Lack of incentives and difficult access to investments hinder the growth of biotechnology startups in Brazil.
Born within universities or incubators, biotechs, as they are known, use technology in biological systems and living organisms to create or modify products such as food, cosmetics and medicines.
In the area of health, biotechnology has the potential to help cure and provide greater survival for patients, explains the executive director of innovation at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, Rodrigo Demarch.
“Through new technologies, we will help in the development of increasingly assertive products, more accurate and low-cost diagnoses and therapies”, he says.
Even with a market advancing at a slow pace, there are companies that are managing to grow. This is the case of the synthetic biology startup Biolinker, founded in 2018 by Mona Oliveira, 36, a doctor in biochemistry and nanotechnology from USP.
To open the business, Mona was encouraged by Fapesp (São Paulo State Research Support Foundation) and had the help of Slovenian Sandi Ravbar, co-founder of Biolinker. Still, she had to use money from savings.
The startup managed to raise BRL 200,000 and started activities in a 45 square meter room inside one of USP’s incubators. The beginning was difficult. “We had to deal with the lack of infrastructure. Other difficulties were mapping suppliers, obtaining products for research and regulatory aspects.”
Today, the startup has 12 employees and an infrastructure five times larger, in Cotia (SP). During the pandemic, the company quintupled its turnover after developing a bioprocess to manufacture antigens for Covid-19 tests.
“We were able to prove that it works, we published articles and analyses, but it did not become a product on the market. Only the biomolecules were sold”, says Mona.
A study carried out by Distrito, a platform for connecting companies and startups, mapped the presence of 75 biotechs in the country. Between 2020 and September 2022, US$ 21.3 million was invested (about R$ 113 million).
“We don’t have a culture of investing in startups with this profile. We also lack public policies aimed at supporting biotechnology projects. However, we are in an ecosystem in birth”, says Mona.
With the aim of connecting companies and research institutions, Liga Ventures carries out programs to formalize partnerships with biotechs and make new businesses possible. Alice Laranjeira, manager of prospecting and selection of startups, is in charge of the project.
For her, the State should invest at the beginning of the process, still in the universities, through public notices from research support foundations. “In addition, the support of large companies is fundamental due to the investment capacity, potential for scalability and commercialization”, she says.
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