The EIF has invested €25m in the Prague-based i&i Biotech Fund I to boost biomedical tech transfer in Austria and Eastern Europe.
On Fridey, the European Investment Bank announced the first Horizon Europe-backed seed investment of its the European Investment Fund (EIF) (EIF) into the commercialisation of med-tech, biotech, and diagnostic innovations in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and neighbouring countries. The recipient, Prague-based i&i Biotech Fund, was created by the the Czech Academy of Sciences and Czech Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) to provide pre-seed, seed and series A rounds.
The IOCB was behind a number of compounds discovered in its labs and successfully translated into pharma blockbusters. This includes several antiviral drugs that have been licensed to and developed by Gilead Sciences. According to IOCB Prague Director Zdeněk Hostomský, Czech science provides "outstanding fundamental research in a number of fields, but it can’t be done without an active transfer of results into practice.” Until last Friday, the i&i Biotech Fund had a volume of €50m for biomedical tech transfer.
According to EIF CEO Alain Godard, it will be the first tech-transfer-centred fund in Central Europe to offer this kind of support to regional research organisations. Besides this comparably small amount of funding, the EIB has created a €10bn EIC fund to support commercialisation of academic breaktthrough innovations in order to catch up in tech-transfer to the US and to stop the EU life sciences brain drain into US biotech clusters where more seed and growth financing is available than in Europe. However, EU Venture Capitalists have criticised this kind of state funding with tax payer’s money to use intransparent selection criteria and do not provide the kind of professional expertise compared to US east and west coast funds to attract investments from business angels and family offices.
The latest EIF investment in the fund stems from InnovFin under Horizon 2020 and the European Guarantee Fund (EGF), which was set up by the European Investment Bank in 2020 to help accelerate the recovery of the EU economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. The EGF is made up of €2bn in guarantees from EU Member States, which are set to trigger additional investments of up to €200 billion for European companies.
“At the EIF, we are delighted to be helping biomedical scientists in Central Europe commercialise their research and create new biomedical companies and products," said Godard. "Our investment in the i&i Biotech Fund is an investment in an improved quality of life thanks to scientific breakthroughs in biomedicine, but also in a green, modern economy, job creation and the European Union’s global competitiveness.”
According to Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth the hot drop on the stone "Is an important step towards strengthening Europe’s biomedical research and seeking new competencies in health. In the European Union we are committed to science innovation across Europe, and I am therefore very pleased that the European Commission is backing the newly established i&i Prague fund.”
Several biootech CEOs told European Biotech that the amount of support from the EU remains too small and bureaucratic to keep value creation in Europe compared to the US.