3 questions to smart minds

Biotechnology booming in the USA

For this 3 questions to Dr. Peter Hanns Zobel

IZB Campus Martiensried
Photo: Peter Hanns Sable
1. June 2016

At the end of 2015, invest­ments in biotech in the USA again picked up stron­gly. Total U.S. venture capi­tal invest­ments amoun­ted to $72.3 billion. The biotech sector was an excep­tion, with $2.47 billion inves­ted there in Q4 alone, up 25% from Q4 a year earlier. In all of 2015, a record $8.95 billion was pumped into the biotech sector. What is the situa­tion in Germany in this sector?

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Mana­ging Direc­tor IZB Campus Martiensried

1. Biotech is curr­ently ranked #1 in Sili­con Valley. How is it that biotech has become such a center of attention?

Biotech­no­logy is one of the econo­mic hopefuls of the current century. Moreo­ver, even for many of the most serious dise­a­ses, the only hope for health lies in biotech­no­lo­gi­cal solu­ti­ons. Even though America is ahead of us by a nose, we don’t have to hide. In some regi­ons in Germany, and espe­ci­ally in Bava­ria, there is a biotech indus­try that is alre­ady 20 years old and that does not need to fear compa­ri­son with other biotech regi­ons in the world in terms of its scien­ti­fic basis. 

The start-up compa­nies at the IZB and, of course, the entire indus­try are working flat out on solu­ti­ons that the world is waiting for. Sheaths for breast implants made of natu­rally produ­ced spider silk, which no longer cause rejec­tion reac­tions. Devices that can iden­tify the drea­ded resistant germs in a time hori­zon as short as 8 minu­tes. Or anti­bo­dies from alpa­cas, which scien­tists can use to conduct rese­arch in half the time in any lab in the world. And let’s not forget the fight against dise­a­ses such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, which are being rese­ar­ched by the best scien­tists in the world.

2. What would you describe as the bott­len­eck in this sector in Germany?

The bott­len­eck is funding for biotech compa­nies. In the United States, this is much easier to obtain and is higher by a factor of 10. IPOs of biotech compa­nies are curr­ently diffi­cult to imple­ment in Europe and the often risk-averse invest­ment beha­vior of the capi­tal market does not favor the indus­try either! Without busi­ness angels such as the Strüng­mann brot­hers or Diet­mar Hopp and a few venture capi­tal compa­nies that invest in biotech­no­logy despite long deve­lo­p­ment times, the indus­try in Germany would proba­bly no longer exist in its present form. 

More incen­ti­ves would also need to be crea­ted in terms of tax policy. Invest­ments in this indus­try should be much more favored. This is where poli­tics has been called upon for a long time. Fort­u­na­tely, some of the IZB compa­nies were able to conclude contracts worth around EUR 630 million in 2015 alone. The deal by Baxalta, which acqui­red the IZB company Suppre­mol for 200 million euros, was outstan­ding. In a capi­tal increase on Nasdaq in New York, Pieris AG placed more than 9 million shares as plan­ned in July 2015. This results in net income of $22.7 million. Howe­ver, the indus­try needs much more money to relia­bly grow exis­ting compa­nies with excel­lent product ideas and also to enable new start-ups. Invest­ments in biotech­no­logy make a lot of sense because, on the one hand, highly inte­res­t­ing returns can be gene­ra­ted. On the other hand, howe­ver, the most valuable asset we have, namely our health, can be protec­ted ever more sustain­ably with new medi­ci­nes and therapies.

3. How does the IZB Martins­ried distin­gu­ish itself from other biotech centers in Germany?

The IZB sits at the center of a science campus unlike any other in the world. Surroun­ded by two Max Planck Insti­tu­tes (Bioche­mis­try and Neuro­bio­logy) and, among others, the Chairs of Chemis­try, Phar­macy and Biology of the elite LMU Univer­sity as well as the Biome­di­cal Center, the Demen­tia and Stroke Center, the Systems Biology Insti­tute BioSys M and the Helm­holtz Center, appro­xi­m­ately 12,000 scien­tists work on the campus. All faci­li­ties can be reached within 10 minu­tes. Of course, networ­king also takes place with the more than 60 high-tech compa­nies in the nearby indus­trial park. These include, for exam­ple, the two successful and largest biotech compa­nies such as Morpho­sys AG or Medi­Gene AG. Many IZB compa­nies coope­rate with the renow­ned Klini­kum Groß­ha­dern. The Inno­va­tion and Start-up Center Biotech­no­logy IZB in Martins­ried and Weihen­ste­phan offers start-up compa­nies an enorm­ously crea­tive envi­ron­ment in the field of cutting-edge rese­arch, excel­lent networks and a high-quality buil­ding infrastructure.

The IZB houses 63 start-up compa­nies, two restau­rants, confe­rence room manage­ment also for exter­nal compa­nies, two kinder­gar­tens or nurse­ries as well as a chemis­try school for TA trai­ning. In addi­tion, the IZB built a hotel with 42 rooms for campus guests in 2015 to adequa­tely accom­mo­date natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal visi­tors to the Martins­ried campus. Last but not least, to inten­sify networ­king between the enti­ties mentio­ned above, we have laun­ched the Facul­ty­Club G2B (Gate­way to Biotech), which now has over 300 members. With selec­ted events, such as the IZBrunch, the Biotech Press Lounge or the Munich Life Science Pitch Day, we network scien­tists with biotech compa­nies and venture capi­tal firms. Projects are also plan­ned for the near future that will pay into the Hotspot for Life Scien­ces infrastructure.

About the IZB

The deve­lo­p­ment company IZB mbH has become one of the top ten biotech­no­logy centers in the world. It was foun­ded in 1995 and is the opera­ting company of the Biotech­no­logy Inno­va­tion and Start-up Centers in Plan­egg-Martins­ried and Frei­sing Weihen­ste­phan and . More than 60 biotech compa­nies with more than 650 employees are loca­ted on 26,000 m². A key criter­ion for the success of the IZB is its proxi­mity to the cutting-edge rese­arch of Ludwig Maxi­mi­lian Univer­sity and the renow­ned biotech­no­logy rese­arch insti­tu­ti­ons on the Martins­ried campus, such as the Max Planck Insti­tu­tes. The Plan­egg-Martins­ried site now houses start-ups focu­sing on medi­cal biotech­no­logy on 23,000 m². Since 2002, the IZB in Frei­sing-Weihen­ste­phan has offe­red opti­mal condi­ti­ons for start-ups from the life science sector on 3,000 m². 

The next “Life Science Pitch Day” will take place on 24.06.16 in Marinsried:

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