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© LISAvienna / Ludwig Schedl
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LISAvienna celebrates its 20th Anniversary

On the photo (FLTR): Tanja Spennlingwimmer, Martin Kocher, Sonja Hammerschmid, Peter Halwachs, Bernhard Sagmeister,
Philipp Hainzl, Eva Czernohorszky, Johannes Sarx, Michaela Fritz, Peter Hanke, Edeltraud Stiftinger

A guest commentary from Johannes Sarx (aws) and Philipp Hainzl (Wirtschaftsagentur Wien)

The City of Vienna is well-known across the globe for its cultural heritage and is a dynamically growing life sciences location with an international reputation. Thanks to its customised, individual support, LISAvienna has been contributing towards developing an innovative, diverse and robust startup scene for 20 years, accompanying companies along their various steps towards entering the market.

In this regard, a key role is played by networking with developmental partners and key customers alongside cost-free and easily accessible consulting. For this purpose, the cluster platform holds business get-togethers and leverages international professional events such as Arab Health, BIO-Europe and Medica to present Vienna as a business location. The highlight of 2022 was the splendid celebration held in Vienna’s City Hall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the cluster. “We would like to thank Federal Minister Martin Kocher, City Councilman Peter Hanke, the managements of the promotional bank Austria Wirtschaftsservice and the Vienna Business Agency as well as the founders and former management team of LISAvienna for their contributions to our wonderful anniversary celebration,” says Johannes Sarx and Philipp Hainzl, managing directors of LISAvienna. “As a result of the strategic steps which were taken, Austria, and Vienna in particular, now rank as one of Europe’s relevant life sciences locations. It was fantastic to celebrate these successes together with the companies and research facilities in the city.” Some 600 organisations with a total of 41,000 employees are part of this sector. Their revenue amounts to about € 13.3 billion annually. This means that Vienna is the life sciences centre of Austria.

First-class conditions for an expanding life sciences ecosystem

In addition to the maximum corporate income tax rate of 25% and the refunding of 14% of research and development costs via the research tax credit, Austria’s biotech, pharmaceutical, medical product and digital health companies particularly value the very good and available young talents in all sector-related fields. Thematically focused funding programmes have also been successfully established in Austria and in Vienna via the funding agencies Austria Wirtschaftsservice (aws), the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF). Vienna can attract top talents from all over the world due to its outstanding quality of life, cosmopolitan flair and good traffic connections in the heart of Europe.

Global players such as Boehringer Ingelheim, MSD, Novartis / Sandoz, Octapharma, Ottobock, Pfizer, Roche and Takeda conduct research and development and run manufacturing operations in Austria. Several of them are currently making significant investments to expand their regional subsidiaries. This is accompanied by small and medium-sized enterprises which have succeeded in occupying market niches. The focal points range from diagnostic solutions and digital instruments for radiology to additive manufacturing. Viennese know-how is also found in new drugs such as vaccines as well as development projects on the part of Hookipa Pharma and Valneva. Start-ups continually enrich the ecosystem with their innovative ideas, also covering a broad spectrum of specialities, from organoids for drug development and software tools for the healthcare sector to bioeconomics. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy and the City of Vienna provide companies with initial support. Startups can receive up to € 1 million via the deep tech instruments of pre-seed and seed financing. Moreover, the City of Vienna supports innovative projects in this sector by means of life science calls. Early phase projects in pharmaceutical research also have access to the € 70 million KHAN-I fund via wings4innovation. Austria also makes growth financing attractive for scale-ups.

Starthilfe geben dabei das Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Wirtschaft und die Stadt Wien. Über die Deep Tech Instrumente Preseed und Seedfinancing können Start-ups bis zu €1 Million ins Unternehmen holen, zusätzlich unterstützt die Stadt Wien innovative Projekte in diesem Bereich im Rahmen von Life Science Calls. Via wings4innovation haben Frühphasenprojekte in der Medikamentenforschung außerdem Zugang zum €70-Millionen KHAN-I Fonds. Wachstumsfinanzierungen machen Österreich auch für Scale-ups attraktiv.

Awards and prizes for company foundings and startups in 2022

Over the past 20 years, academic facilities have become an important source for new business ideas in Vienna, especially the specialised excellence institutes at the Vienna BioCenter such as the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) and the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), the Medical University of Vienna at the Vienna General Hospital Campus including the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine, institutes at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, the Vienna University of Technology, the University of Vienna, the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine and at the universities of applied sciences. The broad-based expertise also offers many starting points for partnerships in clinical studies, contracted projects and joint research. The existing infrastructure such as core facilities and competence centres, including the Austria Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB), enable socially and economically relevant research at the highest level.

