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  • 2016 07 20

    Life sciences commercialization: from experiments in the lab to millions in your bank account

    Written by Jacinta Sherris

    It is no secret that life sciences is one of the most crucial and promising industries in today’s global community and that Lithuania is already being internationally recognized as a country with enormous potential in this field. According to European Innovation Scoreboard, Lithuania’s innovativeness is developing in the right direction and particularly experiencing extremely high growth relating to license and patent revenues from abroad (96%).

    Ranking 10th in the world for research and development personnel per capita, Lithuania’s highly qualified specialists are constantly shaping the global life sciences sector through innovation; many of them are university students accomplishing outstanding achievements at a young age with many more to come. However, nowadays having groundbreaking discoveries, products, and information is simply not enough to manage a successful startup: a strong understanding of business and investment is required. It is imperative that these brilliant minds learn how to translate their revolutionary ideas into successful startups by incorporating the proper business and commercialization skills in order to ensure long term success. 
    Since the days of the Soviet Union, Lithuania has always been considered as the leader in life sciences discoveries throughout Eastern and Central Europe due to its state of the art infrastructure. Nowadays, as a member of the NATO, the European Union, and Eurozone, Lithuania’s life science sector is growing at an exceptional rate of 25% annually according to the Statistics Department of Lithuania; with special focus on the production and research of biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical devices. Much of the products developed in Lithuania are geared towards international markets, with 90% of all life science products and services being exported around the world. In fact, life sciences contribution to Lithuanian GDP is currently at 1%, the same as countries like Germany and Israel- global leaders in the life sciences sector.
    Perhaps the best part of Lithuania’s inventive life sciences sector is how accessible it is to everyone, especially for young students. In fact, some of the most successful life science startups and discoveries that originated in Lithuania were created by university students with creative ideas. A group of students from Vilnius University known as Vilnius iGEM were awarded a gold medal at Boston’s international synthetic biology competition sponsored by the iGEM Foundation for their breakthrough discovery on how to prevent bacterial reproduction. The information they introduced will be used by countless international companies and scientists to develop cures for some of the world’s most stubborn diseases and save lives. Today, Vilnius iGEM is preparing to present its latest invention: ColiClock – a bacterial system which helps to limit the spread of GMO’s in nature, and will surely gain international interest.
    Other startup success stories that began from modest beginnings but now command worldwide recognition include the award winning IT company Softneta, which provides specialized health care solutions to patients and recently secured an investment of 1 million euros from Practica Venture Capital, as well as the neuro-diagnostic company Vittamed which recently attracted an investment of USD 10 million from venture capital funds and the interest of NASA scientists.
    It is clear to see that life science startups are a lucrative way for young, creative individuals to bring their ideas to life and have a worldwide impact. However, even though there are many brilliant young Lithuanians who have revolutionary ideas that could translate into enormous success, it is important that they understand how to properly utilize the business aspect of a startup and commercialize their products to maximize prosperity.
    According to research done by Karolis Dumbrovas, life sciences coordinator at Enterprise Lithuania, on life science startups in Lithuania, the most critical factors of a successful startup include funding, motivated and exceptional human capital, knowledge management, and effectively using resources. Funding is perhaps the most important determining factor for a successful startup because it allows the ideas to be brought to life and attracts qualified employees. In order for a startup to secure the funds it needs to operate it must not only have impressive ideas, but also know how to market its ideas to investors.
    Effectively using resources is another important factor that will determine the success rate of a startup. Startups must be aware of where they are spending the most money and how to make the most of available infrastructure. Properly utilizing resources is vital in order to ensure long-term success and fulfillment of goals. A startup cannot survive based solely on innovative ideas; its founders must be able to develop a strong business plan to keep the company lucrative. It is recommended that if the founders of the startup are not experienced in business that they either educate themselves on the matter or cooperate with people who have backgrounds in working with venture funds and investment.
    The good news for life science startups looking to gain expertise in business and how to attract investments is that they can sign up to join the bi-annual Life Sciences Baltics 2016 forum held in Vilnius this September. The Life Sciences Baltics 2016 conference will feature a special startup program consisting of an entrepreneurship course, pitch session, and networking session. Startups will have the opportunity to participate in an intensive training course conducted by Harvard University faculty where they will learn the best ways to approach venture capital funds, commercialize their products, and discuss business cases. 10 chosen startups will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges consisting of investors, professors and other professionals and receive awards. There will also be a networking event where startups will mingle with investors, professionals, and other startups to share ideas, make connections, and discuss where biotechnology, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, medicine, molecular biology, and more will take us in the upcoming years.
    Life Sciences Baltics 2016 is offering a wonderful opportunity for startups to expand their understanding of the importance of business, cooperation with investors, and provide them with the connections and resources needed to become successful in the long term. Read more and register today to be a part of the future of life sciences Lithuania is helping to create!