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Jeremy Skillington, CEO, Poolbeg Pharma, 'It's like a checkbox of everything you wanted', Episode 64

London South East  00:01

You are listening to Investing Matters brought to you in association with London South East. This is the show that provides informative educational and entertaining content from the world of investing. We do not give advice so please do your own research.

Peter Higgins  00:18

Hello and welcome to the Investing Matters Podcast today I have the huge privilege of speaking with Dr. Jeremy Skillington.

Scientist, biotechnologist runner, coach, entrepreneur, angel investor, and CEO of London AIM listed Poolbeg Pharma (POLB), Jeremy, thank you ever so much for joining me today.

Jeremy Skillington  00:39

Thank you Peter and great appreciate the invitation. It's great to be on good to see you.

Peter Higgins  00:44

Good to see you too. Thank you for coming on here and every time I see you, Jeremy, you always look happy, always smiling.

So let us start with what's going to put an even broader smile on your face. Please tell us about your love and passion for rugby and in particular Irish rugby.

When and how did you grasp the love of rugby and please share with us obviously the elation that Ireland recently, were crowned back to back Six Nations champions already?

Jeremy Skillington  01:19

Well, that's a good start. That's a good start, I have to start by admitting I've actually never played rugby.

You know, it's one of those things where I started off with being a runner, played soccer, you know, the school I went to didn't have rugby as an option.

But, you know, I've been through the kind of the Five Nations as it was back in the day like Ireland in the 70s and 80s and 90s, when we weren't too good, you know, we, we used to get the wooden spoon quite frequently.

But you know, we'd always watch it always cheer, but over the last number of years, the level has come on.

Since you know so far. I do remember distinctly back in 2009 when we won, I think our first Grand Slam and 50 something years and you know, the, you know, the celebrations that went on there.

So draw you in every year.

And I think it goes across the spectrum, I'm always in awe of people who are elite in their field, you know, be it sport, or be it business, be it academics, you know, but it's phenomenal how the rugby has come through in Ireland, World Cups aside, I guess we have to put that in there.

But, you know, it's just the structures have been put in place from the provincial standpoint and obviously filtering through to talent, I think making it kind of more professional.

And, and obviously, the standard of coaching has increased dramatically over the last few years, including Andy, one of your own and he's done a terrific job, you know, over the last several years.

But you know, it's great to see as I say through decades of misery, we're in a much better healthier place right now.

But I'd like to say the same for the soccer team.

But no, I think we're a little bit away from there yet.

But it is great to see it's thrilling for the country, you know, they say some terrific matches, and this year is Six Nations you're quite close in the end, but well we did get over the line. But I was actually in the stadium for the Scotland game to see those celebrations, which was terrific.

But as I said we've had a lot of pain in the past but it's nice to be in a celebratory mood with the state of Irish rugby this stage.

Peter Higgins  03:17

Absolutely, so and it as you say it's about evolving, isn't it and professionalise and getting the investment.

It's always about investment, I think and thinking long-term because what's happened here at the Irish rugby team, so congrats to you and your fellow rugby fans over there.

I want to move now to your educational qualifications if I may including what you studied.

And essentially we go back a little bit to you know, 18-21 year old Jeremy Skillington. What did he want to do then?

Jeremy Skillington  03:53

Yeah, this it's a good question. I'm going to be very nostalgic now.

But I've always had an interest in the sciences.

I think that some of that was from a very young age.

And I think it was just from, you know, picking up books and seeing kind of movies.

But my father did work in the industry.

He worked in Pfizer, pharmaceutical company, they had a manufacturing facility in Cork, where I grew up.

So I was always kind of aware of pharmaceuticals and drugs, you know, the healthcare industry.

So I was always kind of interested in the biology side and started off initially doing food science and start over to kind of a general biology degree that filtered into food science, and it was more of just taking the flowing, flowing in the river, where did it take you?

And so I finished your deployment food science. I worked in the industry for about a year and I wasn't enthralled by it.

I was thinking yeah, this is good.

And back then Ireland was quite an agricultural country.

And you know, food science is a very important part of our economy.

But I wasn't excited by it.

I was thinking I need to I need to go back and do a bit more deeper science.

More on the healthcare side of things.

So I went back and did a degree in biochemistry, I went to the University of Galway on the West Coast of Ireland to perhaps the wettest place in Europe, but a fantastic place to study and the biochemistry there.

And I think it's always interesting to see, you know, biochemistry teaches you how your cells work, how the body works, and, and obviously, that translates then into when it breaks down how diseases happen, etc.

So I was very much interested in, you know, seeing how, where things went in the healthcare system or sectors or how people got sick. I stayed in Galway, I continued on and did my PhD, my doctorate in the biochemistry department, I had a terrific supervisor there, Dr. Helen Loughrey, we were doing some work.

Interestingly, in the bone space, you know, how bone heals or bone repairs, what genes are responsible, you know, for bones, and that kind of links into diseases such as osteoporosis, you know, was, you know, people get older, this kind of repair mechanisms, you know, the turnover in bone cells decreases and osteoporosis develops.

And the last year, my PhD actually saw me as I got a student exchange scholarship to go to the University of California, San Francisco, which was eye opening in the standard and quality of science that went on over there.

And so that's helped me kind of wrap up my PhD. And then, you know, my boss in San Francisco at UCSF, Rik Derynck, you know, my angles, my way to kind of stay in the lab, you know, I really enjoy the work over there, continuing in the bone space and looking at, you know, bone cell bones, gene expression, fat cells, as well, bone cells and fat cells can do, they can kind of communicate together.

And so that was an interesting area, again, in that osteoporosis and indeed, arthritis space where we could get a better understanding of disease.

So that was a fantastic education in the sciences that they took me through and as I said, you're landing in California and you're living in California really enjoy it over there.

And, you know, once I finished my kind of academic stint, you know, as part of that research, I made the transition into the biotech industry.

So I really have been, you know, biotechnology and sciences, all my life and all my career and from there, so a dyed in the wool scientists, but now on the business side of biotech itself.

Peter Higgins  07:14

Fantastic journey.

Now, I want to talk about the initial bit that the academic side is now done.

And then you get your first thing in the lab as a lab technician, and tell through that, from that there because it wasn't bones, it wasn't bodies, it was slightly different.

You know, you're smiling already because I because I know what the answer is. So share with us what that was?

