EIF to invest €25 million to support biomedical tech transfer in Central Europe

  • The EIF will invest €25 million in the i&i Biotech Fund I to boost the commercialisation of scientific research projects and the competitiveness of the EU economy in biomedicine.
  • The investment will be supported by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
  • The fund will invest in spin-off companies from biomedical research organisations based in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and other neighbouring countries.
  • The i&i Biotech Fund is a €50 million tech transfer fund based in the Czech Republic, working in close cooperation with the Czech Academy of Sciences.

On 24 September 2021, The European Investment Fund (EIF), part of the European Investment Bank Group (EIB Group), invested €25 million in the Czech i&i Biotech Fund I to help Central European research organisations commercialise their biomedical scientific research. The i&i Biotech Fund is a €50 million tech transfer fund created to provide pre-seed, seed and series A rounds, which are crucial for the successful transformation of newly researched technology into companies. The fund will be active in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and other neighbouring Central European countries.

The i&i Biotech Fund will work in close cooperation with the Czech Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

It will be the first fund in Central Europe to offer this kind of support to regional research organisations, which frequently find themselves at the forefront of scientific innovation and on a par with their peers in Western Europe or in the United States, but unable to benefit from the commercialisation of the research and thus missing out on possible revenues. Support from the fund will therefore advance science and innovation in Europe and in turn help create new jobs and new sources of income for local economies, as well as boost overall European global competitiveness in the field of biomedicine.

The 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 €25 billion in guarantees from EU Member States, which are set to trigger additional investments of up to €200 billion for European companies.

Chief Executive of the EIF Alain Godard said: “At the EIF, we are very proud of our latest investment and contribution to European research, innovation and competitiveness in the field of biomedicine. We are delighted to be helping biomedical scientists in Central Europe commercialise their research and create new biomedical companies and products, ensuring that people across the globe can benefit from their groundbreaking research. 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.”

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “This financing is an important step towards strengthening Europe’s biomedical research and seeking new competencies in health. The i&i Biotech Fund is accelerating the proof-of-concept stage of projects in the fields of medtech, diagnostics and drug discovery. 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.”

IOCB Prague director Zdeněk Hostomský said: “Czech science is proud of outstanding fundamental research in a number of fields, but it can’t be done without an active transfer of results into practice. We know it pays off thanks to the extraordinary example of Antonín Holý and Gilead Sciences, whose drugs changed the treatment of AIDS throughout the world, saved millions of patients, and not only turned a small business into one of the biggest pharma companies in the world, but also transformed our institute into a thriving research centre. If we want to see more stories like that, we must constantly develop tools to promote tech transfer and facilitate the founding of new companies capable of seeing the development of groundbreaking discoveries and technologies through to completion and making headway in competitive international markets. That’s something our institute has been working on for a long time, and by establishing this fund we want to motivate others to do the same.”

The i&i Biotech Fund is the result of a long-standing partnership between the EIF and leading research organisations across Europe to promote and accelerate technology transfer on the continent – a key element to turning breakthrough innovations from scientific labs into products and economic growth.

To date, the EIF has invested over €1.1 billion in support of technology transfer in Europe.

Translating scientific excellence into new jobs, revenues and better quality of life

The fund will work to replicate and multiply the impressive success of the Czech Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB) in the commercialisation of its biomedical research and transfer of technology into products and revenues.

As one of the leading research organisations in Europe, the IOCB was behind a number of compounds discovered in its labs and successfully translated into pharma blockbusters with global sales beyond $1 billion. This includes several antiviral drugs that have been licensed to and developed by Gilead – the tenth largest global pharmaceutical company – such as tenofovir (reference molecule against HIV within standard tri-therapy), cidofovir (treatment of CMV retinitis in AIDS patients) and adefovir (treatment against hepatitis B infections).

Licensing contracts for these compounds bring annual revenues to ICOB in the tens of millions of euros, which are reinvested in new research projects and an even higher quality of life for people around the world.

A partnership for EU global leadership in biomedicine

The fund will be the first tech transfer-dedicated fund in Central Europe and one of just a few European tech transfer funds focused on life sciences. It will tap into the output of several high profile and successful academic institutions in Central Europe with thousands of researchers that have virtually no substantial funding dedicated to bringing innovations to the market, thus removing a significant barrier to sustainable growth for the European Union and to global EU leadership in biomedicine.

The fund is the latest addition to the EIF’s portfolio of technology transfer funds established in partnership with leading European biomedical research organisations such as the Max Planck Society (Germany), KU Leuven and VIB (Belgium), UMC Utrecht (Netherlands) and Institut Pasteur (France).