Starting biotech companies

New ventures are an important way to translate the results of basic VIB research into practical applications. Moreover, starting biotech companies in Flanders have a huge impact on our local ecosystem: not only do they attract inward investments, they also create jobs. By anchoring intellectual property and biotech knowledge in our region, start-ups play a major role in society.

From idea to spin-off

Having a meaningful impact on society is what drives many scientists. However, research institutes and universities are not equipped to fully translate discoveries into the market. Developing an academic finding into a commercial product requires a different set of skills and can potentially offer opportunities to create employment by setting up a start-up company.

Building a company from scratch requires many different skills. VIB’s New Ventures team is strategically embedded within the VIB Innovation & Business team, featuring critical Intellectual Property expertise, Business Development experience, and, last but not least, a vast network of entrepreneurs, business angels and investors alike.


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Griet Vanpoucke, Head of New Ventures at VIB:

“Over the past 25 years, VIB managed to build a solid reputation in the investment world because of its successful start-up track record. That network is invaluable: raising funds is all about networking and connecting to the right people at the right time.”

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VIB’s start-ups represent a total capital investment of +1.3 billion euro and a total of +850 people in direct employment.

 

Embarking on a long-term adventure

Starting from ideas or discoveries conceived in the VIB labs, the New Ventures team builds new biotech ventures. First off, the team will build a solid data package, obtain proof of concept (PoC) and define a solid IP strategy. The idea’s value is determined by proprietary knowhow, PoC data and intellectual property. Together with the scientists and supported by the IP colleagues, the New Ventures managers aim to de-risk and make the invention commercially relevant and applicable – and thus more marketable. 

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Jurgen Del Favero, Chief Technology Officer at Multiplicom/Agilent:

“Translating academic research into commercial products that directly impact the lives of patients is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Achieving this together with a multidisciplinary, dedicated team is an unprecedented and addictive experience.”

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Next the entrepreneurial team will draft a tangible business plan. This is where targets, timings and cost estimates come in. Involving entrepreneurs early-on in this process is a preferred route. They can help make the plan and eventually become part of the start-up’s management team. These ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ are usually seasoned professionals in biotech or pharma, who are ready to take a leap into a new adventure.

 

When the project is sufficiently derisked, the team starts looking for funding. For Aelin Therapeutics, the team was able to raise a record amount of 27 million euros, sufficient to bring a first candidate drug to the clinic and test its safety in humans.

In 2015, VIB launched the early stage life sciences investment fund V-Bio Ventures. V-Bio Ventures invests throughout Europe in start-up and early-stage life science companies with high growth potential. The fund focuses on investments in (bio)pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and agricultural improvements, and intends to build a portfolio of companies drawn from both VIB’s research pipeline and elsewhere.
 

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Johan Cardoen, Managing Director VIB:

VIB has invested into V-Bio Ventures and has a preferred deal flow arrangement with the fund. The relationship with V-Bio Ventures is valuable as the fund acts as a sounding board and brings the VC-perspective when we discuss early-stage start-up opportunities. Furthermore, investment of V-Bio Ventures in our start-up projects is a further sign of endorsement and convinces others to also invest in the project.”

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VIB Discovery Sciences projects have created a lot of interest among business partners and investment funds and could potentially lead to new start-ups as well as high-value license deals. As a good illustration of this, VIB Discovery Sciences recently leveraged the pipeline of VIB spin-offs Oncurious and Augustine Therapeutics through its activities.