Jeremy Skillington  07:36

Yeah, as I said, when I finished my food, my food science diploma, I got a job in there Rowntree Mackintosh they had a chocolate crumb making factory about 20 miles away from my house and I got a job in the microbiology lab there and it was kind of routine testing you got to make sure you know the things there was no nothing like say salmonella we should we show you up in your chocolate crumb and all the ingredients that went in like the cocoa and the milk and the your butter etc.

So I was in the lab there and it was you know, it was a great experience where you learn about you know, the standard operating procedures how a factory works, yeah, how everything kind of fits together.

We were a small cog.

But I found that it was it was it was very routine you were doing the same, you know, experiments every day, you know, testing, testing, testing and you know, invariably it was on negative, you know, like you weren't seeing anything untoward.

So, I found that kind of you know, you got kind of got quite mundane very quickly.

So I was very intrigued and say where can I take this work and I do something a bit more creative or constructive or more research driven and it became apparent as your you needed your further education you needed at least your honours BSC, if not your PhD so that's kind of put me on the track to head down that road.

So yeah, so I handed in my notice to the to the Rowntree Mackintosh management, told him I was heading off to Galway to do my degree, they wished me well.

And as I said, that gave me an even deeper understanding of general biochemistry, but I say my PhD then I spent, you know, five years with the last year of it, working in real research, you know, uncovering you know, new modalities, understanding your cells, understanding gene expression, understanding diseases a lot more.

So, I found that enthralling, you know, that, you know, this is the direction I really wanted to take.

So I kind of, I think ended up where I wanted to be, you know, whether it's passive ended up putting where I should be, but you know, where I wanted to be because I found that really thrilling and, you know, a lot of hard work you know, they can say like PhDs that kind of it's a bit like the army you know, where you go in, they break you down and build you back up, you know, we, you learn largely learn a lot about yourself as you learn about science, about methodologies, and getting experiments done.

You're planning experiments, projects, you know, over months and years.

So there's a lot of learning that you then bring forward to the rest of your life but I didn't think the lab technician was there was not a role for me to play, I just, as I said, wanted something a bit more new, I think you're more around kind of creativity and discovering new understandings of the of the body of cells of diseases, etc.

So you I think you're delighted with the PhD and that continue, then on to the postdoc at UC San Francisco, as I mentioned, where it's a deeper level of research, your longer-term planning, we receive funding from the NIH National Institutes of Health in the US, as well as the Art Writers Foundation in the US to do our work in the lab, and uncover where things go right and where things go wrong.

And obviously, you're coming up with new potential targets to go after from, from a medical standpoint, so find out very, very intriguing and enthralling.

And academia has its has its use and obviously, I mean, on one hand, academic, yes, it trains the next generation of scientists or engineers, whatever faculty you're in, but I found that industry was the place to go if you really wanted to have significant impact on health, you know, getting drugs, you know, discovered getting drugs identified, bringing them through the pipeline, bringing through development and ultimately answer the market.

So I was really intrigued with the biotech industry.

And again, you know, being part of San Francisco, it started in the Bay Area, with Genentech, coincidentally being the first biotech company founded in 1976, as a spin out for UC San Francisco and Stanford University. So I was very intrigued being in that environment.

And, you know, as I say, I was interested in looking more at the business side of biotech, which I ended up moving into a Genentech back in the early 2000s.

Peter Higgins 11:44

You did a fantastic job there, I'm looking at what was written here.

And it basically says, Jeremy, that, you know, you were part, you know, the role that you had was part of the business development group at Genentech, and you were pivotal, played a pivotal role during that tenure, what tell us about some of the aspects licencing, investments, collaborations, transactions, etc, that you you're part of, because it's significant.

Jeremy Skillington 12:07

It is and business development is very kind of interesting, it's kind of more of a kind of a transition, because you're the role of you can imagine, right, there's no degrees in business development.

So it's almost like you, you kind of went into the BD group.

And what they did essentially was supplement your genetics pipeline with products externally.

And this happens, all the big pharma companies have a business development group where, you know, they have an army of scientists working in their labs, who are pushing forward to their discovered your targets or drugs into the clinic.

But they supplement a lot of pharma companies, maybe 50%, or 60% of their pipeline or of their products have come from usually small biotech companies.

And I'll use Poolbeg as an example, but somebody else who was doing work that they're interested in, and then they're bringing in as the business development group that was responsible for first of all, identifying the products and the programmes that would be say, of interest to the to the parent pharma company, or Genentech, as it was, at the time.

You know, the biotech company, we knew, for example, we were interested in antibodies and antibodies in oncology, and immunology.

And you were drifting into small molecules.

So as a team and BD, we would go out and scour and look at all of the companies globally, I was responsible for Ireland, the UK, bit of Western Europe, looking at companies here, what they were doing your what stage of development they were at, and looking for synergies between the two companies.

And what good way to do to be able to do that is have an understanding of the science that these biotech companies were building their companies on.

So that was a nice to kind of go in, as I say, into the business side of biotech, but having your scientific underpinnings your scientific training, so you were able to understand, you know, what your therapeutics were targets that we're going after understanding the role of these targets played in diseases and then stages of development and then bring them back to your the scientists and management Genentech for potentially getting a deal done.

So that was a really fantastic training. You know, I spent the 2000s, essentially, at Genentech in that role in that capacity in business development, doing a whole host and a whole variety of deals, you know, straight you're bringing products in doing collaborations, we invested in companies as well from a genetic standpoint.

So I got to see the industry from you know, almost that, you know, a 360 degree perspective, you know, what goes on for the beginnings, the middle and the ends, you know, but it was a fantastic experience and really thrilled and enjoyed my time at Genentech enjoy my time in California.

And there was a kind of a difficult decision at the end of the 2000s where my wife and I, our kids were six and four at the time and the draw to kind of come home as it were, was there and I think coincidentally Genentech who, at the time were majority owned by Roche. They were essentially wholly borrowed by Roche.

So there was kind of transitions going on at the company.

So it was it was an ideal time to, you know, to take my leave and move back to Ireland to, again from a big biotech in California to smaller biotechs in Ireland and Europe.

So it was to take my knowledge and experience back. So that was, as I say, 2009. So we're looking at the 15 years or so, since the return. But again, it's been an interesting journey in that 15 year timeframe too.

