New money for life sciences startups!

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While many investors shy away from financing early-stage companies, the VIB took the bold initiative to set up a new fund dedicated to investing in start-ups and young life sciences companies. Although founded by VIB, the Ghent-based fund is an independent entity and will be managed by a team of 5 life sciences experts. The fund, called V-Bio Ventures, starts with more than 60 million euros in capital.

The European Investment Fund as quality label

Johan Cardoen, VIB Managing Director, is the driving force behind the new fund. He convinced institutional investors and family offices to invest: “The most important investor is the European Investment Fund (EIF). Participation of the EIF is like a quality label. Their partnership emphasizes the importance of corporate governance and compliance and motivated third party investors to join. Basically every new life sciences fund in Europe has the EIF as a limited partner,” explains Cardoen.

Participation of the EIF is like a quality label.

A difficult startup

The foundation of V-Bio Ventures did not go off without a hitch. But thanks to Cardoen’s perseverance and with the help of the VIB, the fund could be established.  “The EIF was interested in cooperating from the start. This was very helpful, as we had no previous experience,” says Cardoen. “However, some unexpected difficulties popped up. When we were almost ready to launch, the initial management team withdrew for personal reasons. That was a serious setback. We had to find a new team and guide the fund through those critical first months.”

The foundation of V-Bio Ventures did not go off without a hitch. We were lucky that the initial investors, including EIF, did not give up!

“It has not been easy to bring together a good managing team. We now have Christina Takke (ex-partner Forbion) on board. She has a biomedical background and was in the board of directors of ArgenX and Amaken. Another key person on the management team is Willem Broekaert, a scientist-entrepreneur, specialized in agriculture. Christina and Willem are very complementary as the first two managing partners.”

Dual roles

VIB has dual roles in this fund. On one hand, the VIB is one of the investors in the fund. On the other hand, there will be a preferred deal flow from the VIB to the fund. Cardoen comments: “This doesn’t make the start-up process easier for the VIB. Applications will all have to comply with the same stringent requirements regardless of where they originate. In addition, decisions on which projects are funded will be made independently from VIB. Furthermore, the scope of the fund is broader than solely VIB or Flanders, international companies can also qualify for funding.”

Growing the local ecosystem

There are only a few funds in Belgium that invest in life sciences startups, as it is a risky investment. Not all of them will make it! But it is crucial for young life sciences companies to have access to sufficient funds so they can confidently take the first step and fully develop their potential.

We aim to bridge the gap between these young companies and the large startup budget needed.

Investing in life sciences is capital intensive and requires a long term commitment. The fund will partner with other investment funds to provide the young biotech companies with the necessary funds. “V-Bio Ventures will actively participate in the development and growth of the life sciences sector. This will definitely benefit the local ecosystem,” concludes Cardoen.

Not all startups will make it. It is a risky investment.

Fact sheet of V-Bio Venture:

  • > 60.000.000 €
  • Independent managing team of 5 people
  • Investors: EIF, VIB, institutional investors and family offices
  • Located in Ghent
  • Focused on life sciences
  • Focused on early-stage companies
  • Interested? Contact: Willem Broekaert, and Christina Takke,