V-Bio Ventures: a fresh fund with a difference

February 24, 2021 Article V-Bio Ventures

V-Bio Ventures recently announced their second fund, with the first closing already totaling 78 million euros. As a VC fund with a focus on early-stage life sciences companies, V-Bio will be using Fund 2 to continue supporting European start-ups working on effective healthcare or sustainable agriculture solutions. In this interview, co-founders Christina Takke and Willem Broekaert, along with new Managing Partner Shelley Margetson, share some success stories from V-Bio’s first five years and how they plan to create value for both investors and society in the future.

Header image: Willem Broekaert, Shelley Margetson and Christina Takke (left to right) © Ine Dehandschutter

What led to the founding of the first V-Bio fund, five years ago?

Christina: VIB is a world-renowned research institute, with a long track record of spin-off companies. Despite this, in the mid 2010s they were finding there was a lack of funding options for early-stage companies, both for themselves and in general in the Benelux region. To meet this need, VIB decided to create a Venture Capital fund that would have a special relationship with the institute. Willem and I were brought on board to set up the fund, supporting the translation of promising research findings into start-up companies. We established a “preferred partnership” with the institute, where V-Bio has a proprietary and exclusive period of access to the VIB deal flow. As part of this, we have a close working relationship with the VIB tech transfer team and researchers, where we provide a sounding board and strategic advice very early on, to help select good candidate programs for spin-offs and support companies through the crucial first steps after founding.

Our aim with these companies isn’t only to create monetary value but to invest in innovations that will have a positive impact on society. For us, this means focusing on effective healthcare and sustainable agriculture. – Shelley Margetson

Willem: Despite this close relationship with VIB, V-Bio is as an independent fund, investing in VIB spin-offs but also in other start-ups sourced from around Europe. We see this as the best way to build a portfolio of companies that is appealing to other investors, including international funds. One of our missions has always been to increase foreign interest in local biotech opportunities, to bring capital and knowledge back into the Benelux ecosystem. When you look at the portfolio of V-Bio Fund 1, it’s clear we’ve achieved this: we’ve been able to draw international investors to the region to fund very early-stage science. With Fund 2, we’re continuing this mission, and have managed to solidify our position as one of the larger European early-stage funds in life sciences. We want to ensure that the Benelux has a sustainable fund for early-stage life sciences investments, with strong links to a whole network of international investors.

Read this previous article for a 2016 interview with Willem and Christina about Fund 1.

Can you tell us about Fund 1? What are some success stories that you’re especially proud of?

Christina: The V-Bio Fund 1 closed in 2015 with 76 million euro. At the time, our team consisted of just the two of us, but we quickly built a diverse, well-rounded team by recruiting people with strong backgrounds in science and investment. We put together a portfolio of 15 excellent companies, with an even split between seven VIB spin-offs and eight independent start-ups, working with universities all around Europe. With this portfolio we’re not going for a quick cash exit; we’ve already supported most of these companies through their foundation, then through Series A and B rounds where new external investors were brought on board after recognizing the increased value we have generated. We will continue to support these companies, even as we build a new portfolio with Fund 2.

Willem: The success of the Fund 1 portfolio is really nicely illustrated by the growth of the companies themselves, several of which V-Bio was really instrumental in founding. AgomAb is a good example: a llama antibody start-up built on research originating from the University of Torino in Italy. We played a crucial role in getting the company started both in terms of seed funding, initial management (which was done in-house by a V-Bio team member) and getting the company set up in Belgium. By establishing AgomAb here, in an area that’s brimming with antibody expertise (argenx founder Torsten Dreier eventually became AgomAb’s CDO), we were able to leverage the local environment to strengthen the company while also enriching that ecosystem with an influx of new scientists and IP. Several years on, and AgomAb is now gearing up for what’s looking to be a stellar Series B round.