Peter Higgins 15:29

Brilliant, thank you for that. I really appreciate you sharing all that insight, between 2009 to prior to Poolbeg, what happened? Where you were doing it and you said you went to smaller and midsize and you're scouring what sounds like Europe really for your opportunities to invest and to work with collaborate with?

Jeremy Skillington 15:49

Yeah, it's a good point.

I mean, it's an interesting industry and that I want it everybody knows everybody else.

But it's a fantastic network where you, you meet people and you might not see them again for years, but then you make that reconnection.

And as I say, when I was at Genentech, I was responsible for your sourcing deals and opportunities in Western Europe.

I will say to two key people at the time, my hiring manager is a guy, Jonathan Lewis, he's an Oxford trained immunologist, so get a scientific background as well, in business development.

And, again, another colleague, Jakob Objerski, who was, let's say, more senior, he's been there many years in industry, we work together well as a threesome.

You're going through Europe, looking at deals and looking at companies etc. I learned a lot from both Jonathan and John and Jak.

And then when I came back, and it was interesting, because Genentech had invested in an Irish company called up Opsona, who, again, this is funny how the other world turns, but they had been co- founded by a really eminent scientist, Luke O'Neill, who, as time will tell, and I'll go through the story, co-founded a company Inflazome that I worked with, and he also sits on the board of Poolbeg.

So I've been working with Luke for quite a while. So we did an investment in Opsona.

While we were at Genentech, we were interested in their science, they were in the immunology space. And when the time came to thinking about moving home, Opsona had raised were based in Dublin, they were they had raised a Series B financing.

I think it was 20-22 million or so at the time. And they were looking for somebody to head up business development.

So again, as the stars aligned, we were looking to move on, they were looking for somebody head of business development, so it was a terrific opportunity to come back. And they were looking to build out a pipeline there. You know, Ireland had a much smaller biotech industry compared to California naturally, but Opsona was one of the shining lights and they were building on a pipeline I came in, we looked at many, many opportunities and many, many diligence trips.

And in the end, interesting enough, the board decided that what was in the best interests of the board of the shareholders of the company, was to focus on the lead programme that they had, that was looking at inflammation associated with transplantation.

So that gave me kind of a, you know, we had an opportunity to spin a company out of Opsona, so they had other products in their pipeline, one of which was in the immune-oncology space.

And I like to tell the story that I think we were a little bit ahead of our time, but it was trying to trick the immune system to go after the tumour, which the tumour does very, does very well to hide itself from from the immune system. And so we had, we had a programme there.

So myself and professor here in Trinity Kingston Mills, spun out a company TriMod, we raised, you know, essentially like a million Euros in seed capital financing, which, you know, was gave us a good start, it kind of funded the company while we kind of did additional research.

And, you know, from there we went out then we had some very good preclinical data, very intriguing.

You're taking take this out that the venture capitalist to fund further, but times were tight at the time, the year the global economy was in a bit of a go slow.

And, you know, so we found it difficult to raise the capital for TriMod.

But coincidentally, one of the funds one of the life sciences investment funds that I spoke with HS Life Sciences in Germany, decided that they wouldn't invest but were interested in me as an individual to help some of their portfolio companies.

So again, it was one of those things where you kind of you take, I guess, the lack of success of the fundraise, you take it on the chin, but then you move you move on, and I started working with a couple of the HS Life Sciences portfolio companies, one of which, you know, fantastic company Ethris, who are based just outside Munich or in the mRNA space.

So we have a lot of interesting areas in the mRNA world, they are developing therapeutics, they took a look or focusing on rare diseases, rather than vaccines that are the likes of Moderna.

They've been a fantastic company, and we did a terrific deal with AstraZeneca back in 2016/2017 timeframe that really gave the company fantastic foundation.

So that was great to kind of transition to there.

So yeah, so I worked with a few kind of biotech companies both like I say in Ireland and in Germany.

And then in 2016, I got a call from Luke O'Neill, who I mentioned saying that they're starting a new company Inflazome, they're going to be based in in Dublin, they're looking for somebody to head up business development, because the venture capitalist had said that, you know, from their viewpoint, from their standpoint, the best successes they've had, is when they've had business development from the outset, where from day one, you're already talking to pharma companies and biotech companies telling them the story what you're doing.

So they asked me to come on board and 2016, the guy I loved working with Luke, the CEO, was an Australian academic, Matt Cooper, who started a few companies and self, what a terrific team, you know, just getting the ball rolling.

You know, we joke about this, that this is really, you know, back when we were searching for offices, we were ordering your desks and chairs, you're really, really backed up to the start of starting of a company.

And, you know, if I can fast forward a lot of work in the meantime. But four years later, we were acquired by Roche is a common thread coming through here. But Roche were interested in the drugs we were developing for a target called NLRP3 that's involved in many inflammatory diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

And as far down as gout and cardiovascular disease, NLRP3 plays a role in a lot of these diseases. So after a lot of really hard work, you know, from the Inflazome team, we generated some terrific clinical data.

And we required by Roche in September of 2020.

So, from that standpoint, we had, you know, five months or so of the of the pandemic had already kind of started, we were all working from home, it was an interesting time where we were getting a deal done as the pandemic was, was progressing, progressing, but, you know, fantastic outcome from a, you know, a 55 million Series A Series B raise for Inflazome, we're required for 380 million plus downstream milestones as development continues.

So terrific return on investment for the investors and the company as a whole, because it's part of them, the biotech lifecycle where you need companies to be founded, to develop mature but then be acquired or go public, so that the capital can go recirculate your back into into the industry.

So inflazome was a terrific example of that. And again, for a small, Irish based Irish headquartered company, it was a fantastic exit, you know, at that time.

Peter Higgins  22:46

Fantastic, I love I love the fact that you in certain individuals keep bumping into each other, Roche comes back into the circle and all the rest of it.

And now, Jeremy, I want to talk about the thriving med tech industry, and want yourself and also, I'm going to say your boss, because that's what I call my boss, your good wife are involved in in a sense of looking at the med tech industry, looking at what's around you, and the few startup companies and you've actually started investing in a few more recently as well.

Jeremy Skillington  23:19

Yeah. It's an interesting one, you know, because one of the one of my frustrations when I'm when I did move back to Ireland from California, and is that California had, you know, I wouldn't say every street corner had a biotech company, but it was it was a beautiful hub.

You know, there was a lot of companies were being formed.

