Company News: Okairos Raises €16 Million in Series B Financing

Swiss-Italian vaccine play Okairos today announced the closing of a €16 million series B financing round. The proceeds will be used to further advance Okairos’ product portfolio. The vaccines developed by Okairos are based on new, potent adenovirus vectors that can engage the cellular arms of the immune system to elicit a strong immune response involving T cells. The company is addressing major infectious diseases, e.g. malaria, HIV, hepatitis C and universal influenza. The financing was led by Versant Ventures and joined by the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. All existing investors – BioMedPartners, LSP and Novartis Venture Funds – also participated in the round. For further information, please visit the company’s website.

Company News: Probiodrug Appoints Kumar Srinivasan as Chief Business Officer

Probiodrug (Halle, Germany) has appointed Dr Kumar Srinivasan, previously Vice President, Global Business Development at Wyeth, to Chief Business Officer. Wyeth was acquired by Pfizer in 2009. Probiodrug has a focus on neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer’s disease. In this indication, the company pursues a novel target and pathway and is preparing for the start of clinical development of one of its lead candidates, a small molecule inhibitor of the enzyme glutaminyl cyclase (QC). Kumar Srinivasan, MBA, has a background as research chemist and is an experienced pharma / biotech dealmaker. He will be responsible for Probiodrug’s global business development activities and will be based in Philadelphia, PA. The full press release can be found here.

Food for Thought: The Challenges of Investing in Science-Based Innovation

What are the rules of investing in science-based innovation? How much long-term thinking does it take to get through tightened markets and economic downturns? These questions are at the core of Vicki L. Sato´s research, who is a Professor of Management Practice in the Technology and Operations Management unit at Harvard Business School. In addition, she is also an advisor to Atlas Venture´s life sciences team.

In her view, smart science-based businesses regard today´s economic difficulties as an opportunity to boost their research and innovation for long-term competitive advantage. However, she cautions, different situations require different business decisions and investing in R&D is not always the key to success. The right approach, Sato argues, is to evaluate innovation management challenges from various  perspectives, such as corporate strategy, organizational design, decision-making, and resource allocation. This is even more important as key investment metrics, which are  measuring a company´s past and current financial performance, will not suffice as a stand-alone parameter in determining future success. Even though this is not a new observation and Sato admits that “the rules haven´t been written yet in this field of study”, the faculty research focuses on best practices and cases studies and may therefore come up with insightful and valuable concepts on investing in science-based businesses. We are looking forward to any future updates!

Source: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, June 1, 2009. Author: Julia Hanna

Food for Thought: Lessons from a Start-up Nation

Start-up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer addresses the trillion-dollar question: How is it that a country of a mere 7.1 million people has per capita venture capital investments 2.5 times greater than in the US (more than 30 times greater than in Europe), the highest density of high tech start-ups in the world (1 for every 1,844 inhabitant) and more companies listed at NASDAQ than all companies from the entire European continent?

The book is about Israel, and while much can be attributed to the extraordinary history of the country and its hostile environment, other factors such as a culture of leadership, risk management and  “can do” attitude are at least equally important . “When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea,” the authors state, “he will start it that week.”

The book points out that while clusters of excellence with tight proximity to great universities, large corporations and start-ups (as well as to suppliers, an engineering talent pool and venture capital) are important, this is not enough. In Israel, a typical high tech start-up receives about 10 times more seed funding than in Europe although the turnover rate of start-ups is much shorter and faster, even compared to US standards. In addition, as compared to Korea, Singapore, China and even to the EU and US, the country has a culture of constantly challenging authorities and wide-held beliefs and of team orientation and networking.

And while macro-economic factors can only be altered slowly, cultural attitudes can be changed more easily on a coporate and personal level, and this is why the book makes an inspiring reading.

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