli:

Do people receive that message you just gave through understanding the words synthesize or engineer? How do they, how do they best understand that last point?

Yuval Cohen:

I think once we sit down, and again it depends on the audience, but I think across all these audiences they understand it, "A," because it's been done so many times in other fields of pharmaceutical research. If you go to your local pharmacy, local drugstore, there are not a lot of drugs that are still extracted from plants out there. But so many of the drugs we have, that was their origin. I think the other thing that people understand intuitively is that modern science, modern pharmaceutical research gives us tools that were not available before on improving mother nature, on making for example, certain biological processes, augmenting them and at the same time making them much more specific. So I'll give you an interesting example. Let's look at the entire plant, for example, of cannabis. And there are 400 active compounds, at least within the plant , many of them probably interact with the human body and the collective effect on the human body is extensive. It affects our brain, in many ways very well in some ways, in ways that perhaps should be avoided under certain circumstances. It affects our immune system. Again, typically not very potent, in a very generalized way, so you have all of these compounds targeting all of these complex processes in the body. What we can do with modern technology is design novel compounds, synthesize modern compounds, the novel compounds that are laser-focused. So for example, lenabasum is a synthetic drug. It does not exist in nature. It targets the endocannabinoid system, but it's very specific in its action on the immune system while being designed to avoid an effect on the central nervous system because we're not interested in that for the purposes of lenabasum., And I think folks intuitively understand that we collectively as an industry, as as a science, can actually do that and are harnessing that in the endocannabinoid system. It's wonderful to see, to be in a field where people are so engaged and so interested in it. It's really a very significant advantage.

John Simboli:

I'm guessing there are times when they say a small company with all of these candidates. Is that really possible?

Yuval Cohen:

It's a very interesting question. I think that we are not quite that much of an outlier. So if you look at our size and you look at the functions we have in here, we have pretty much all the functions that a big pharma would have. Some of them we outsource, of course, et cetera. And we don't own the factories. We don't have labs, but we are a microcosm of what a large organization would have. All the right things are here. In terms of execution, I'd say our execution has been really very, very, very competent. But again, very logical, perfectly logical. I think it's a reflection of people who are just experienced , thoughtful, nimble , but without sort of descending into the realm of the science fiction. Same thing around our, our science . . . in many ways we're very fortunate that, for example, imagine a situation where you discover a compound and you have no idea how it does what it does. And there's just no literature or scientific literature and no one's ever seen a compound like that. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the case of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids really started as far back as the 1970s. The receptors are very well characterized . The molecules that bind to the ligands, the molecules that bind to these receptors, vey well characterized. There are several thousand publications, peer-reviewed publications around cannabinoids. So the field is very, very, very, very well understood. There really isn't a lot of science fiction around it. The fiction is gone, you're just left with the science. But what's interesting is yes, the drugs have been very challenging to make in these diseases from this biology primarily because we really haven't had the tools. The knowledge hadn't reached a critical mass, which it now has and I think also because there has just been so much emphasis on using this biology for targeting the brain, the central nervous system , pain, psychiatry, et cetera , and, relatively, very little attention put on how do we target the immune system with this. But I think there really isn't a lot of mystery.

John Simboli:

What makes a good partner for Corbus .

Yuval Cohen:

If we're talking about, for example, commercial partners, we have two types of partnerships already, which is again, very satisfying for a company as young as we are. We have partners from whom we have taken technology and brought it in house, like Jenrin Discovery Labs, with this library of novel compounds that target the endocannabinoid system. And then we have a different type of partner where we've taken our technology and given it to them to advance and commercialize. For example, Kaken Pharmaceuticals in Japan, they are our commercial partner for the lenabasum for Japan, for these rare autoimmune diseases. I think what they have in common is where the fit is, great communication. That's really important. Alignment in goals. We both have to believe the same vision and the understanding that together we can achieve much more than on our own. And I think when those things are in place, t hen it's a very successful, really becomes very, very, , a very successful partnership.

John Simboli:

What good can you do in the world if Corbus succeeds as you hope it will?

Yuval Cohen:

So the indications, the diseases we're targeting are very significant. If we look at lenabasum, all four of our diseases are uncommon. Three of them are actually designated as rare diseases as orphan diseases but they're not ultra rare. We're not a company that targets diseases affecting, you know, several hundred people or several dozen people. We are targeting in all of our diseases anywhere from 30,000 Americans and with cystic fibrosis to probably as many as , potentially , 300,000. So even more Americans suffering from lupus. They're all uncommon. So these are not diseases affecting millions of people, but they're affecting a large number of people. So the impact to begin with, numerically, will be significant. Also, economically, the impact is significant. That's a lot of people. If you can improve their lives, that has a lot of effects on society in terms of the cost of dealing with these people that have lost the productivity, et cetera. I think the other thing that's really important is just the impact on these individuals. These are, as I mentioned, diseases that have very high morbidity. Sadly,, they are involved with high mortality. Our ability to change the trajectory of those diseases in terms of improving the quality of life in terms of having folks return to the workforce, return to school , and hopefully also live longer and a much better quality of life. All of that we think is very, very worthwhile.

John Simboli:

Yuval,, how'd you go about choosing Norwood?