A lot of companies say you know, ex-Genentech people, for example, would you would start their own companies and VCs would you would invest, so was forming a nice hub.

I think part of the frustration when it came back to Ireland was you could count on one hand, you know, the number of biotech companies that were here, even though I think the numbers are 14 of the top 15 pharma companies have you have plans have factories that are located here in Ireland.

Now, it will say that you're based primarily on the fact that there's you're very attractive your tax incentives, your to base here, particularly on your manufacturing, so there's a lot of company of pharma companies are manufacturing their products here in Ireland, you know, foreign export. It brings a lot of employment to the country.

I think there's about 80,000 or so, people working in the pharma industry in Ireland, again, as I said, primarily on manufacturing, where there was very little true R&D going on, you know, the pharma companies will have their own R&D going on in their other areas headquarters across Europe or the US.

So I was frustrated by that.

But what was interesting was and I will say this, my wife is a is a scientist as well, she did biotechnology as a primary degree.

She worked in clinical research for many years with companies, you know, in California as well.

And when we came back, yeah, we were introduced by a good friend of mine into this kind of med tech syndicate.

Now, I will say that the Irish government had attracted med tech companies like Medtronic and Abbott, for example to you down Western Ireland that done in Galway direction.

And Medtronic, for example, making med tech devices, you know, that you need for, you know, whether it is, you know, surgeries and etc.

So as the company grew, and I think what similar to what I mentioned, what happened in California, you know, people would leave your Medtronic to start their own med tech companies.

So there's a nice little kind of hope forming down on the West of Ireland, and these kind of spin out to, you know, people who see kind of an unmet needs, you know, devices needed, they'll start a company and look for a real seed financing.

As I said, it's very active, you know, angel investment community, particularly in the med tech sector, where a lot of companies will come, you know, they'll present on a weekly or bi weekly, or monthly basis, that a new company is spinning out, they have a business plan, they have managements, they have you know budgets running out to two or three years, I think what Jen and I, my wife kind of came to appreciate was that, you know, it's, it's a much shorter lifecycle for getting a med tech product developed, compared to pharmaceuticals.

And you can do this at a much lower burn rate. You know, some med tech is kind of accelerated, that we live in a few good companies, a few good exits. So we decided to join the Syndicate, and was really impressed with some of the companies coming through with some of the management. So they think, you know, we can talk about this, but I think it's nice having a good idea, but it's the management team able to implement that idea is critically important.

So yeah, so we've made, you know, maybe five or six or so kind of real angel investments in these companies as you're moving forward, and very impressed at what you're doing.

So it goes back to what I said, I'm still in that kind of life science kind of health care side of things, you know, I don't deviate too far from my, maybe my narrow viewpoint, my narrow area of expertise, but very impressed and say what's going on here and building.

But I'd love to see the same thing happen now in Ireland, when it comes to biotech true biotech, and you'll get the pharma companies in to have more research and development in Ireland to train up the scientists, then they'll start their own biotechs.

But med tech is, is paving the way, you know, to that degree.

Peter Higgins  27:24

I think it's admirable, because you know, at heart, you're a scientist, and what you want to see is, what are scientists and you want to see scientists actually having a development goal, an idea, executing and realising the potential of what they're doing and you're reinvesting in that potential potential. So I love that.

Jeremy Skillington  27:44

As I say, I'm a scientist, you know, through and through, yes, you know, I, I've kind of transitioned over to the business side and your management side of the industry.

But I think that, you know, maybe it's one of those things that as we're as we're all getting older, you know, getting a bit creakier, you know, we're looking down the line about, you know, I may need some solutions, you know, so maybe it's a little bit of selfishness, but let's say, you know, you know, we have those unmet needs, I'd say, if the technology is there, if the, you know, if the management is there, if the, you know, the capital is there, you know, we you know, it's an interesting question about kind of life and health and longevity, you know, especially instead of quantity of life, it's quality of life, you know, if you can get to extend life, but be healthy, you know, as you as you're living, I think that's, you know, that's the ultimate goal, you know, we're all we're all going to pass away sometime. But you know, as it says, with good healthy years behind us, I think we will be will be happy in our demise whenever that time comes, but far away, the better.

Peter Higgins  28:47

Absolutely. Thank you for that. I love that.

Right, before we go to an overview of Poolbeg Pharma, please, please share with us, Jeremy, and our audience, your initial engagement with the company, and through to you becoming their CEO, how did that start? Who, who, when that's the man for the job there?

Jeremy Skillington  29:03

Yeah, it's a good, it's a good question. I think back because it was roughly kind of three years ago now as it stands, following the Inflazome acquisition by Roche, we stayed on as Roche employees for six months or so.

And again, this is all true, real true, the pandemic we I was part of the transition and data transfer, knowledge transfer, etc.

And it was I was due to wrap up at the end of March of 2021.

And, you know, I wouldn't say I was looking forward to just, you know, the stresses of, you know, you're being involved in a company and, you know, building it up your clinical data look fantastic.

And then we were negotiating with several pharma companies in parallel I think that's the key thing.

It wasn't just rush you were interested there was other so there was a lot of juggling and kind of balls in the air.

So I was looking forward to a little bit of time off, you know, although my daughter was very quick to comment that you know, working from home or for the previous several months, like, you know, the fact that, you know, that's not really, you know, that's not really work, you know, that I should get, I should get back into horse pretty quickly.

But it was an interesting perspective.

But, but I did get a call one day from Cathal Friel might even know Cathal our chairman.

And he explained that, you know, they had acquired hVIVO based in London that was running human viral studies, you know, timely, I thought because I was just before the pandemic started.

But he was saying they had a biotech arm that, you know, they build that, you know, they were now going to spin out those as Open Orphan at the time.

So he was going to spin out the biotech arm of hVIVO, into Poolbeg Pharma, they were going to list on the London AIM market, they had pieces that have assets in place POLB-001 programme, they already had that ready to move forward with, they had the outline of a structure some key employees, you know, we're kind of overlapping at the beginning.

And essentially, they were looking for somebody to lead the effort, somebody to, you know, to step in and CEO to, you know, to drive forward to get the company listed, you know, and I will give a lot of credit to Cathal and our CFO, Ian O'Connell, and head of IR PR, Carol Dalton, who drove that process to drive the IPO process.

And so we listed so yes, I agreed to come on board, I was hoping for a little bit of time off, but I knew I what’s wonderful about Cathal is kind of a his impatience, you're like, your today is better than tomorrow. So let's let's kind of move forward quickly with this.

