Over 250 innovative minds gathered in Munich on April 23-24 for the 11th BioVaria to discuss emerging life-science trends and initiate partnerships between academia and industry. 63 peer-selected, patent-protected technologies originating from as many research institutes, universities and university hospitals from all over Europe were presented to decision makers from the biopharmaceutical industry and investment.
BioVaria's Startup Pitch & Partner Program featured 15 European startups in two categories, ‘Emerging’ and ‘Rising’ startups. 10 of the startups were pre-selected to participate in the BioVaria Startup Award competition moderated by Dr Dirk Vocke, Associate Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Incubator, Merck KGaA, Germany, and Dr Nadine Sobotzki, Associate, M Ventures. Competing startups pitched their stories to the audience and a jury of first-tier venture capitalists, followed by a challenging Q&A session. Based on a set of pre-defined criteria covering technology, business concept, market and presentation skills the jury selected London-based LIfT Biosciences Won 'Best Rising Biotech Start-up', and Munich-based OPSYON won 'Best New Emerging Biotech Start-up'. Both ventures focus on cancer immunotherapy. OPSYON generates new and effective immuno-oncology therapeutics with reduced systemic toxicities by combining the specificity of antibodies with the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibition. LIfT Biosciences pursues a novel approach to cell-based cancer treatment using cancer killing neutrophils. Their vision is to develop a scalable method to produce enough safe and effective neutrophils to provide a global and cost-effective cure to solid tumour cancers. LIfT BioSciences' product is called 'N-LIfT', and represents a first-in-class cell therapy for solid tumours.
“BioVaria is the best startup event I have had the pleasure to attend,” said Alex Blyth, CEO of LIfT Biosciences. “The balance of startups to investors, biotech and big pharma companies was just perfect.”
The startups also received invaluable guidance from speed-dating sessions with investors and one-on-one mentoring sessions with dedicated experts. Moreover, they could benefit from an inspiring keynote delivered by Dr Hella Kohlhof, CSO of Immunic Therapeutics, who recently closed one of Europe’s largest ever Series A investment rounds.
The event was jointly organized by Ascenion and a further 16 technology transfer organizations from seven European nations.
Another high-light at the event was a panel on rare diseases moderated by Prof. Dr Horst Domdey, BioM, featured an international range of panellists representing academia, the biotech and pharma industry as well as patient and non-profit organisations. They discussed the particular challenges and opportunities of drug development for rare diseases and proposed innovative financing models to reduce risk and highlighted the need for public private partnerships. The panel also agreed that there remains an urgent medical need for more effective ways to diagnose and treat rare diseases. Particular efforts should be made to communicate which diseases are seen to be commercially tractable by industry and this information shared with academic researchers.