30th September 2019
EIT Health InnoStars was one of the strategic partners of the EU-Med Summit 2019, where open discussions around development of biotech industry took place.
EIT Health InnoStars was one of the strategic partners of the EU-Med Summit that took place on the 24-25 September in Łódź, Poland. From start-up to scale-up, the EU-Med Summit aimed to support the growth of healthcare innovation by driving collaborations, business opportunities, investments, and knowledge. As the Polish start-up ecosystem is thriving, and the Polish healthcare and biotech industries continue to grow, there is a need for sharing insights between European, Polish and Israeli innovators.
Mikołaj Gurdała, Innovation Manager and Regional Manager at EIT Health InnoStars, led the opening panel discussion – “The Future of the Biopharma Sector in Poland – an Overview of Innovative Biopharma companies” – with the participation of representatives of companies such as Mabion, Proteon Pharmaceuticals, Polpharma Biologics, and Personather. The panel discussion was opened by a talk entitled “Why invest in Biotechnology and Pharma in Poland?” led by Avi Matan, the General Manager of Novartis Oncology Poland. It was highlighted that Poland is the only country in Europe that was not affected by the financial crisis in 2008, proving sustainable growth was possible. According to a report prepared by McKinsey & Company, “Poland 2025: Europe’s new growth engine” (2015), many predictions have already been fulfilled and the country has surpassed economic forecasts. Pre-empted to be accomplished in 2025, Poland has already attained the levels of Italy, Spain and Portugal in GDP per capita, as well as becoming one of the largest process manufacturers in the EU.
How do the biotech and healthcare sectors look in Poland?
The current investment levels and the gross domestic spending on R&D is still one of the lowest in the EU (around 0.5%, according to OECD 2000-2018). On the other hand, innovation has recently become a top priority for Poland. There are new regulations aimed at increasing healthcare spending by up to 6% in the next few years. There have been new incentives set up by the Polish government such as the special biomed fund (500 million PLN) incubator and other activities managed by the Polish Medical Research Agency. According to BMI, Poland is becoming more and more of an attractive investment location for R&D and clinical trials, thanks to the significant numbers of patients and relatively low operational costs. The first biopharmaceutical companies in the country began opening from 2000. Today, on the Polish stock exchange, there are several biopharma companies, including EIT Health Partners such as Celon Pharma.
What are the most important needs of biotech companies and what should biotech start-ups be thinking about when considering scale-ups?
Sławomir Jaros, CSO, COO and Member of the Board at Mabion highlighted that when they began there were not many biotech start-ups in Poland. One of the biggest challenges back then was how to build a team as the company did not have significant budget for acquiring people from abroad. Fortunately, in Poland, companies do have access to a great talent pool. “We were looking not for employees, but team members. This was our strategy. Today we have 200 specialists on board, and we are a Polish stock exchange biotech company that has the longest record.” Piotr Zień, Innovation and Science Director at Polpharma Biologics, stated that every start-up should have the vision for exit strategy and at the very early start look for partners to get access to other markets. And if the start-up is a new kid on the block, it should work from the very beginning on building recognition and its visibility. Piotr Rieske, CSO at Celther, and CEO at Personather, mentioned the importance of collaboration with academia and proper IP management. “Today, protecting IP requires years to build trust between business and academia and strengthening relationships”, he underlined. Professor Jarosław Dastych, CEO of Proteon Pharmaceuticals also underlined that, in terms of financing, the start-up has to think about going globally from the beginning, also in terms of IP. The entrepreneurs summarised the discussion with a clear statement that the Polish market has great potential for development in the biotech industry. There is no intense competition in the country in terms of human resources or infrastructure; its talent pool is its main competitive advantage within the Polish biotech market.
The EIT Health representatives also joined other panel discussions during the EU-Med Summit. Tamas Bekasi, EIT Health RIS Business Creation Manager took part in “What do investors look for? Challenges and Opportunities in Healthcare and Digital Medicine”, while Katalin Szaloki, Public Affairs Lead at EIT Health InnoStars shared insights as regards Governments Offers for Innovation Support.
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