So we, you know, started the ride came on board in the beginning of June. And we started essentially the roadshow the next day, and kind of got all the pieces together and ultimately listed in July. So it's been a fantastic start.

And so we're kind of coming up to three years, we've made a lot of progress, you know progress moving forward, we've got some fantastic data from the clinical activities, we did some really interesting artificial intelligence analysis of some of the data hVIVO generated in their studies previously. So really fantastic foundations.

And now we're we're building upon, I think what's exciting over the last three to four months is new colleagues coming on board, who we can talk about, but you know, they came over from a company Amryt, who Cathal already who co-founded back in 2016 timeframe or so.

But we're building a pipeline of products, pipelines programmes, fantastic team coming in, and gaining momentum now by the day.

Peter Higgins  32:33

Fantastic. Sounds like you've covered a little bit of that.

The next question I had regarding the overview, but you talked about the exciting pipeline that you've got with the lead asset of the POLB 001.

And we've also talked about some of the former key members of the huge successful Amryt Pharma as well.

So we can put those two together for me, please, because it is quite significant. And I want to talk about how they will be enhancing as well, the capabilities of Poolbeg?

Jeremy Skillington  33:01

Yeah happy to talk about that.

Let's start by 001.

As I mentioned, this was identified as a potential drug target for severe influenza by our hVIVO colleagues, and they brought in the molecule, brought in the drug that already had safety, human safety data.

So we wanted to run it was a challenge study to confirm that there it was, there was some efficiency that it was hitting the target, it was blocking the targets, it was inhibiting the target.

So we ran an LPS challenge study to do that.

And the data we got from that was spectacular.

It was fantastic. It was everything we hoped it would be in that, you know, we tried three different doses, and we saw that there was a suppression of this, the cytokines that are that are induced by these challenges these inflammatory challenges.

And I said the one we use at a time was LPS, which comes from a bacterial fragment bacteria membrane, but we were quick to get to recognise that there are other diseases out there that you know, are driven by a caused by led by inflammation that 001 could play a role in.

And when we did our analysis, we looked at the next generation of cancer therapies are these by specific T cell engaging antibody.

So beautiful mechanism, that kind of bringing an immune cell called a T cell in very close proximity to a tumour cell, where the T cell can then kill the tumour cells.

So it's very clever.

There's also CAR T cells, which does a similar mechanism, a different way of doing it.

But there's a side effect of that where you have this inflammatory response where you the immune system goes a little crazy.

So we think that our drug could play a fantastic role to suppress that immune system, you know, letting the immune cell do its job to kind of kill the tumour, but then you're causing the inflammatory response or reducing the inflammatory response. So it's not an issue. It's a huge headache for the patients but for the healthcare system, because getting these drugs to have to stay In hospital, you know, the in case they get this cytokine release syndrome, the CRS, and which takes up a lot of hospital beds, which kind of causes a bottleneck where these newly diagnosed patients can't get into the system quickly enough.

So, you know, we've done an analysis, we've talked a lot of key opinion leaders, they see the potential of these drugs, but they see the headaches that they cause with this CRS.

And now we like we estimate this market to be about 10 billion just in the CRS management alone. So we're very excited about that aspect.

And this is where, let's say we talked about the team that's come on board, Dave Allmond, who's our Chief Business Officer has come on board and kind of ran this analysis.

Now Dave is, again, vast experience 30 years in the industry, he was responsible for bringing the Amryt products into their pipeline, the key products that drove the value in the company, he was, say, kind of CBO enamored as well, driving a lot of these kind of a, the acquisitions and Amryt did so very knowledgeable, very experienced, has launched products with past lives.

You know, he's worked with companies like Celgene, who are very big in the multiple myeloma space where we know that 001 can play a role for this CRS associated with multiple myeloma drugs.

So like, you look at jigsaw, I think this is one of your Carl's kind of talents, you're putting the pieces of the jigsaw together people's expertise, pulling them together, you're matching their knowledge, expertise, or personalities with the year with the team as well.

And on top of that, we brought in Laura Maher to head up our or your clinical operations.

And I said, we've got two programmes that are being in preparation for the clinic, 001, as I mentioned, for, for the cytokine release syndrome.

And a second programme is an oral one receptor agonist, we could talk about that separately, because the world is getting really excited about this GLP ones and the effect they'll have on not just diabetes, diabetes, but obesity, and cardiovascular disease, etc.

So the majority of those are injected, so we're looking to run an oral programme as well as oral delivery of these of this drug.

So there's a lot of excitement to kind of move that forward.

And then the last piece of the puzzle is, is John McEvoy, you came in as Head of Legal and you know SVP and Head of Legal, John, again, going back to the Amryt days, was responsible for all the Amryt transactions, we talked about bringing products in, but I think importantly, you know, getting Amryt listed on NASDAQ, and, you know, getting the order over to and again, ultimately, the acquisition in itself.

So, knowledge, we experience you know terrific people, you know, fitting well with the team. It is like a checkbox of everything you wanted.

So you're building out directly, as I say expanded, you know, management team, but you're full of expertise, I think you're bodes well for Poolbeg now and the future, I think that we've gained some momentum over the last 12 months or so we're kind of continuing to drive that forward. So, you know, it's just, it's just a fantastic time, you know, everything is kind of clicking together nicely for us.

Peter Higgins  38:01

Absolutely. And more recently, you know, back in March, you Poolbeg receive a Notice of Allowance for POLB 001 panted in the US.

Can you explain to those that do not understand why this was this Notice of Allowance was so significant for Poolbeg and what it actually means going forward?

Jeremy Skillington  38:22

Yeah I think it's worth and I do tend to, you know, take a step back to explain that, you know, we again, I go back to as a scientist, I mean, the key thing that drives this industry, there's many things that drives the industry.

But data like you got to have really good and impressive data to draw interest, you'll convince yourself the drug will work, convince the regulators that the drug will work, yeah, having good data.

But data is not sufficient on its own, you need to have a robust intellectual property portfolio that protects your programme protects your molecule protects your method of use or treatment.

So you know, and that's a whole other kind of stream, you can say to the industry, that, you know, you need to have novelty and inventiveness your to get a patent granted.

