An aging population, fast-paced advances in medicine and ethical concerns are calling for innovations in drug development. The Frankfurt-based biotech start-up Genome Biologics aims at revolutionising the way medication is developed and tested. Made possible by the support of the European Enterprise Network, Genome Biologics’ recent success as participants of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument programme has put the company on the map.
Two scientists are riding a bus …” What sounds like the beginning of a joke was in fact a life-changing moment for experienced scientists Jaya Krishnan (PhD) and Jonathan Ward (MBA). While riding one of London’s iconic double-decker buses, the two friends came up with the idea behind Genome Biologics. Based on their combined 40 years of experience in preclinical R&D and cardiovascular disease research, Ward and Krishnan set out to develop
an alternative to the time-consuming, highly expensive, and risky process of drug discovery – and found it: Their patented artificial intelligence (AI) driven drug testing technology allows research and laboratory facilities as well as pharmaceutical companies to identify viable drug candidates for cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disease with remarkable reductions of time, costs and animal suffering.
A win-win technology for everyone
Convinced of the power behind their breakthrough idea, Krishnan and Ward decided to apply for the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument in order to get the necessary support to turn the idea into reality – and a viable business. In 2017, Genome Biologics won the first phase of the programme, thus receiving funding to explore the commercial potential of the idea. At this point, Krishnan and Ward attracted the attention of Olaf Jütner and his team at Hessen Trade & Invest: “We were impressed by the experience of Jaya and Jonathan and the immense potential of their idea, so we offered our support for the next phase of the SME Instrument”, Jütner explains. Hessen Trade & Invest is a member of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Their broad experience and relevant contacts are valuable sources of support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in navigating the various funding and networking programmes the EU has to offer.
Preparation is key when pitching for 2.5 million euros
Getting ready for Phase 2 of the SME Instrument process is a demand task, as it involves pitching for major funding in front of various experts. The EEN helped Genome Biologics take this next step by suggesting an EU coach for the pitching process. “They also did rehearsal interviews with us, gave feedback and just helped us feel ready”, Krishnan remembers. The intense preparation paid off – in 2018, Genome Biologics was granted 2.5 million euros to further develop their business and get ready for market entry.
Currently, the two founders are engaging with banks and companies to secure further financing opportunities. Olaf Jütner and his team are happy to support this process by suggesting strategically relevant networking and pitching opportunities. For example, Genome Biologics was able to pitch their idea to about 100 international venture capitalists at the 2017 Merck Innovations Venture Lounge in Darmstadt. The key to convincing potential investors, partners and customers, Krishnan and Ward have found, is knowing who to talk to. Ward elaborates: “What we do is completely different from how preclinical drug testing is currently done, which makes it very difficult to explain how groundbreaking it is. We need to make sure we talk to the correct people about this, and the EEN has been a great asset in this regard.”
With 2.5 million euros of EU-funding secured, the founders of Genome Biologics look to the future with confidence – and with many ideas on the horizon. “We want to tackle cancer next”, Ward announces. “We both have a background in cancer research and it is obviously one of today’s major medical challenges.” The advice, contacts and support of the EEN will accompany Genome Biologics as they continue their journey. “We can only encourage other start-ups and SMEs to seek out the EEN in their region”, Jay Krishnan emphasises. “We have profited immensely from their knowledge, contacts and personal support.”
Contact to the responsible Enterprise Europe Network partner:
Contact to Genome Biologics: