Interview with Robert Habib
Robert Habib, MBA
CEO of MiNA Therapeutics
How did you become interested in the field of oligonucleotides?
In 2013 I was seeking to run a business that could have an impact in healthcare. John Rossi, Pål Sætrom and Nagy Habib had put together the initial features of MiNA Therapeutics, a business to bring to patients the emerging technology of small activating RNA. It was hard to think of a bigger opportunity to impact healthcare than joining MiNA Therapeutics and developing an entirely new therapeutic modality.
Who were your early mentors?
Most of what I have learned about both RNA therapeutics and indeed drug discovery was patiently imparted on me by our founders as well as adviser Hans Huber. As we built and continue to expand our internal research team that heavy burden has become broadly shared. Of course, Nagy Habib, my father, who has a habit of building companies to bring new modalities to patients. The Board of Directors of MiNA Therapeutics have been my formal and informal mentors in harnessing innovation to build a business and vice versa.
How did you become involved in OTS?
Small activating RNAs are a new class of therapeutics that share many features of other oligonucleotide types and as such we have always sought to “stand on the shoulders of giants” in the oligo world. Attendance at OTS annual meetings is fundamental to that effort.
Why do you continue to support the OTS?
The oligo field is just getting started in delivering benefits to patients. Openness and collaboration are a necessity to unlock the full potential for patients. OTS is an important platform to share knowledge and develop meaningful collaborations in the field.
What is special about the type of research/work you’ve done?
At MiNA Therapeutics we believe small activating RNA medicines could bring benefits to patients well beyond what conventional medicines can offer, by unleashing the biology of ‘undruggable’ proteins through a transcriptional activation mechanism. That has allowed us to bring to liver cancer patients in a clinical trial the world’s first therapy to ‘drug’ the transcription factor C/EBPa. Ultimately, we believe small activating RNAs could make a difference for enormous numbers of patients. My job at MiNA Therapeutics is to give our heroes in R&D team every opportunity to make that happen.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Because my primary role is that of a general manager, reading RNA literature often ends up being my free time activity. In a more conventional sense I enjoy food, skiing and exploring big cities (primarily our home London which never seems to stand still).
Any other fun facts/tidbits you’d like us to know?
I am a keen student of political and business history. Right now, I’m reading “Titan” a biography of John D Rockefeller, who was the founder of Standard Oil, one of the most successful businesses of all time. Drug development is unique in so many ways but at their core great biotech companies have a lot in common with great companies across industries.