So, you know, we filed patents on the use of P38 MAP Kinase Inhibitors in this kind of inflammation space, you know, to your to treat, say hypersonic anaemia, which is another name for the cytokine storm.

So, you know, we submitted again, this process takes quite a while where you go through the process, you have your patent agency, you've got to review the, you know, the patents that are subjected there, that usually challenge you on various aspects, you know, so again, it's an very important hurdle to overcome if you get that letter a notification of an intention to grant because I said that's essentially saying that, you know, you pay some fees and you have a patent granted and that patent can protect you can protect your company can protect your product, can keep out competitors, you know, which again, is critically important, particularly when it comes to, you know, whether you're marketing your product yourself.

But from a Poolbeg standpoint, when we come to partnering our products, the fact that we go to the pharmacy, here's our data, which is yeah, we're very happy with.

So yeah, that was very important to to get up and grounded, particularly the US which you can appreciate as a significant market for companies like Poolbeg, as well as your big pharma partners.

Peter Higgins  40:25

Absolutely, it's absolutely huge market, I saw some data recently saying that the market size is something like 25 billion in AI, healthcare, it's gone up to 220 Odd by 2030.

So significant markets have any sort of nugget in so fantastic.

So you think talking about AI in healthcare Jeremy, please, can you touch on briefly there, but I want you to expand on it a little bit, if I may.

Explain to our listeners how Poolbeg Pharma are utilising AI to enhance the positives of the process and expedite the process as well.

Because historically, all these processes, you know, when you were starting out in the 2000s, you like that test after test after test, it took a long time. So AI is speeding that up and expediting that somewhat.

Jeremy Skillington  41:12

Yeah, it goes back, you know, it's a little bit like Moore's Law, if you if you remember back to, you know, the speed of computer processing, kind of like doubling every year, the speed, or the volume of data that's coming through is just astounding, you know, the people.

A similar example is the Human Genome Project, you know, it took them years and years and years to sequence one genome. And now you could do it for $1,000.

You know, so the data kind of coming through you know is astounding, there's a question of what do you do with all this data?

And you're right when I was back to my PhD, I was doing work was very manual, it was very giving you analysis, we were doing your gene sequences, like on a, you know, polyacrylamide gel that took days to kind of, you know, to run and then analyse it was all very manual.

But now it's, you know, with computer powers, you can do that instantaneously, or almost instantaneously.

So, when it comes to AI, this is where you kind of, you know, yes, you have, we very large datasets, and the one from a Poolbeg perspective that we have is that clinical trials is human viral challenge studies that hVIVO ran, where they took a healthy volunteer, they gave them a virus, it could be a flu virus, and put them in a quarantine setting, and was able to kind of take samples from these volunteers before they got the virus when they got the virus twice a day going forward.

So that is blood samples, you know, that's they were, you know, and beyond that as like nasal samples, viral samples.

So they're able to kind of analyse that to see the course of disease. So if you take one person, it's like six gigs of data.

It's phenomenal to analyse that. But the trials that they ran like they had for the RSV study, they had I think, was 70 volunteers.

So you can imagine layering datasets on top of datasets, updates and stuff, it would take, you know, a single every take a team years to kind of analyse and interrogate.

And for the influenza, we had 130 volunteers were we able to layer data on. So this is where AI comes in and say it's kind of you kind of write your programmes, you have the computer the supercomputers to be able to kind of take this data set, essentially sift through it.

And what it gives you is a far greater understanding of the disease of the disease progression, you know, how genes are responding to the presence of a virus?

You know, if if one of the volunteers is clear virus quicker than another volunteer, where you're clear is a lot slower.

Why is that what's happening to the gene expression profiling, and as I say, on a on an individual by individual basis, this will take years.

So layering, as I say, like, scores are your 100 and 130 volunteers. And that's where you need to collaborations people.

We worked from an influenza standpoint, with a group cybereason, who'd worked with Pfizer and Sanofi and Roche in the past, and currently, they were able to take all this data set and analyse it and see what's going on.

And we're able to pull out very critically, very importantly, some novel genes that were involved in disease progression, so involved in the influenza infection.

So the thinking now is that you can believe you could lock those doors, then you'll have a new modality of blocking influenza.

And, you know, as I said, it was huge yield, to be able to have that collaboration in place, but to have the data set ready, and nobody else has this dataset, so really gives Poolbeg that edge where we're able to, say, take these new scientific knowledge, new scientific insights, as I said at the beginning, you know, when you're comparing healthy to sick, you're able to see kind of what's different, and then target you know, for the sick people to block disease progression.

So we're doing that for influenza, and for RSV, which are still significant issues when it comes to these seasonal respiratory viral infections.

And as I said, we're excited to move those forward. So that was - we did this through collaboration is that we didn't build an AI infrastructure.

But there's two collaborations we had were fantastically productive for us.

Peter Higgins  45:04

Indeed, is, and it's and it's proved it's proved its worth in gold to collaborate.

But the next couple of collaboration I want to talk about is the significance of having Cathal Feil on board, you know, as you're, you know, stepped up as a executive chairman now, to Poolbeg.

But you know, the two of you have worked together for some time now, you've known each other, and, you know, is the driver for its financial growth.

You've got a world class team at Poolbeg, you know, you're leading from the front, and you've got connections across the whole of the Americas and Europe.

So I want to ask, if I may, I suspect, the two of you and the Poolbeg team, have got some significant goals in mind for Poolbeg?

So which of those goals can you share with our global Investing Matters’ audience as to, you know, looking out beyond 2024-25 and 26 and 27?

Where do you both want to be and the team want to be in a few years’ time?

Jeremy Skillington  46:06

Yeah, listen, it's a good question.

And I think you got to admire Cathal greatly, I think that he's done a terrific job with the companies that he's founded, hVIVO, are doing terrifically well, right now, I think he saw the opportunity to spin out Poolbeg he's, you know, starting other companies as well.

So he's here is a bundle of energy. But I think we kind of synergize because we're both extremely ambitious, we see the potential for Poolbeg to be a global player.

I think we've stated in the past that, you know, listen, you know, if we're following the Amryt story, we brought the team in, you know, there's we're looking at the rare orphan disease space now, which we know 001 will play, it will play a role in particularly when it comes to those cancers that we're going to go after.

But I think the ambition of ending up similar to Amryt on NASDAQ, and we see the US, as we mentioned earlier, it's a fantastic market, it's a fantastic kind of investor market.

