The last remaining shares that Wageningen University & Research (WUR) possessed of its spin-off Bio-Prodict are to be sold in the early weeks of April. The biotechnology business specialises in calculating changes in protein, such as mutations in the coronavirus from the original strain into the South African and British variant. Selling its last shares in Bio-Prodict is in keeping with WUR’s desire to allow the knowledge that originated at the university to develop further towards practical implementation.
Bio-Prodict is a Dutch computational biotech business founded in May 2008. A successful one, with a 1.7-million-euro turnover in the past year, whose customers include large pharmaceutical businesses. Its core business is to develop databases of protein families, a protein library, so to speak. This library is used to support research and the development of new medicines, the development of improved proteins for all manner of biotechnological processes and to speed up DNA diagnostics.
Proteins are the driving force of life and of great value in many different sectors. Based on the data collected in the Bio-Prodict databases, the effect of a mutation on the protein’s functioning may be predicted. These predictions allow pharmacists and biotech businesses to more rapidly understand the proteins’ functioning and thus improve it. Biotech businesses use the Bio-Prodict databases to develop enzymes (proteins that speed up chemical reactions) that can help make various chemical processes more environmentally friendly. Pharmacists use the software to develop new enzymes for the production of medicines. Moreover, hospitals use the software to rapidly identify the link between a patient’s pathology and a mutation.
Wageningen University & Research held a majority share in 2008. Over the past few years, WUR’s share has been reduced in stages. The final five per cent is now to be sold. The proceeds will be applied towards value creation, in new spin-offs, for example.
Sebastiaan Berendse, director of WUR Value Creation, is delighted with this development, which he sees as a logical next step. ‘We expect the company, the team and the entrepreneur to develop further in a bright future. We see that the previously developed knowledge has been successfully brought to fruition in society through this business. This is the societal value creation we strive for. WUR no longer invests money in spin-offs as we did in 2008. We now leave that to venture capital. Society expects us to bring knowledge into practice through spin-offs. We achieve this by supporting those who develop Wageningen knowledge further to make it available to the business sector.’
Bio-Prodict CEO Henk Jan Joosten obtained his PhD in Wageningen in 2007 on a dissertation entitled ‘3DM from data to medicine’. He applied for a patent and founded Bio-Prodict as a spin-off of the expertise he developed at WUR. ‘Founding a business with a university has many advantages’, Joosten says. ‘Seed money and the legal and business know-how support were essential. Without this input, it would have been virtually impossible to develop the scientific idea into a successful business.’
According to Joosten, WUR may apply the revenues from the sale of its shares towards supporting new spin-offs: ‘I see Bio-Prodict as a perfect example of how important it is for universities to not only conduct scientific research but to seek ways to bring the results of this research to the market, while simultaneously supporting young entrepreneurs. I was a scientist and not an entrepreneur, to begin with. Thanks to WUR and its advice to create a proper board of advisors right at the start, Bio-Prodict developed into a full-grown, international business that is now capable of developing independently.’