Europe has never been a better place for innovation in life sciences, yet the USA is still regarded as the go-to country for serial entrepreneurs: Where is the future of life sciences?
Although location is important, in my opinion, there is no specific place for innovation. The US is still a good place to generate innovation, but Europe also has key advantages compared to America. We have to highlight that European biotech is growing. The US started long before Europe and we are now seeing the emergence of big companies that may deliver some excellent results. Europe is reaching critical mass, we are just waiting for a few key successes to drive the whole sector. One of the main differences that we need to take into account is the amount of capital injected into the US compared to Europe. There is a huge discrepancy between the two and an issue to be resolved if we are to encourage high potential projects.
Nanobiotix has been raising money both in Europe and in the US. If you had to give one piece of advice to a young entrepreneur looking to spark the interest of VCs, what would it be?
One single piece of advice does not exist, however it is important to focus on investors who are specialized in life sciences and establish a track-record of trust with them. This will increase your chances of receiving funding.
How can we foster the emergence of unicorns?
I think that European innovation is as progressive as what we are seeing in America. In my opinion, it is a question of mindset – Europe is just as good as the US. We need to start projects and think big immediately. Whether it is in France, Spain, Germany or the UK, think global not local. If you don’t, your project will not reach its full potential. You have to develop your company and expand your business internationally as quickly as possible. This should be done in terms of financing but also in terms of development and distribution of your technology – this is a pre-requisite for success.
You came to Paris to create Nanobiotix from the University of Buffalo. Did you always plan to engage international partnerships?
This was not part of the original plan but situations evolve. This is normal when you start a business or develop technology – you learn as you go. You don’t have a predefined business model. It has to evolve over time, so it was not something that was planned as such.
If you had to do it again, would you do things differently?
That is a good question. I think I can only give a theoretical answer as no two experiences are the same. If the question was “Is it better to start in the US or in Europe?”, I would say that there are different risks in each region. We often think of the US as a final target market for healthcare products but Europe has some additional advantages. One of these is the highly educated and motivated workforce. Europeans tend to stay with companies longer.
You are an experienced entrepreneur: How are you personally involved in supporting today’s life sciences start-ups?
The most valuable thing that we can do for start-ups is to help them understand the environment and prevent them from making mistakes. Our value add is advice and mentoring to accelerate good projects. When I find a good team with a promising project, I personally try to push them in the right direction. I am also involved with the European nanomedicine technology platform and we have created a large scale translation hub for Europe. Our goal is to transfer ideas to patients as fast and as efficiently as possible. This has been working well and we are starting to obtain excellent results. We’ve already helped 50 projects and we think that there are at least five that could become unicorns!