Category Archives: innovation

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014

The Nobel Prizein Physiology or Medicine 2014 is awarded for discovering how the brain navigates our way – our inner “GPS” system in the brain. The prize goes to J. O’Keefe (UCL, UK) and E. Moser and M.B. Moser (University of Trondheim, Norway).

mednobel2014

Small/Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Horizon 2020

“SMEs- The new tools/opportunities for access to finance introduced by Horizon 2020” by Jean-David Malo, Head of Unit SMEs, Financial Instruments and State Aid, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, EC.

horizon2020

“Access to risk finance”

Part of the horizon 2020 budget, that is 3,69% (2.7 billion euros) will be provided though grant funding but in the form of risk sharing for loans and guarantees and by providing risk finance (equity).

Goal: stimulate more investment in research and innovation To attract additional finance and multiply horizon 2020 budget resources for SMEs

Why?

Because of enduring difficulties in SMEs in accessing startup/Grant finance and because of the need to build an integrated European VC market

They cover a broad range of interventions such as :

  • Guarantees to mutual guarantee societies and banks lending to companies incl SMEs
  • Equity participation for early and growth stage investments

This funding will be typically delivered via financial intermediaries (banks funds etc) but also directly Operated by the EIB group but may also be operated by other financial institutions

Debt finance can be achieved through the following schemes:

  1. Loans service for R&I (called “RSFFII”) Loans and guarantees for investments in research and innovation; targeted at midcaps and larger companies, research institutes and Stand alone projects Loan amounts over 7,5 million
  2. Sme and small midcaps R&I loans service Loan guarantee facility between 25,000 to 7.5 million
  3. SME initiative : Joint guarantee instrument an securitization for loans to innovative SMEs and small midcaps

Equity finance (next year):

-Early stage finance for innovative enterprises

-Pilot facility for tech transfer , creation of spin offs

These schemes will be facilitated by the Horizon 2020 along with the “COSME” program.

More info on the initiatives can be also found here.

For the full presentation of Horizon 2020’s Financial Instruments, check this link.

You will have an exciting business adventure

Last Monday, TedxAcademy in Athens, Greece, organized an event that I will forever remember. Inspired thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators were invited to speak about making a difference in a country that is undergoing historical change. There were many excellent speakers, who talked about this time of rapid change, which amidst its high risk, it also offers the incredible opportunity to transform. I thought that two of them just stood out.

Costas Evripides is a founding member and Genesis Pharma’s Chief Executive Officer. In 2006, Costas was voted as the “Dynamic Entrepreneur of the Year 2006”, in the international competition “Entrepreneur Of The Year”. At the TedxAcademy, he advocated about starting a business in Greece. “You will have an exciting business adventure” he told us, if you follow these key ingredients of a successful startup:

  1. Passion
  2. Experience
  3. Create your our own networking circle
  4. Differentiation
  5. Specialization
  6. Stretched targets
  7. Flexibility
  8. Reliability
  9. Alliance building
  10. Choosing a strong team

And here’s the things to avoid:

  1. Be fast but don’t rush
  2. Appreciate the right timing
  3. Never give up
  4. Never rest up

And then, there was Stathis Kalyvas, the Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science and Director of the Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence at Yale University. Stathis talked about three key aspects to overcome the crisis:

  1. Incentive
  2. Vision for the future
  3. New social framework

    Stathis Kalyvas at the TedxAcademy 2011 event.

I couldn’t agree more. Inspired by my research, on the drug design sector (ie making novel drugs for human diseases), and these two excellent talks, I believe that there are plenty of opportunities to innovate and move forward utilizing the power of the flourishing Greek Pharma Industry. What Greece needs right now is transformation and growth, which could undoubtedly rise from the pharma industry’s active involvement in Greek pharmaceutical and biotech R&D, exploitation of the underutilized capabilities of Greek researchers ultimately leading to the creation of new, Greek drugs. Our country has extremely talented scientists, who could provide access to a multi-billion euro market: health. Greek Pharma-Academia partnerships could be key for emerging stronger out of the crisis.

TedxAcademy is a nonprofit organization inspired by “TED“, an organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. Thank you TedxAcademy for the wonderful opportunity to be part of this event!

Industry and academia tie the knot

When I was a student at the University of Athens in the late 90s, receiving funding from the Industry was almost unheard of. Although I was an undergrad at the time, I could see that the general Greek academic perception of collaborating with the Industry was viewed almost as the equivalent of a sell-out. Researchers considered teaming up with the Industry the betrayal of their academic purity.

When I was a student at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, things were different: A fair number of the lab’s grants stemmed from the Industry: the Volkswagen Foundation, BASF, Novartis, etc. and that was seen as an achievement. Our lab was not the only one to work with the Industry. It was a very common theme for Principal Investigators (PIs) in Germany to reach out to the Industry and big pharma, partner up, and exploit the best of both worlds.

When I was at Yale University, the situation was even better: It was now the Industry who reached out to us researchers. I was very fortunate to serve as the co-President of a very successful student society, the Yale Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Society (YBPS), now called Yale Healthcare and Life Sciences Club (YHLC). Industry sponsored our events and seminars, such as the “Life Sciences Case Competition”, the “Business of Biotechnology Seminar Series”, the “Healthcare Conference” and many others, in order to interact with us and possibly recruit students or form collaborations with research groups of the University.

When I arrived at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens in October 2009 as a faculty member, a pleasant surprise was awaiting me: The Greek General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) had just announced a grant call, named “Synergasia” (“Cooperation” in English), which aimed to enhance the ties and cultivate the collaboration between Greek Industry and Academia.

So times are changing. There is a new mindset in the academic world (at the very least in my area of expertise, drug discovery). Recent articles such as Nature’s Scibx, “Small (molecule) thinking in academia”, and “Partnering between pharma peers on the rise” of Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, explain how and why pharmaceutical–academia deals, such as the $100-million Pfizer pact with 8 academic Institutions from the Boston area, have been stealing headlines this year. In another recent brief mention in Nature, faculty members say that industry research has contributed to important work.

Life-science researchers in US universities receive $33,000 a year on average from the medical drug and device industry. […] More than half (51.9%) said they maintain a relationship with industry. The study found that such relationships provide significant benefits both to the researcher and to science. Among faculty members most involved with industry research, nearly half said it “contributed to their most important scientific work and led to research that would not otherwise have been possible”.

Exciting times. Still, challenges and caveats are obviously not absent. True collaborative environment between the partners, licensing/IP and publishing issues, technology transfer know-how, commercialization matters and different goals for each institution, are all issues that need to be seriously considered before teaming up in such consortia.

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