Over the last few years, our global pharma and biotech industries have made some major breakthroughs that are changing the lives of millions of people for the better. Biosensors are helping patients monitor their health; gene mapping is making healthcare more preventive, and bioplastics might save our oceans.
Then, of course, there are the life-saving Covid-19 responses, helping us overcome the pandemic and get back to a semblance of normalcy. That’s a lot of innovation packed into a relatively short time. So how do they do it?
Well, one of the ways to innovate quickly is to invest in a corporate incubator, like AstraZeneca’s BioVentureHub. Many of today’s leading pharma and biotech companies have invested in their own corporate venturing arms:
- Johnson & Johnson created JLABS
- Novartis created Novartis Venture Funds
- Merck & Co. created M Ventures
Venture arms like the ones above enable companies to leverage their corporate assets to bring new treatments to the market quicker and more cost-effectively. Each one has its own approach to innovation, with different focus areas, growth targets and strategies.
Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at AstraZeneca’s BioVentureHub. Described as “One of the most novel incubators in the world”, BioVentureHub uses an open innovation model to usher in the next generation of life-saving drugs and medical devices.
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Headquartered in Cambridge, England and founded in 1999, AstraZeneca is a global biopharmaceutical company that develops, manufactures and delivers drugs and medical treatments. With a 2020 revenue of $26,62 M, part of their strategic overview for this year includes a focus on treatments for:
- Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism (CVRM)
- Respiratory & Immunology (R&I)
Other strategic goals include maintaining a diverse portfolio in both primary and speciality care and enhancing their global positioning with a balanced presence across different world regions. With over 100 locations worldwide, AstraZeneca currently has offices in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
As part of their open innovation approach, AstraZeneca works closely with academic institutions, physicians, patients, biotech and pharma companies to develop new therapeutic concepts that lead to better medicines. As described on their website:
“By sharing knowledge and resources with other scientists, we collectively stand a much better chance of delivering effective treatments for serious diseases.”
Innovation is a big part of the company culture, which is focused on scientific curiosity, collaboration and discovery. To support their efforts, AstraZeneca currently has 10,000 employees working on R&D as well as dedicated innovation centres in the UK, the US and Sweden. This article will be taking a closer look at the BioVenture Hub located in AstraZeneca’s R&D site in Sweden.
Meet their Corporate Incubator: BioVentureHub
Located in the heart of AstraZeneca’s Gothenburg site, the BioVentureHub is an open innovation ecosystem that provides promising life science companies and academic teams with resources like expertise and infrastructure. Part of BioVentureHub’s mission is to create value in four different areas, including:
The BioVentureHub supports sustainability in three ways:
- By promoting good health and well being (one of the UN’s sustainability goals)
- Through its “Ambition Carbon Zero Program”
- By supporting BioVentureHub communities with their own sustainability projects and strategies
Diversity and inclusion
The BioVentureHub is changing the culture at AstraZeneca by collaborating with different sectors and internalising their ideas and perspectives. To date, they’ve co-located 41 external companies and research groups to work together in Gothenburg.
By having a broader and more inclusive purview, the BioVentureHub is expanding into areas like smart implants, lab automation, data science, and healthcare gamification.
Digitalisation plays a key role in precision medicine, preventive care, and patient-centred treatments, making it a BioVentureHub priority. One of their projects includes a collaboration with IBM Sweden, in which SME’s and research groups got access to a collaborative digital platform. As described by BioVentureHub CEO Magnus Björsne:
“Our exciting collaboration with IBM will provide SMEs and research groups with a unique, non-competitive, collaborative environment that can contribute with both pockets of expertise and foster breakthrough digital health solutions.”
One of BioVentureHub’s main goals is to create an environment where innovation and collaboration thrive. In 2020 alone, they facilitated over 20 collaborations between external companies and AstraZeneca and over 25 collaborations between external companies.
Notable BioVentureHub collaborations include:
- Antaros Medical - Grew from 2 to more than 80 people in 7 years and are active at more than 200 clinical imaging studies globally.
- OnDosis - A spin-out that recently raised 92 M SEK and is pioneering a patient-centric dosing solution.
- NanoSIMS - An academic group that worked with AstraZeneca scientists on the first method to measure drug content at a sub-cellular level.
How BioVentureHub works.
One of the things that make BioVentureHub unique is its 4D approach to life science, which includes drugs, devices, diagnostics and digital health to develop next-level solutions. This opens them up to a much wider range of possible collaborations, including in areas like biotech, MedTech, e-health and academia (just to name a few).
Each new BioVentureHub member actually co-locates to join the community in Sweden, facilitating spontaneous interactions, the sharing of expertise and truly open innovation. As described by CEO Magnus Björsne:
“Within the BioVentureHub, we are aiming to change the culture in the way we do innovation. Normally you have to show a business case with a predicted financial outcome before you can start. We believe that no groundbreaking innovation can be done based on things you can predict. We believe in mixing people with complementary skills in an innovative setting to create a mindset driven by science and opportunity rather than money.”
What makes BioVentureHub successful?
These are just a few of the things that make BioVentureHub such a hit:
An open innovation approach
By opening itself up to different collaborations outside biopharmaceuticals, with partners from public, private and academic settings, it’s increasing the chance for breakthroughs.
By effectively leveraging existing assets like partnerships, infrastructure, facilities and expertise, to develop promising new concepts, they’re increasing their capabilities far beyond what is possible on their own.
An immersive environment
Inviting members to co-locate and work alongside other innovators that share the same curiosity and values fosters an environment where meaningful breakthroughs happen.
An approach based on potential
At BioVentureHub, the immediate goal is not to make money but to experiment, test theories and learn in a collaborative setting. The approach fosters creativity and doesn’t weed out valuable collaborations based on financials.
What’s next for AstraZeneca and BioVentureHub?
In its recent quarterly update, CEO Magnus Björsne announced a collaboration with Health Innovation West to boost life science and health innovation in West Sweden. BioVentureHub will no doubt be a valuable partner in helping them expand their operations.
They’ll also be taking on a lead role in AstraZeneca’s new A.Catalyst Network, which includes over twenty AstraZeneca innovation hubs, including its newest one in Malaysia. Part of BioVentureHub’s goal will be to help the new network leverage its digital, R&D and commercial resources to create innovative healthcare solutions.
In addition, this year, BioVentureHub was featured by both CB Insights and LabioTech in their respective top innovation labs to watch. That’s quite a big punch for a six employee innovation lab, and we can’t wait to see where the new partnerships take them next!
Would you like to know more about how corporate incubation can help you create sustainable revenue streams? We can help you build a corporate venturing arm that fuels innovation and delivers new revenue streams for the future.