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Smart, Profitable Start-ups Are Growing in SmiLe’s Winning Community

There are names making news, like Cantargia and SAGA Diagnostics in cancer therapy, Gedea Biotech in microbial resistance and Speximo with green-wave cosmetics. These represent SmiLe Incubator’s focus on results and expertise in Lund, Sweden.

SmiLe Incubator is whe­re health product start-ups begin as lean, mar­ket-focused teams who consistently attract capital, meet product milestones, and achieve successful initial public of­ferings and transactions. SmiLe is the life science start-up hub based at Medicon Village in Lund, Sweden, where entrepreneurs build product market value in a community of expertise and support.

According to Ebba Fåhraeus, CEO of SmiLe Incubator: “We’re on a mission to support life science start-ups to make the world a better place for humankind. Essentially, we catalyze ambitious entrepreneurs to transform their innovations into revenue generating products and services that actually reach patients.”

Today, about 70 companies have completed, or are currently part of, SmiLe’s incubator program. Over the last 5 years, these companies have notably secured €290 million in funding and operate in fields such as medtech, drugs, diagno­stics, e-health, probiotics, and contract research services. What’s more, 50 “very early” health tech companies have attended SmiLe’s intensive accelerator program, Health2B.

Industry experts

Successful life science start-ups navigate challenges best when surrounded by the right competence for their business objectives. This is why the SmiLe team brings extensive knowled­ge from their careers in the life sciences industry and start-ups. They are well-positioned to help the small companies streamline their time to market by avoiding mistakes and making the right strategic de­cisions at the right time.

Fåhraeus explains: “In the incubator program, our coa­ches and experts work closely with each company to help them attract venture capital. In the first 6 months of this year alone, the companies received close to €60 million in financing.”

There is a lot of know­ledge transfer bet­ween the companies that happens on-site
Ebba Fåhraeus, CEO of SmiLe Incubator

The incubator’s formula for success includes tapping into interna­tional networks of industry partners and investors who can power-up the start-ups. It also includes access to 10 fully-equipped labs which give early companies a powerful running start and significantly reduce their financing needs.

And the model is working. Since SmiLe’s launch in 2007, 14 of the 70 companies participating in the incubator pro­gram have completed successful initial public offerings achieving a current market cap of approximately €690 million.

A small circle is crucial

There is a huge difference between a normal tech start-up buying an online marketing platform and a life science start-up reaching market approval through clinical trials managed by a larger organization. The transactional costs and demand for successful strategy are simply much higher. For that reason, it’s a huge advantage for the start-ups to be located in the incubator, as part of a larger life science cluster.

According to Fåhraeus: “There is on-site, peer-to-peer knowledge transfer between the companies. They support each other, and actually buy services from each other, which helps them to develop faster. Serial entrepre­neurs come back when they start all over again because they understand the value of our community.”

Becoming international

In particular, Fåhraeus and her colleagues are helping com­panies through a growing presence in an international sphere: “We take an ac­tive part in several of the EU innovation programs, in a Russian accelerator held by AstraZeneca and others, and we plan to further develop our footprint in Europe.”

When investors look for the best new tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, they turn to leading accelerators like Y Com­binator. SmiLe aims to fill that role for life science start-ups throughout Europe.

Fåhraeus adds:

“We want to top the list. It’s all about bringing investors and corporate market leaders within the life sciences together with high-potential start-ups to create great market value.”

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Some of the successes from SmiLe
  • Cantargia (alumni): Cantargia develops new drugs in the field of immunotherapy for cancer treatment. The company was founded in 2010, completed its IPO in 2016 on Nasdaq Stockholm and currently has a market cap of €110 million.
  • Gedea Biotech (incubator company): The company developed the first antibiotic-free treatment that is expected to cure bacterial vaginosis and to prevent the infection from recurring.
  • SAGA Diagnostics (incubator company): SAGA Diagnostics is a personalized cancer medicine and disease monitoring company. The company provides molecular genetic tests and services, using its ultra-sensitive analy­sis of circulating tumour DNA and tissue mutations.
  • Speximo (alumni): Speximo’s new generation emul­sifiers, derived from nature, allow for stable formulations, protect active ingredients, and enable controlled release. The company was recently acquired by a major enterprise in the field of cosmetics for an undisclosed amount.