“We offer access to talent and large pharma groups”

Stefan Kyora

18.05.2017 10:16

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Alethia de Leon, Baselaunch

The new life science accelerator Baselaunch has already attracted the interest of 140 start-ups. We talk to managing director Alethia de Leon about what makes the accelerator attractive and why it is not a good idea to postpone application until just before the deadline.

Ms de Leon, so far 140 start-ups have submitted an expression of interest at Baselaunch. What is the quality of the applications?
Alethia de Leon: We are in the process of contacting the startups and learning more details that would allow us to determine that, but there seems to be quite a few very promising ones.

Where do the applications come from geographically?
About half the projects come from Switzerland. The other half comes from Europe and several other geographies such as China, Korea, etc.

What makes Baselaunch attractive?
We offer access to an outstanding talent pool and to our industry partners, plus financial support. The most important point is certainly the access to talent here in the region. The talent pool in the cluster is very large; in addition to university graduates, you will also find many people here with extensive experience.

What is Baselaunch doing with the start-ups in order that they can profit from this talent pool?
Baselarea.swiss, the organisation behind the accelerator, has an excellent network. We are currently thinking on how we can further support bringing talent into the teams, and thus we are brainstorming how to concretely have more Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) involved. EIR are people interested in working very hands on with start-ups as to potentially join them very early on. We are also expanding our network to include advisors.

Your partners Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novartis Venture Fund and Pfizer are also important assets. However, collaboration between start-ups and large companies in the life sciences industry is commonplace. Can Baselaunch offer the start-ups anything extra?
First of all, I would like to emphasise that we are not a corporate accelerator. We do not take any equity, even though we support the start-ups with up to CHF250,000. Any IP brought by our startups to BaseLaunch during the accelerator programme belongs fully and completely to the start-up, as well as any advancement they make on their IP while taking part of the program. What we offer is an opportunity for the start-ups to work with our partners over several months and build trust. This ensures better access to big business than, for example, that offered by a conference.

What makes you sure that your accelerator partners will really engage?
Our task is to attract as many attractive start-ups as possible. But companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Pfizer would not partner with an accelerator such as us if they were not convinced that we would be a good addition to their own collaboration programmes.

Will other large companies have become partners by the start of the programme?
I think we will have some news coming soon on this topic!

Representatives of the partners also form half the selection committee. Do non-pharma start-ups have a chance of acceptance?
Pharma will of course be a focus of the programme. But start-ups from diagnostics and medtech with outstanding innovations certainly have a chance. Apart from the partner representatives, there are also three other high-profile members of the selection committee.

How many start-ups will the committee judge and how many will not make it to this round?
This has not yet been defined. The number will be relatively high, but naturally the effort involved must be manageable for the committee members.

Last question: most programmes and awards have a rush of applications just before the deadline. Why should start-ups apply early at Baselaunch?
We look at the entries very carefully and support the teams in preparation for judging by the selection committee. Those who wait until the last moment to apply lose this opportunity to be supported by us.

About BaseLaunch
BaseLaunch, a 15-month accelerator program specifically tailored to the needs of healthcare startups provides handpicked ventures with access to founder-friendly venture grants, insights, industry access and state-of-the-art infrastructure, and connects them to one of the most dynamic biotech and pharma ecosystems in Europe. BaseLaunch is backed by three industry leaders — Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novartis Venture Fund and Pfizer — as well as other public and private partners.

The project was launched in 2017 as an initiative of BaselArea.swiss, the official innovation and economic promotion agency for the region of Basel. BaselArea.swiss is a member of digitalswitzerland, a cross-industry association to strengthen the country’s position as a digital hub.In order to tap into the unexplored potential of life sciences innovation, BaseLaunch has entered into a partnership with Kickstart Accelerator, a key initiative of digitalswitzerland and one of Europe`s leading multi-corporate accelerators, to offer a healthcare-specific program in Basel.

BaseLaunch is accepting applications for the next program, which starts in September 2017 and runs in two phases through December 2018. The first step in the application process is filling out the expression of interest form. Applications close on June 30, 2017.

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