Germany needs 'four or five successful biotechs, not 400' - expert 

by Catherine Featherston

BERLIN, Feb 10 (APM) - Germany has all the resources necessary for a thriving digital healthcare and innovative biotech sector but its lack of successful start-up models is holding the country back, the head of Germany's life sciences entrepreneurial programme has told APM.

"We don't need 400 successful biotechs, we need four or five," Christoph Lengauer, CEO of the German Accelerator Life Sciences programme, told APM in a Thursday phone interview.

"How do we facilitate the growth and success of five? It's about creating optimism," he said.

Until a year ago, Lengauer had been chief scientific officer at Blue Print Medicines in Boston. The company went public in April 2015, raising $169 million in the most successful IPO in the state's biotech industry.

He was appointed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs in October 2015 to lead the German Accelerator Life Sciences programme in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The life sciences programme is designed to help German digital health and biotech start-ups get their business off the ground in the U.S. market while developing a larger, global strategy.

Lengauer said when the programme brings German companies to Cambridge, they immediately sense the high level of competition in the sector and learn how they need to elevate their game.

"The question is, for those people in Germany who want to take the risk, who want to go hard, how do you facilitate that?" he said.

More exclusive funding

Lengauer is urging the economic affairs ministry to make larger funding decisions to support a more exclusive set of start-ups.

"The government needs to decide it's not about being fair and making sure everybody gets the same amount, giving 500,000 to 1 million euros to everybody," he said.

"They have to be able to say, 'that person gets 20 million euros and 19 others get nothing'. It's very difficult to explain that to the taxpayer."

Ultimately Lengauer believes substantial funding from private investors will open up, but they need to be convinced that German biotechs can be successful.

"Why isn't more money in Germany invested in biotech? Because investors don't think there can be success. Germany needs more models for this."

The ministry is coming round to this thinking, Lengauer said. Originally they approached him with the "classic incubator" idea, he said.

"They wanted to sponsor 10 companies, bring them all over to the U.S. do a bootcamp or have general classes," he said.

But Lengauer convinced them to take a different approach by treating every company very individually, grooming them to become big, global players in their own way.

"We plan in the next year or so for one or two of the 10 to become big," he said.

"Once we have those successes, we can change the system."

[51752] 10/02/2017 12:52 GMT

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