Innovations at the Institute
Key to Karolinska Development’s operation is its close relationship with Karolinska Institutet Innovations (KIAB), which is owned by a holding company established by the Karolinska Institutet. KIAB essentially screens new opportunities to assess their scientific validity and commercial potential, and gives Karolinska Development first rights to invest in the most promising innovations identified.
Operating as an umbrella organization to support the progress of new ideas, KIAB has already evaluated over 1,000 new projects from a hub of 10 universities from the Nordic countries, providing what it believes represents a unique deal flow from these universities.
“KIAB essentially acts as a comprehensive incubator, evaluating, validating, and helping to patent new technologies and managing the new companies,” Dr. Bogentoft explains. “Karolinska Development’s relationship with KIAB means it rarely has to seek out new opportunities for investment, and although not all its portfolio companies are selected from the KIAB pot, the ability to cherry-pick from a pool of the most promising, scientifically elegant, and commercially viable developments significantly helps reduce attrition rate at all stages.”
Karolinska Development also has its own drug discovery company, Actar, based on the Karolinska Institutet campus in Stockholm. Actar works with academic researchers to help discover and validate drug candidates against new targets, which could either form the basis of a new company or be licensed out to big pharma.
Network of Expert Advisers
Karolinska Development’s management team has experience in product development and business within big pharma and is thus able to speed the development of portfolio companies. This team is supported by a network of some 300 specialists, including project managers, business development experts, and board members from a range of companies, who can be called on to provide portfolio companies with their particular areas of expertise when required.
“Our management and network means we have a business-focused approach to our portfolio companies, and can steer them in the right direction to expedite the progress of new products into the clinic and toward commercialization,” Dr. Bogentoft adds.
With the goal of taking on five or six new companies a year, Karolinska Development generally takes a lead-investor position in its portfolio business, which both gives it a controlling position, and also means the start-up doesn’t have to think about raising money during its early stages. With funding secured, sometimes until late-stage clinical trials, the researchers can get on with the job of developing products backed by the business, regulatory, and patenting know-how of Karolinska Development’s network.
Karolinska Development has now reached the stage where it is preparing for a stock market listing, Dr. Bogentoft says. “Our ambition is now to reward our owners, and prove that digging for gold in the biotech arena can and does pay dividends, both for investors and hopefully for the patients of the future.”