Yuval Cohen:

There's a bunch of reasons why we decided to go to Norwood rather than going, for example, to Cambridge, Kendall Square or the other sort of clusters around the city of Boston or city of Cambridge. The first one will make my shareholders very happy, I hope, is its affordability. Norwood offers us outstanding facilities at a fraction of the cost of Cambridge or even Boston. I think we're somewhere around probably paying 20% of the rent that what would be paying in Boston or Cambridge. For a company of our size, which is small, in our youthfulness. It just seemed illogical to me to spend enormous amounts of money on rent. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. At least not to me. So affordability is important. Quality of life is very important. Most of our workforce lives in the southern suburbs of Boston. We also have folks commuting from Rhode Island and what's really wonderful about Norwood is in terms of commuting into it. So in Norwood we are about not even a mile away from I-95. If you live north of us and it's a reverse commute in the morning , which is a bonus. If you live anywhere in those southern suburbs of Boston, again, it's a relatively easy commute. We're also about two miles away from route 128 station, which is one of the major Amtrak stations. And so folks who want to visit us , who are taking the train, it's incredibly simple for them to visit us. And we are about equidistant, certainly in terms of commuting time from both Logan airport and Providence airport. So great for international flights and very convenient for folks visiting us. You know, from across the U.S., as well. So we really like it here. Norwood itself has been very, very welcoming to us. The people who live here are very, very friendly It's a really diverse community. It has everything we need right at our fingertips, all the amenities we could possibly imagine. And again, at a very affordable, very accessible price. We're, we're absolutely delighted. We, we couldn't, we couldn't be happier and we keep growing in Norwood. We started in 2014. Our first office was probably the size of this room plus a little bit more and we were three or four people. We now have , on the floor of this building, John, I think we're about 30,000 square feet and we're about to expand and add an additional, I think, 20,000 square feet. So our commitment to Norwood is incredibly strong. We're very happy to be here.

John Simboli:

And my understanding, Yuval, is you're not the only bioscience company to have figured out that there's something going on here in Norwood.

Yuval Cohen:

The biotech cluster of Norwood, as I far as I know, has two companies in it, but the other company is a company that's very familiar I think to your listeners. And that's Moderna. It's not their corporate office, it's their manufacturing site. And I think research and development, I believe it's 200,000 square feet. That's an enormous site. And you know, I guess that's how clusters start. It's with two folks and we'd be very, very happy to see it continue to grow.

John Simboli:

What does being in this, let's call it metro Boston, greater Boston area, what does that mean in terms of access to capital?

Yuval Cohen:

So I'll take a step back. So we are part of a larger community. We're part of MassBio, we're part of this hub that is the largest cluster of biotech/healthcare companies on the planet. And of course we benefit from the same things that they do, which is access to extraordinary academic research institutions and world-leading medical facilities. I think pretty much for every single one of our clinical sites we have sites in the Boston hospital system And whether it's members of our scientific advisory board, whether it's some of the folks who consult, we have examples for all of them that are local, that are either at Harvard, et ceter, the University of Massachusetts, and so being part of that is tremendously powerful. In terms of access to capital, it's a little bit different for a public company , John. So we've sort of jumped over the stage of venture capital financing, but yes, we have a number of institutional investors, including some of our largest ones that are based in Boston. Downtown Boston's really easy to visit them here a few minutes away. And that's very, very helpful. And of course going from Boston to New York City is not particularly complicated. And again, as a public traded company, that's really the second biggest cluster of capital for us.

John Simboli:

You always have the opportunity as a CEO to pick up the phone and talk to the smartest person about any particular thing, that's in the nature of CEOs . What organizations do you find are helpful to you to gather information, to share information?

Yuval Cohen:

Wow , that's a really interesting question. There's no doubt about it that an organization, for example, like MassBio offers amongst other things it offers, wonderful networking experiences, so that's very helpful. The other sort of organizations that are helpful are around our disease states. The big annual cystic fibrosis conference in the U.S. And the big annual autoimmune conference; the American college of Rheumatology conference in the U.S. So again, tremendous opportunities there and through those organizations. Beyond that , the patient advocacy conferences, and again, networks are wonderful for networking. And I guess the last thing would be sort of basic science. So I remember earlier this year we were at the New York Academy of Sciences for a two day symposium that had to do with the biology that we target, our mechanism that we target . And just a wonderful opportunity to meet people who are passionate about what we are.

John Simboli:

You have so much going on that you've described to me that I'm sure that large parts of your day go into thinking about how can I flawlessly execute on that particular moment. But I also imagine there are times when you are able to step back a bit and say, if this succeeds, this work that I'm doing, it will potentially have an impact not just on what the immediate group of people we're working on, but the science itself, how the science is done. Do you allow yourself to think in those terms at this point or is that something you've set aside for down the road?

Yuval Cohen:

Oddly enough, probably more often than you'd think in the sense that I think all of us have a very real understanding and appreciation that we are part of a larger scientific community. So, for example, one of my daily rituals is a literature search. I go on PubMed, I have my search terms and I really try and be disciplined about this a nd t ake, even if it's 15 minutes of the day in order to see, O K, what got published today. And you cannot do that without appreciating that you're part of a much larger community. So I think that's, that's really, really important. It also honestly grounds you and it puts things in perspective. N one of us individually can possibly move the needle as much as we all do as a collective.

John Simboli:

Like many CEOs I've spoken with, Yuval Cohen is passionate about building high performing teams and developing therapies for patients who need them. He's also in love with science. As he said, it's biology that I love the most. It has a beauty in it that's actually quite hard to capture a numbers. Yuval's words reflect those of Henri Poincaré, 19th century mathematician, physicist and engineer who said the scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it. And he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. But the work of Yuval and his colleagues at Corbus has the potential to be useful in a profound way; to be a shaping voice in an entire field of biology. If successful, his focus on developing therapeutics to treat inflammatory and fibrotic diseases could help address unmet medical needs, including 30,000 Americans with cystic fibrosis, and as many as 300,000 suffering from lupus. As Yuval says about the biology of the endocannabinoid system, there really isn't a lot of science fiction around it. The fiction h as gone. You're just left with the science. I'm John Simboli, you're listening to BioBoss.