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New Biopôle Start-up Fund to Foster Early Innovation in Life Sciences

Biopôle takes a key step by launching a new fund dedicated to supporting the next generation of impact-driven life sciences entrepreneurs. With an annual budget of approximately CHF 500’000, it aims to help accelerate the innovation of start-ups established on the campus and active in any area of the life sciences as Biopôle’s CEO Nasri Nahas explains.

Biopôle SA’s Board of Directors unanimously applauded the creation of the Biopôle Start-up Fund. The initiative is intended to support projects that promote the life sciences in their initial innovation phase. Applications are welcomed at any time from start-ups that are established at Biopôle, have been in existence for less than 5 years and have raised less than CHF 5 million in funding. Biopôle’s management team will be supported by an independent Scientific Advisory Board in evaluating and selecting the best and most promising applications, taking into account scientific excellence, the relevance of the business model and the quality of the founding and management teams.

Nasri Nahas, CEO at Biopôle SA since the end of 2015, explains that the fund’s primary goal is to encourage start-ups that show scientific impact and growth potential: “We at Biopôle are always eager to help our entrepreneurs in their innovation journey. With this new fund, we aspire to help our most promising start-ups to focus on their scientific contributions and on serving their clients and stakeholders. That is also why we have devised our Start-up Fund not as equity investment or a traditional loan but as a source of no-strings- attached financing. Only the most successful companies will be asked to reimburse their funding to help give back to the Biopôle community.”

Nouria Hernandez, Chair of the Board of Directors, adds: “Entrepreneurship is a mindset that needs to be encouraged. We need to show that those who are willing to give it a try won’t be left alone on their journey. Biopôle is the perfect playground for life sciences start-ups because, beyond its modern infrastructure, it offers a community of like-minded people.”

With the creation of the Biopôle Start-up Fund, Biopôle SA confirms its eagerness to support life sciences entrepreneurs and give them firm foundations in the canton of Vaud. In 2018, the company launched StartLab, the first incubator of its kind for life sciences start-ups in Switzerland. In 2019, Biopôle SA created the Digital Health Hub, where companies striving to develop digital solutions can work together and share experiences.

Asked how many startups could get the new fund support every year, Nasri Nahas explains: “This will depend on the needs and qualifications of each startup, but we would be expecting to support 6 to 8 innovative start-ups annually. Each company will receive an annual financial support of up to CHF 90,000, except our digital health companies that can pretend to maximum 40,000 annually. The Scientific Advisory Board will select companies on a trimestral basis, although companies are invited to apply anytime. We just launched the fund and we expect to receive the first applications by the end of June.”

A thriving Life Sciences ecosystem

Speaking on the evolution of Biopôle attractivity, the CEO further adds: “When I first arrived back in 2015, there were 26 companies hosted at Biopôle, today we count more than a 100. The diversity of stakeholders that gravitate around Biopôle has tremendously increased and we want to stimulate it even further. For the last 3 years we have launched several initiatives, StartLab, the Digital Health Hub and lastly Superlab in collaboration with Superlab Suisse. Biopôle is home of life sciences in Western Switzerland and we want to make sure that our initiatives can meet any need, from early stage to large companies. Our goal is to differentiate Biopôle and serve our dynamic ecosystem.”

The Biopôle currently hosts more than 100 companies and 25 research groups of UNIL, CHUV and the Ludwig Cancer Institute. The majority of its companies qualify as start-ups, or scale-ups, though at different stages in their developments. A ratio that reflects the dynamics of the region and echoes the macro level figures of the latter. This is a clear sign that the stakeholders of its entire ecosystem are working hard to stimulate innovation.


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