V-Bio helps to create companies, but also ensure that start-ups are well managed and supported through the difficult early-stages until value is created that can attract larger rounds. – Christina Takke

Another example of a company V-Bio helped found is Aphea.Bio, a VIB spin-off developing microbiome-based products for sustainable agriculture. Again, we set up the seed round, led the Series A and supported the 14-million-euro Series B which was led by an external, international party we helped bring to the table. It has been a huge success story, particularly for an agriculture company: following the Series B, Aphea.Bio is now one of the largest ag start-ups in Europe. The company, based in Ghent, has become an important local entity both in terms of presence and employment.

Read this article to learn how Aphea.Bio is mining the microbiome for sustainable agriculture solutions.

Christina: For several of our other portfolio companies, like Confo Therapeutics and Orionis Biosciences, we weren’t part of the formal founding itself but were crucial in their internationalization and the growth. Precirix is another perfect example: previously known as Camel-IDS, the company was already established when V-Bio came on board but needed a boost to generate more interest and help it to really take off. We were instrumental in the evolution of the company into something large and exciting enough that it has now managed to attract the attention of an international consortium of investors. It’s what we do: V-Bio helps to create companies, but also ensure that start-ups are well managed and supported through the difficult early-stages until value is created that can attract larger rounds.

Will the investment strategy for Fund 2 remain the same?

Shelley: With further fundraising still ongoing Fund 2 is already larger than our first fund was at final closing. We’re pleased to be continuing our successful investment strategy. We’re maintaining our European focus – supporting promising start-up creation and early-stage companies. We plan to build a second portfolio of about the same size as the first, around 12 – 15 companies. With the larger fund we’ll simply have more fire power per company. And speaking of strategy, our aim with these companies isn’t only to create monetary value but to invest in innovations that will have a positive impact on society. For us, this means focusing on effective healthcare and sustainable agriculture. We want to help create products and technologies that matter.

The idea with V-Bio was always to establish a brand in the industry in the Benelux region that is there for the long haul… a fund that institutes and companies can trust to be there going forwards. – Willem Broekaert

Willem: We’re fortunate that what we do benefits both society and the local life sciences ecosystem. As we did with Fund 1, we’re about to embark on a 5-year plan to find new companies, with an option for a further 7 years of support through later financing rounds. The idea with V-Bio was always to establish a brand in the industry in the Benelux region that is there for the long haul. A VC with a Fund 1, 2, 3, 4…etc. We want to create something that the ecosystem can build on, a fund that institutes and companies can trust to be there going forwards.

What sets V-Bio apart from other VCs?

Christina: V-Bio is a fund with a difference, and what it all comes down to is diversity. Our portfolio is diverse, in part due to our unique access to the VIB deal flow but also because we choose to invest in solid scientific ideas from various fields around Europe. We also have a very diverse team, which has become even more so with the addition of Shelley Margetson (we now have six different nationalities represented in a team of eight)! If you look at other funds, the management teams are often very homogenous in terms of people’s background, gender, experience, nationality etc. We’re very different from the grey-suited bankers, or the young-and-fast techies; the V-Bio team is more well-rounded, and we really care about supporting good science for a better future.

V-Bio is a fund with a difference, and what it all comes down to is diversity. – Christina Takke

Shelley: I have been in biotech for over 20 years, but until now it was always on the entrepreneurial side. The time felt right to move to the other side of the table. I got to know V-Bio when I was CEO of OCTIMET, as Christina and Ward from V-Bio were board members. I’ve had plenty of first-hand experience in working closely with investors and what I saw during my time at OCTIMET convinced me that V-Bio really is different from other investors.  They truly have a genuine interest in helping the company to evolve, to create value both financially and for society. This was, above all else, why I decided V-Bio was the right VC team for me to join!

Head to the V-Bio showcase page for more articles and news from V-Bio Ventures!


V-Bio Ventures
V-Bio Ventures

We are a life sciences fund investing throughout Europe in start-up and early-stage companies with high growth potential. Our articles cover investment-related topics in life sciences, including innovation trends, the latest business themes and exciting updates on our portfolio companies.

All posts