HollandBIO's Biotech Thursday: creating a win-win situation for technology transfer
Last year, HollandBIO launched Life Sciences 2030: a joint vision to gain momentum for the Dutch life sciences sector towards 2030. One of the key recommendations of this vision was to create a cast-iron innovation climate focuses on technology transfer. Agile technology transfer offices that operate in the heart of the academia are crucial for valorization. Last week’s Biotech Thursday zoomed in on this important subject. Three renowned speakers shed a light on how to organize the technology transfer process in life sciences to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved.
After a short introduction by HollandBIO’s Annemiek Verkamman, Carsten Linnemann took the stage. Carsten co-founded T-Cell Factory, a spin-off of the Dutch Cancer Institute (NKI), and currently works as a principal scientist at Kite Pharma. The technology transfer office (TTO) of the NKI fulfilled a crucial role in the successful establishment of T-Cell Factory, enabling access to finance, external business development expertise and most importantly, giving the founders the necessary entrepreneurial space. Carsten’s advice: if you want to create a win-win situation for both the TTO and the startup, look for shared interests. In March 2015, T-Cell Factory was acquired by Kite Pharma: a success for the company’s founders as well as for the NKI-TTO.
The second speaker was Angus Livingstone, valorization director at Oncode Institute. The Institute bundles all available expertise to achieve one goal: outsmarting cancer and impacting lives. To this aim, 43 research groups will work together within Oncode Institute. In addition to providing basic funding for all principal investigators, Oncode Institute offers funding for equipment, technology access and clinical proof-of-concept studies. The targeted funding model aims to transform scientific excellence into societal and economic benefits. The Institute will be launched this summer.
Last but not least, Harrold van Barlingen, managing partner at Thuja Capital, presented a VC perspective on successful technology transfer. Like many life sciences investors, Harrold has a solid scientific background. As a result – although surprising to some – most VCs express a profound interest in the technological basis of their investment portfolio. Harrold states that TTOs and VCs often speak different languages, complicating their interaction. As an investor you have to deal with high risks and high failure rates. About one third of the investment portfolio goes bust and for the investments that do succeed, it takes typically 7 to 10 years before return on investment. Therefore, creating a balanced portfolio is crucial. TTOs are not equipped to manage these high risks and long timelines, making it hard to close a deal. TTOs are struggling with ever-changing landscapes, and limited financial and human resources. In order to succeed, TTOs should develop a partnering model, team-up with investors in an early stage, turn ideas into financeable packages, and take scientist by the hand to guide them through the process. According to Harrold, this approach will result in a smooth and successful technology transfer process and a win-win situation all players at the table.
As always, after the inspiring presentations, HollandBIO’s Biotech Thursday offered ample time to talk on with peers over drinks.