In this interview, we speak with Jack O'Meara, co-founder and CEO of Ochre Bio, a pioneering force in liver disease treatment. O'Meara shares insights into Ochre Bio's innovative RNA therapies, their approach to tackling liver disease, and the company's vision for the future.
Please could you introduce yourself and your professional background?
I'm Jack O'Meara, co-founder and CEO of Ochre Bio. My background is in biomedical research, with a focus on tissue engineering. I've always been interested in how scientific innovations transition from research to impacting patients at scale. After some time in the US, I co-founded Ochre Bio with Quin Wills.
Ochre Bio has a profound mission to address liver health challenges. Could you elaborate on the core objectives and how your company's approach is revolutionizing liver disease treatment?
At Ochre Bio, we're building a pipeline of products for liver disease patients worldwide. We're leveraging advances in genomic technologies and computational techniques to identify new, efficacious pathways and targets. Our approach involves using human tissue-based translational models to test these hypotheses in discarded donor organs, envisioning a pipeline of products progressing to human trials.
You've shared that personal experiences and encounters with liver disease's impact inspired Ochre Bio's focus. Can you delve deeper into these pivotal moments and how they shaped your vision for the company?
My entry into the liver disease space was more coincidental than driven by personal reasons. I met Quin, who had extensive research experience in liver biology. While, like many others, I have family members affected by liver disease, the actual impetus for founding the company was our combined vision. Together, we aimed to translate innovations in discovery and perfusion technologies to advance novel RNAi medicines, focusing on tractable clinical strategies, which ultimately became the foundational idea for our company.
Your work at Ochre Bio emphasizes RNA therapies for liver diseases. What are the unique challenges and potentials you see in this specific area of treatment?
RNA therapies, especially siRNAs, offer precise delivery to liver cells. This precision allows for more targeted and safer treatments. RNA's elegant duration of action means patients could potentially have less frequent treatments, enhancing convenience. RNA also speeds up drug development, allowing for quicker testing of new biological hypotheses.
Ochre Bio uses a deep phenotyping approach to study liver diseases. Could you explain how this method is transforming the understanding of liver biology and aiding in the development of effective RNA medicines?
Deep phenotyping involves analyzing diseased liver tissue at a molecular level to understand gene changes causing the disease. Identifying upregulated genes in diseased samples allows us to hypothesize potential treatments. This approach has been fruitful in generating new drug ideas.
Thus far, which milestones have been most rewarding on Ochre Bio's journey and why?
Attracting highly capable and talented coworkers has been incredibly rewarding. Preliminary data suggesting our drugs and hypotheses might be effective is also a significant milestone. The most transformative experience will be dosing our first patient with an Ochre Bio-designed drug.
Strategic partnerships have been pivotal in Ochre Bio's journey. Could you discuss how these collaborations have shaped the company's progress and any future partnerships you are aiming for?
Medicine development requires collaboration. We've engaged in technology collaborations with small companies' academic research partnerships and are looking to partner with larger, more advanced pharma companies. These collaborations are crucial for advancing our science.
Considering Ochre Bio's innovative approach to liver health, what is your long-term vision for how the company will contribute to changing the landscape of liver disease therapy and patient care?
Our goal is to bring transformative medicines into the clinic, changing the treatment paradigm for liver disease patients. We're also focusing on innovating clinical strategies, targeting patient populations with less innovation, and hopefully building a broad portfolio that impacts many patients.
Looking ahead, how do you envision the biotechnology landscape evolving over the next decade, and what areas do you think will have the most significant impact on healthcare?
The potential for more precise delivery of therapeutic payloads is exciting. Developing targeted therapies for specific cell types can lead to safer and more effective treatments. This advancement could significantly impact not just liver disease but chronic conditions more broadly.
Where can readers find more information?
About Jack O'Meara
Jack O'Meara is co-founder and CEO of Ochre Bio, a biotechnology company developing a portfolio of liver medicines for patients and families affected around the world. The company uses a combination of advanced genomics, machine learning and human-centric translational models to improve the probability of clinical success for its products. Jack's work has been featured in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and he was listed on the 2023 Forbes 30 under 30 list. He received his Bachelor's degree from National University of Galway and his Masters from the University of Notre Dame.