Breye Therapeutics is all about the people. Whether it’s the company’s team or the patients whose eyesight they seek to protect, the focus is consistently on the human factor. It’s a value influenced by CEO and founder Ulrik Mouritzen, whose career in drug development has taught him the importance of collaboration in delivering life-changing therapies.
After medical school, Mouritzen decided early on that he would dedicate his career to developing new medicines. His motivation to make a difference for patients has guided him to a range of roles within research and development, from filling in case record forms as a clinical investigator to leading an international operation within big pharma. And while he’s found the work gratifying at every turn, Mourtizen felt a distinct shift while working for a smaller biotech company a few years back.
“I saw the progress you can make when you have a smaller team and fewer stakeholders,” he explains. That agility translated into serious momentum: before long, that team advanced three programs into the phase 3 clinical research stage. Mouritzen was hooked.
So when he saw an opportunity to go even leaner, he ran with it. Mouritzen secured an exciting clinical asset from that company and founded his own startup — now called Breye Therapeutics.
Breye is a Danish-based biopharmaceutical company with a focus on oral therapies for vascular eye diseases. The team has two molecules under development, both with the potential to offer groundbreaking treatments for the eye damage that’s often a complication of diabetes as well as old age.
Today, patients suffering from those complications have essentially one treatment option: needle injections into the eye. “They’re burdensome and not all that effective,” explains Mouritzen. “Only about 40% of patients get a really good response, and about 30% of patients don’t respond despite six months of needle injections.”
With its foundations and funding in place, Breye is currently advancing one molecule (danegaptide) into a phase 1b clinical trial and a second molecule into toxicology studies on the path to clinical trials. If these therapies succeed, they can help improve the comfort and quality of life for millions of people in need.
Though Mouritzen opted for the action and relative speed of a small operation, he cherishes the insights he gained from working at larger organizations. They’ve given him a fuller understanding of how differently sized companies fit into the biopharma ecosystem. That includes the critical role that big pharma plays in distributing new therapies to the people who need them.
As he explains, the industry depends on smaller companies like Breye as a driving force for innovation, but it’s the pharmaceutical giants who have the resources and distribution channels to carry those innovations across the finish line.
Mouritzen sees it as part of the journey. “There is no way that Breye Therapeutics could market these oral therapies and reach millions of patients,” he says. “At some point, these molecules, when successful, will need to transfer to a larger organization to take the next step in terms of reaching patients.”
When Mouritzen first connected with Sound Bioventures in early 2022 (thanks to an introduction by the BioInnovation Institute), he quickly recognized the professionalism of the firm’s team as well as their commitment to science. When they brought in an external ophthalmology expert to review Breye’s scientific data, Mouritzen knew they were serious.
Those first impressions haven’t changed. Mouritzen has regular one-on-one meetings with Sound Bioventures co-founder Johan Kördel. It’s a chance to align their thinking and identify areas for growth and further progress for the company. “When you’re lucky enough to be able to choose which VC firms you engage with, it’s quite important to find the right match in terms of knowledge, insights, and shared direction,” he explains. “I see it very much as a collaboration.”
There’s the crucial element of financial backing, of course, but Mouritzen highlights the role that VCs can play in helping a company define its success and establish shared goals.
“If you only see them as a funder, then you aren’t taking the full value of what they bring to the table,” he says.