Experienced businessmen join forces with excellent science, invest € 2 million in the fund of IOCB Prague family
Leading Czech businessmen have joined to support 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 and 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.
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 Prague, 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.
"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 Prague director Prof. Jan Konvalinka.
"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,” adds Konvalinka.
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, private investors can invest in the field of new drug development with smaller amounts, which is very effective.
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.
Jaroslav Řasa, the 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&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. 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.