Company foundings and startups in the Viennese life sciences sector performed very successfully in competitions and won numerous prizes in 2022, including the following:

  • Holloid: Science & Business Award of the Rudolf Sallinger Fund for automated 3D microscopy of micrometre-sized objects such as bacteria, cells and particles to optimise biotechnological production processes.
  • Ludwig Med, Rafael Boog: Winner of the Early-Track Medtech at the aws BoB – Best of Biotech competition for evidence-based music therapy in which customised music is generated in real time based on patient data.
  • Myllia Biotechnology: Phönix Award “Best Start-up” for a new process in pharmaceutical development combining CRISPR screening with individual cell-RNA sequencing.
  • NovoArc: Winner of the Start-up Track Biotech/Pharma at the aws BoB – Best of Biotech competition for replacing injections by pills on the basis of a new type of protective coating protecting active ingredients when taken orally, thus improving resorption in the body.
  • Rotable Technologies: Digital Health Prize at the aws BoB – Best of Biotech competition for a digital solution for smart rotation planning and position management in clinics and continuing education associations.
  • UpNano: Phönix founding prize “Best Spin-off” for the spin-off of the Vienna University of Technology enabling highly precise and quick 3D printing for microoptics, micromechanics and also bioprinting with cells for biological tests.
  • Velaex Technologies, Martin Wilkovitsch: Winner of the Early-Track Biotech/Pharma at the aws BoB – Best of Biotech competition for a technology enabling active substances to be directly released in infected tissue.
  • Vienna Textile Lab, Karin Fleck: Phönix founding prize “Best Female Entrepreneur” for research, development and production of textile dyes from microorganisms as a sustainable alternative for the fashion industry.

Financially strong partners successfully came on board

In addition to milestones in product development, certification and international marketing, a large number of companies managed to achieve internationally acclaimed successes in forging agreements with partners over the past one or two years as well as getting capital increases on stock markets off the ground and concluding rounds of financing. Examples include:

  • Allcyte: Acquisition by Exscientia. Focus on evaluating the effectiveness of cancer therapies with the help of patient cells in single cell resolution.
  • HOOKIPA Pharma: Strategic cooperation and licensing agreement with Roche, featuring a deal volume of up to $ 930 million. Focus on new kinds of immune therapies for a specified type of cancer and a further illness. The company is currently building new facilities in Vienna’s Urban Lakeside area in Aspern.
  • Origimm: Sold to Sanofi. Focus on vaccine candidates to treat dermatological diseases such as acne linked to the microbiome of the skin.
  • PhagoMed: Acquisition by BioNTech. Focus on new antibacterial agents based on phages.
  • Proxygen: Strategic cooperation with Merck, with a deal volume of up to € 495 million. Focus on the development of substances for the targeted degradation of proteins as a therapeutic approach for serious illnesses The transaction was given the European Life Star Award as the Deal of the Year.
  • Capital increase: Valneva (more than € 100 million)
  • Financing rounds: Cellectric Biosciences (quick and exact blood analyses), LIVIN farms (insect proteins through the upcycling of biological wastes), myReha (rehabilitation App in case of a stroke or other diseases), Platomics (software for laboratory tests), Ribbon Biolabs (long synthetic DNA strands), XUND (digital health assistant)

These successes were also reflected in the development of new associations for the life sciences industry. For the past year Biotech Austria has been representing the interests of the biotechnology sector, and Health Pioneers serves as the voice of the digital health community. Moreover, Austria has now also had its own EIT Health Hub since January 2022 designed to improve connections to this large EU-wide network.

Consulting and networking also in the foreground in 2023

In the coming year LISAvienna will continue its tried and tested offering of cost-free, easily accessible consulting services and further expand networking of startups with major multinationals in the industry such as Boehringer Ingelheim, Roche and Takeda. Companies from across the country are invited to get in touch with LISAvienna if they are interested. In cooperation with partners such as ABA, LISAvienna will continue to position Austria and Vienna with the startups based here as an outstanding innovation location in the heart of Europe. The LISAvienna team also organises joint exhibition booths at the top-class partnering conferences BIO-Europe Spring in Basel and Bio-Europe in Munich for the LISA umbrella brand. Austrian companies and research institutions can participate at particularly favourable terms and conditions to gain enhanced visibility. Furthermore, LISAvienna takes part in international trade fairs in order to draw attention to the life sciences location as well as to Viennese companies and research facilities.

“You can look forward to our business get-togethers in Vienna and thus expand your network,” state Johannes Sarx and Philipp Hainzl. “For example, on 17 October 2023, we are holding the next Regulatory Conference, and are participating in the Start-up Festival ViennaUP.”

LISAvienna – Connecting Life Sciences

LISAvienna is a joint life science platform operated by Austria Wirtschaftsservice and the Vienna Business Agency. On behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy and the City of Vienna, it contributes to the advancement of life sciences in Vienna. LISAvienna has been supporting innovative biotech, pharmaceutical, medical device and digital health companies in Vienna for more than 20 years that develop and market new products, services and processes. The platform links these companies with development partners and key customers.

You can find out more about LISAvienna and the life sciences sector in Vienna here.

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