From academic research to spin-offs

August 29th 2019

Butterfly DrugDevBooster is a new BioPark Incubator nurturing programme dedicated to researchers. Its goal is to promote and accelerate the transition from academic research to spin-off creation.

From the discovery of a therapeutic target to the creation of a spin-off company, the journey is often a long one! ‘We offer guidance to researchers from ULB, UMons or other universities—as well as independent researchers—who would like their future spin-off companies to benefit from the BioPark’s ecosystem’, explains Florence Bosco, CEO of BioPark Dev and head of the BioPark Incubator. ‘In order for scientific discoveries to translate into medical breakthroughs that patients can benefit from as quickly as possible, we have created Butterfly DrugDevBooster. This programme is dedicated to nurturing spin-off projects using 4 key resources: initial funding, the incubator’s staff and experts, the Labhotel and preferential access to private and public investors as well as other sources of funding.’

Initial funding

Projects selected for Butterfly DrugDevBooster first receive up to €350,000, distributed over 6 to 12 months. ‘The private share of the funds is provided by the Butterfly Fund(1), a pre-seed investment fund. The remainder is provided by research and development grants from the Walloon region and by the CxO initiative, which funds business-oriented resources’, explains Florence Bosco.

A team with experts that can help prepare applications

Before injecting millions of euros into a project, investors take an in-depth look at its business case. This means the application must be as comprehensive as possible, and answer many questions, such as: what is the goal of the spin-off project? Does it meet an actual medical need? What would the market size be? Does the spin-off have a full team? What profile(s) need to be hired? What are the company’s financial needs? And so on.
The BioPark Incubator’s staff and experts then examine the project in light of all this information, before forwarding the application to the Butterfly Fund’s selection committee for a final decision on funding. ‘We have a medical director and several experts who specialise in developing therapeutic agents, from small molecules to cell and gene therapy through biological molecules. These experts can spot any shortcomings in the project’s initial data package. They suggest a nurturing plan and provide their support to those in charge of the project.’

Access to the Labhotel

Scientific proof, of course, is essential. Still, researchers who are independent or who have already launched a company do not always have the equipment and infrastructure required to develop their results. In order to remedy this, the Butterfly DrugDevBooster programme gives them access to the Labhotel. This laboratory is fully equipped with the most advanced analytic technologies, and is located within the BioPark’s Institute for Medical Immunology (IMI). The IMI’s qualified staff helps researchers conduct the analyses they need to consolidate their project, and offers comprehensive lab management services.

A network of investors

The BioPark Incubator’s team has also built, over the years, a vast network of investors specialised in life sciences. ‘The eventual goal of the nurturing programme is to submit projects to our network of investors’, concludes Florence Bosco. ‘The idea is to launch and/or boost fundraising so that the spin-off may start its activities on the Biopark as quickly as possible.’

(1) Contributors to the Butterfly Fund are Theodorus, SambrInvest and Life Science Research Partners (related to Fund ).