So we see the potential to kind of go over there and grow the company, you know, scale the company, you know, through a NASDAQ listing.

So, you know, it's something on the horizon, as I said, we don't put timeframes to this, like we know when the when the timing is right, we pull the trigger, but we're building the products, we're building the pipeline, and you're looking for that kind of external validation as well, but very excited where we are right now, as I say the answer your question, I mean, we were 001 in the in the CRS space, we see that has huge potential.

So that's, you know, very excited about that, because if you can deliver that orally, that opens up a whole other market, and a whole other view of your step up and values are very excited about that. And, of course, other things coming through as well that, you know, we're pushing forward.

But we have a fantastic team here. I think, as I mentioned earlier, we have the pieces in place, you know, Cathal is very roll up your sleeves very active, you know, he's you know, he oversees these about the AIM listed companies, that you know instead of like big pharma, where you may gain a modest increment in your share price year on year, we know that, you know, when a success in early success in AIM, you can you can you increase it significantly increase the value of the shares and the company.

And again, that kind of springboard and beyond there, so they were very ambitious, as I said, we've laid fantastic groundwork, we brought a fantastic team and we have a terrific pipeline.

So all the pieces are in place, you know, as our bases got to be there, the execution is going well. And we're not slowing down as I say we, you know, we you know, we're we're full of energy ready to go and you know, I mean, it goes to show I mean, the belief that we have you know, in in Poolbeg is I both Cathal and I purchase additional shares in the company here earlier this year.

Again, just to kind of, I always like to know, you when I started with Poolbeg there was a lot of discussions with the investors and I love that the other the investor facing aspects of Poolbeg and the AIM market, you know, at various conferences, you're having discussions with the investors and, you know, they do like to see directors who are putting their skin in the game, you're putting your backing there, you know, their words with their with their hard earned money, you know, so it's a case of, you know, both Cathal and I believe that, you know, that's the direction we're taking. So I think a very exciting time for the company.

And as you pointed out, it's not just 24-25 and beyond, I think we're, we're on a nice trajectory now as and then to maintain that momentum.

Peter Higgins  49:24

Brilliant, you've touched into a couple of things there.

But two things I wanted to pull out, the fact that you actually enjoy very few CEOs enjoy the facing of retail investors.

But when we when we met only last month, we were at the Master Investor Show together, and you looked happier, as anyone else have seen that, you know, you love speaking to people you love, asking them asking you some, some questions. I'm sitting there going, what was that question?

And you're like, okay, it's fine. I'm going to answer that question as well.

Absolutely fantastic. And, and also, you know, you've touched on that as well, you have got skin in the game, you've bought some shares with your own money.

It's not a case of some, you know, CEOs, FTSE as well as AIM who were just getting given free shares all the while.

So I really, really admire that you and Cathal do that and the leadership team actually put your own money into the company.

Jeremy Skillington  50:13

Yeah, no listen, I think it's, it's a show of confidence, you know, I think it's, and again, I appreciate again, you’re right, you know, when it comes to going to meeting the investors, and, you know, at the Master Investor, they're people like, oh, you know, you know, they have a portfolio products in there, like the Poolbeg story, you know, they like to get to have a discussion with you, we were like, yeah, we do a lot of online presentations, just to kind of give updates, etc.

But the face, there's nothing, you know, there's nothing like the face to face where they can ask a blunt question, direct question you can give them the, you know, the direct answers, you know, like, we're happy to do that, because this is the one thing about the public markets, it's public, you know, so we were kind of we are when we can obviously from there are going to regulatory requirements, but you know, where, you know, where you are, we can we share as much as we can, you know, we're very open that way, and we will continue to be that.

But, but as I say, I think it goes back, it's kind of interesting, when you reminded me of when it was time to leave the lab, you know, I found that my day the lab was spent kind of with colleagues, but we all had our own projects.

And there was a bit of scientific dialogue, but it was kind of I felt it on my, you know, my introvert, extrovert balance was a little askew, I needed more of my kind of extrovert, personality to be there. And that's what business development was perfect.

Because you are out there, you are talking to companies, you are talking to scientists, you're talking to CEOs, and a bit more of that dynamic. And I do enjoy that aspect.

So it's the same talking to investors, you know, these are people who are, you know, keen to understand what's going on. And, you know, appreciate the work that you're doing. But, you know, so I like to get out and say you kind of have that face to face, and you'll share insights and what I can share.

Peter Higgins  51:51

Indeed, and also, you know, investing your own money, I love the fact that you do that. Yeah, and I think it's very important to see that when there's a window of opportunity for you to do so.

Jeremy Skillington  52:02

Of course, are going back to selfish reasons, Peter, that's for you're hoping for a return on my own investment.

Peter Higgins  52:09

Because you do, it’s going to do well, long-term.

And as a scientist, you've got to think long-term, you always got to think long-term.

Absolutely. Now, Jeremy, I want to change things up a little bit, because we first met when you came over to Leicester.

And you supported me very kindly. As you know, I was fundraising for disabilities charity in Leicester, and you came on with Cathal Feil, and you supported me and helped me to raise some significant funds for that charity.

But I want to talk about the charities that you support now, as well. And the fact that, you know, I mentioned at the top of this interview, you're a bit of a runner as well. So just tell us about the connections between the two, please?

Jeremy Skillington  52:45

Yes, it's yeah, I run to I would say kind of stay face, maybe keep sane, you know, just that's kind of my outlet.

Just go for a run and kind of clear your head.

I kind of enjoy that.

I remember a few years back, it was. It was 2011 and I was I just returned for California ran a few half marathons in California with a good friend of mine.

And I wanted to kind of challenge myself and I ran the Dublin Marathon in 2011.

And I ran it to raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society.

My sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2000s and thankfully she's you know, all as well and has gone through with the fantastic work that they do.

So I kind of said, okay, I'll raise your you know, I run a marathon and I raise money for the Irish Cancer Society.

And a reasonable I think was like 1,500 euros, which was pretty significant.

So every few years I try and run to fundraise and you know, what I've noticed, you know kind of preparation for this is always in the healthcare sector.

I raised money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a good friend of mine, his daughter was relatively late in her teens diagnosed Cystic Fibrosis which is relatively late.

So I raised again, I think a similar amount of money for that.

And last year, I ran a half marathon for the Mater Foundation.

