Experienced businessmen join forces with excellent science, invest € 2 million in the fund at the IOCB
30 November 2022
Prague, 30 November 2022. Leading Czech businessmen have joined the support of the most promising scientific projects. Eight prominent entrepreneurs have contributed nearly €2 million to the i&i Biotech Fund (i&i Bio), an investment fund that specializes in finding and developing unique academic startups in the fields of drug development, diagnostics and medical technology. The new investors include among others Ondřej Bartoš from Credo Ventures or Jaroslav Řasa, founder of ABRA Software. With the new contribution, the total capital of the fund has risen to approximately €47 million.
The investment fund i&i Bio was established last year as a result of the cooperation between the bio-innovation center i&i Prague and the European Investment Fund (EIF). It is the first ever fund to support technology transfer not only in the Czech Republic but also in other V4 countries. "We are only interested in the best projects that can succeed on global markets. They must convince us not only of the global uniqueness of their science, but also of their market potential and the managerial qualities of their team," explains Jaromír Zahrádka, the fund's CEO.
"We are only interested in the best projects that can succeed on global markets. They must convince us not only of the global uniqueness of their science, but also of their market potential and the managerial qualities of their team,"
CEO of i&i Biotech Fund
The fact that only the best projects receive funding from i&i Bio is shown by the numbers. So far, out of the 450 projects that applied for the investment from i&i Bio, only six have succeeded. Zahrádka adds: "We have invested about €7.4 million in the selected projects, with a further €58 million raised by these startups from other investors or grants."
A unique ecosystem
The fund i&i Bio was created as part of the innovation ecosystem built by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences (IOCB), which further consists of the successful company IOCB Tech (a technology transfer office founded by IOCB in 2009) and the bio-innovation center i&i Prague (founded in 2017). Overall, a supportive ecosystem is developing around IOCB, which is unique not only in the Czech Republic, but also at the European level.
"We want to build on the global success of Prof. Holý and his antiviral drugs. We certainly have a lot to offer, for example Dr. Majer's cancer drugs developed in the USA or Dr. Polášek's radioactive lutetium production technology. But without investors and a whole ecosystem of support for the transfer of science into applications, this cannot happen."
Prof. Jan Konvalinka
Director of IOCB
"Transferring the ideas of our scientists into practical use is a key condition for the technological success of this country. Everybody knows it, politicians are committed to it, but it is still a very slow process. Political proclamations are not enough. You need great science comparable to the world's best, but you also need professionals for technology transfer and investors willing to put money into risky new projects. This is exactly what our colleagues at IOCB Tech and i&i Prague are doing," says IOCB Director Prof. Jan Konvalinka and adds: "We want to build on the global success of Prof. Holý and his antiviral drugs. We certainly have a lot to offer, for example Dr. Majer's cancer drugs developed in the USA or Dr. Polášek's radioactive lutetium production technology. But without investors and a whole ecosystem of support for the transfer of science into applications, this cannot happen."
Quality science can now be supported with smaller sums of money
The i&i Bio Investment Fund builds on the incubation and investment activities of the i&i Prague bio-innovation center, which was joined by the EIF as a major European investor. This tandem has now been joined by another 8 (7 Czech and 1 Slovak) private investors. Thanks to the fund, the private investors can invest in the field of new drug development with smaller amounts, which is very effective.
"Therefore, I see the fund and its entire ecosystem as an important opportunity to connect venture capital and interesting scientific projects."
Director of Credo Ventures
Among them is the experienced investor Ondřej Bartoš, Director of Credo Ventures. "Investing in the results of science and research in the field of life sciences, drug development, etc. is a special area requiring very demanding expertise, which i&i Bio with its broad academic background offers. Therefore, I see the fund and its entire ecosystem as an important opportunity to connect venture capital and interesting scientific projects," says Ondřej Bartoš explaining his entry into the i&i Bio fund.
"I consider it crucial for the Czech Republic to create products with very high added value. The only way to achieve this is to take advantage of cutting-edge scientific knowledge in ultra-modern fields and invest in its transfer to business."
Founder of ABRA Software
Jaroslav Řasa, founder of ABRA Software, also joined the group of new investors and says: "I consider it crucial for the Czech Republic to create products with very high added value. The only way to achieve this is to take advantage of cutting-edge scientific knowledge in ultra-modern fields and invest in its transfer to business. The i&i Bio Fund has my full confidence. I am happy to be active in science, both in the business and non-profit areas - i.e. by supporting the Neuron Foundation."
Martin Kovalčík, firstname.lastname@example.org, +420 777 472 863
i&i Biotech Fund (i&i Bio)
i&i Bio is a Luxemburg-based venture capital firm that invests in innovative European Life Sciences companies focused on drug discoveries, medical devices, diagnostics, and digital health. The Fund was created thanks to the cooperation of the biotech incubator i&i Prague and the European Investment Fund (see below). With over €47M under management, i&i Bio plans to invest in about 20 early-stage companies. i&i Bio is led by an experienced team of professionals with backgrounds in private equity, healthcare and venture capital supporting entrepreneurs on their journey to global success. Thanks to close cooperation with the fund’s main sponsor, the biotech academic incubator i&i Prague, i&i Bio is supporting and advancing transformative Central European technology companies.
About the European Investment Fund (EIF)
The Fund is supported by an investment from the EIF, with the support of:
lnnovFin Equity, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) set up under the Investment Plan for Europe. The purpose of EFSI is to help support financing and implementing productive investments in the European Union and to ensure increased access to financing; and
the Pan-European Guarantee Fund (EGF), implemented by the EIF with the financial support of the Participating Member States. The objective of EGF is to respond to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that companies in the Participating Member States have sufficient short-term liquidity available to weather the crisis and are able to continue their growth and development in the medium to long-term.
About i&i Prague
i&i Prague focuses on the transfer of new technologies into practice. It was established at the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS and is dedicated to innovations in the field of drug development, diagnostics and medical devices originating from academic institutions. It supports the creation of spin-off companies and the sale of licenses. So far, the company has participated in the creation or otherwise supported 15 spin-off companies from 5 countries, has an equity stake in 9 of them and has invested over 70 million crowns. Overall, the spin-offs in i&i Prague's portfolio have raised more than CZK 1.8 billion from other investors. In 2021, i&i Prague established the i&i Bio Investment Fund in cooperation with the European Investment Fund. For more information visit www.iniprague.com.
About IOCB Prague
IOCB Prague is a leading internationally recognized research institute whose primary mission is basic research in the areas of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, organic and materials chemistry, natural products chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. One of the institute’s strategic goals, therefore, is the systematic commercialization of and transformation of the results of basic research into products designed to make life better. Since 2010, all activities relating to the transfer of results to practice, applications, and intellectual property have been coordinated by the institute’s subsidiary IOCB TECH. Since 2017, the institute launched another subsidiary called i&i Prague, which provides financial backing for the early stages of promising projects developed at the institute and other research and academic centers. For more information visit www.uochb.cz.