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THEY PREFER A SCIENTIFIC CAREER OVER A PATENT. WHY ARE POLES AFRAID OF BIOTECHNOLOGICAL STARTUPS

Still, few innovative biotechnological projects are being created in Poland. One of the obstacles is huge money needed to start research. Another one – the fact that scientists prefer a scientific career over business. “Such projects cannot be performed individually”, admits Robert Aleksandrowicz, former Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mabion SA. “Biotechnology is a team game”.

The biggest problem faced by a biotechnological startup is financing. It takes many years and huge money to bring a project to an end.

“Costs are huge but there is no biotechnology without large money”, admits Robert Aleksandrowicz. “In Poland generally the only possibility to finance a project is to reach out for private money. But this needs a business approach, one has to know how to “sell” an idea. It is a kind of a beauty contest. One who presents themselves best wins.

When to start searching for investors? In the opinion of Aleksandrowicz – as soon as possible. The first step in creating a startup should be a patent application, and right after that – search for investors who would want to invest money for research.

“Unfortunately, we often miss a sense of faith in our own achievements. Polish scientists, when they file patent applications, they do it in the Polish patent office and for the Polish market because this is cheaper and one can always say that the patent application has been submitted. Meanwhile, for a patent to be of actual value, it must be global. But it costs as much as several hundred thousand euro over few years. This terrifies many people. Personal savings will not be enough for it, and rarely anybody would want to incur debt”, he says. “And this is just the beginning of expenses. Hence, one will not get without partners who will add money and in this way take over a part of the risk. The faster we search for them, the better. They will assess such a project from a business point of view, not only the scientific one. It is also necessary to remember that investors look differently at a project in which someone has invested their money. It means that he or she believes in this idea.”

Unlike foreign scientific staff, Polish scientists rarely file patent applications. They prefer to focus on the scientific career to the same extent as their academic teachers did, and therefore they prepare publications about their discoveries. As a result, they work to obtain subsequent degrees, but lose the possibility to obtain a patent, build a start-up around it and finally earn money on it. The economy also loses on this, because interesting ideas do not reach the development stage.

“It is a tragedy if in Poland good biotechnological solutions are in scientists’ drawers”, he adds.

There is a continuous race with time in the biotechnological sector. Scientists all over the world are developing newer and newer medications, processes and devices that are to streamline operations of great concerns.

“We have to be aware that even if we have devised something, perhaps someone on the other end of the world has also came up with a similar idea”, he explains. “Hence, whoever carries their idea over through the development path faster wins. One cannot wait with research, because every year of prolonging a project means one year less of money earned by prospective investors. Scientists cannot afford wastage of time. The value of the idea is reduced every year as patent protection is shortening.”

Public funds can be obtained for the first, most risky research phases, business angels can be consulted. Further funding can be sought later through capital markets or directly from industry partners. There should be as many sources as possible.

In Poland there are entities that want to invest in innovative projects, but there are few of them and therefore only the best ideas will survive. Is it worth searching for money from foreign corporations? Yes but raising their interest in a Polish startup will not be easy at all. Poland misses large successful achievements in such projects.

Last year Prof. Tadeusz Pietrucha commenced a pioneer mission to create a strategic technological bridge (Polish-American Biotech Bridge) with American representatives of innovative biobusiness. It is to stimulate dynamic development of this sector in Poland. Representatives of the Polish bio-tech sector presented our achievements in this field to foreign investors and encouraged investment in Poland. Beginning such operations in our country involves much a smaller risk. Especially in the initial phases of the project.

Another step will be their invitation to Central European BioForum that will be held in Łódź on 15th and 16th May. During CE BioForum, a fair will be held on which companies from the biotechnological industry can present themselves, as well as B2B meetings which are an opportunity to find a business partner – also from abroad.

If we can raise interest in cooperation among foreign partners, the Polish bio-tech industry will experience continuous development in the nearest future.

“We need several startups that will be successful globally with their products or technologies, to show that something is going on in this sector in our country”, Aleksandrowicz wraps up. This will be a good example for western concerns that some valuable ideas can be found here, for scientists that there is a parallel development path for their career, and for investors that it is worth becoming interested in this sector of the economy.

You can sign up for CE BioForum using the website http://cebioforum.eu/rejestracja/

B2B meetings can be arranged through CEBioForum application (Android) or MK events (iOS).