It's a hospital here again in the healthcare sector and I have the same Mater Foundation, half marathon, in a beautiful setting of the Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland in in a week and a half.

So I'm raising money for that as well.

So, which maybe I'll send you the link afterwards, Peter, and you can kind of support the cause. But you know, it's just kind of, as they say, just said, I consider myself from a health standpoint, very fortunate.

So you're very kind of healthy, but you always got to look for those that are less fortunate. So you always try and I was a bit like that, you know, kind of a skin in the game, I've put my own, I've sponsored myself for these for these runs as well just to get to get the ball rolling.

But as I just find running as it is kind of a nice release for me just to as I say, get to break a sweat and just, you know, just keep going.

But yeah, it you know, do whatever little you can, I think is the way to think about it.

Peter Higgins  54:56


And then talking about doing what you can I want to talk now about the coaching and the mentoring that you've done historically, with a certain pair that may be in the household?

Jeremy Skillington  55:09

Yeah, it's I've got two kids, my son, Declan is 21 now, and they grow up so fast.

And my daughter Kate is 19 both, you know, fantastic athletes and, you know, love their soccer, you know, Gaelic football, not so much running, I think they leave the running to me, but I remember Declan as a kid, he was like, under 10’s football, and his manager at the time had to step away, he was kind of relocating.

So, you know, so I kind of stepped it to help kind of manage the team.

And it was one of those, yeah, I played soccer all my life, you know, so I knew the basics, I knew the rules, and what you learn from kind of coaching is that, you know, it's one of the most setting your team up to play.

But these kids, like, you know, they're out there, they want to win, but they just want to play with their friends, they want to play with their buddies, and, you know, they, you know might be disappointed when they lose for five minutes, but then they're back chatting with their buddies again, you know, so I coach that team for eight years.

And it is like looking for these guys who are like 10, 18, 19, you know, where they're kind of maturing, and you can see the personalities and becoming men and you know sadly our last match was, was just as the pandemic was kicking off.

So we knew never really kind of wrapped everything up, you know, kind of as we could, but I still see the guys around the whole time, like they're all kind of in college now are working and what fantastic memories you have from that standpoint.

And, and then I had less of a kind of a hands on role, my daughter, she played a really, really impressive and talented soccer team, you know, here in Dublin, and, you know, several of the girls have actually gone on to represent Ireland to put on the green, the green jersey, but I was a kind of a hobby as a photographer, so I was asked to kind of be the, you know, the team photographer.

So over the years, you know, I'd be like the guy behind the goals, you know, with the bib on and taking photographs of these fantastically talented soccer players.

And so have a nice array of kind of photographs, you know, action photographs, and it was always kind of at the end of you know, an hour or two after a match, I'll be getting a text from parents, like, you know, that their daughter's waiting for photographs to come through.

So again, these are just terrific kids and really talented, you know, so it was nice, as I say kind of a, I think I was nervous on the sidelines, this kind of alleviated the nerves a little bit, I was able to just take some photographs and forget about it.

But you know, as I say, it's preserving memories for these talented kids who as I say, some of them are, you know, you there'll be there'll be names that you'll hear about if you haven't heard about them already, but they're coming through, but yeah, again, spending time with the kids as much as you can, you know, I really enjoyed that aspect.

And, and we know the older they get you have, the less time that they'll have for the for the parents.

But listen, it was wonderful while we had it.

Peter Higgins  57:43

Brilliant, Jeremy, thank you so much for being on this podcast with me. I've got one final question for you, if I may indulge me.

When we’re looking at the young man young boy from Cork, who's travelled around the world got very educated is a scientist at heart. America, Dublin, London, Europe, the rest of the world.

What are you most proud of? What is it that you when I go immediately like that? What immediately springs to mind? For you, Jeremy?

Jeremy Skillington  58:15

I think it's a really good question.

What was sprung to mind was the kids.

Yeah, well, I think that, you know, maybe that's, we were just talking about that.

I mean, I’ll remember when, when my wife and I kind of like, got married and said, you know, we we'd have kids, we, you know, we talked about a third but we stuck with two just for, you know, managing standpoint, but I'm just very proud of how they have turned out, you know, just wonderful kids, thoughtful kids, great athletes, you know, kind of funny, you know, again, healthy, very, you know, very happy with that in regards, and, you know, so you're always going to live the case, I think that's just, you know, the, the frame of mind that I'm in right now, but from a work standpoint, you know, if I was able to kind of switch maybe name to, I think that, you know, the work that, you know, I've done all the way through, there's components of every job that I've had that I've been very proud of the Genentech story, was fantastic.

This is a company that was going places, I was a small cog, you know, in the mid-2000s here as as go, but like they've gone on to do phenomenal things right now.

So like, fantastic. I will say the Inflazome story is a is a big deal for Irish biotech, you know, from a company that was based on Trinity College, Dublin intellectual property in collaboration with, with university in Australia, your Irish technology and Irish foreign company, I was employee number three, after the two co-founders, you have to drive that forward and to to get an exit again, for an Irish company.

That was phenomenal.

And I think, you know, last but not least, of course, the work we've done here with Poolbeg over the last three years has been, I think beyond impressive considering, you know, we have a small but very focused and very talented team. I think we've driven hard, we've made decisions, we've made good decisions.

I think, you know, this, you're looking at the CRS work that we're doing right now with 001 looking at the GLP-1 programme and you know as I say we're it feels like even though we're kind of almost three years in, I think it just feels like it's the starting line to surreal to a certain degree because there's you know, there's a tremendous trajectory ahead of us.

And I think when it comes to Poolbeg in the direction we can take so very excited about that.

So listen, you know, you're right rewind back to when I was an 18 year old kid, you know, knowing what to do science but where it would have taken me you know, that's why I smile, you know, that's why I'm happy.

I pat myself on the back for you know, like a life well lived, but hopefully they all go well. There's another pure 40 or 50 years left. We shall say.

Peter Higgins  1:00:46

Brilliant, thank you ever so much Jeremy.

Ladies and gents that was Dr. Jeremy Skillington. Scientist, biotechnologist, runner, coach, entrepreneur, angel investor, CEO of London AIM-listed Poolbeg Pharma.

It's been an absolute delight Sir to have you on this podcast and I look forward to seeing you very soon in person. We share a Guinness maybe.

Jeremy Skillington  1:01:07

Appreciate that, Peter. Absolutely. I look forward to it.

London South East  1:01:11

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