As coronavirus disease continues to take its devastating toll across the globe, there is a clear need for new strategies to curb it. Thankfully, initiatives are springing up around the world that can support European startups in the search for new methods of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Coronavirus disease, also known as Covid-19, is wreaking havoc with health systems around the globe, as well as causing widespread economic disruption. This has created an environment that is hard for European biotech startups to thrive, sometimes delaying the development of new drugs and diagnostics.
To make it easier for small companies taking the battle to Covid-19, there is a fast-growing ecosystem of funding initiatives and accelerators seeking entrepreneurs. While many of these programs are based outside of Europe, they are often global in scope, backing innovations wherever they find them. Read on for our summary of some of the biggest initiatives out there!
First of all, we have Aescuvest, the Frankfurt-based crowdfunding platform dedicated to healthcare and life sciences. The company recently launched a campaign called #TakeBackControl for companies and investors all over Europe. This initiative is enabling an ‘ultra-fast’ crowdfunding strategy to accelerate market entry for startups engaged in Covid-19 research.
Aescuvest’s scope is rather broad, as this initiative is simply calling for the development of products and solutions that are able to reduce the threat of Covid-19.
European startups, research companies and founders with initiatives related to Covid-19 are eligible. Private individuals, companies, or institutions are all able to participate. Aescuvest’s independent investment committee will only consider proposals it deems promising. Campaign promotions will initially be focused on Germany in order to act quickly and for legal reasons.
- Between a minimum of €100,000 and a maximum of €6M can be raised per company.
- Aescuvest charges a commission that only covers the costs of running the crowdfunding campaign.
- The applicant will receive support from Aescuvest to run the project.
- The first funds can be made available within two weeks of raising a minimum of €100,000 in crowdfunding proceeds.
- Apply here.
The IndieBio initiative is looking to fund up to eight startups developing solutions for Covid-19. IndieBio is an accelerator program of the US investor SOSV that invests in early-stage life science startups, providing them with capital, mentors and fully equipped labs.
IndieBio has called for the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, disinfection and other solutions for Covid-19. Examples include companies making diagnostics and novel vaccine formulations, but could also include less direct interventions, such as sterilization of contaminated buildings, water or foods, or blocking disease transmission from animal reservoirs.
Startups from any location with a minimum of two co-founders are eligible to apply. However, projects will have to be carried out in California.
- Startups will receive a minimum of €229,000 ($250,000).
- Applications are on a rolling admissions basis.
- Apply here.
Looking to the other side of the world, a recent campaign by the Singaporean VC firm Antler is offering up to €460,000 ($500,000) to entrepreneurs from around the globe. The aim is to boost startups working to tackle societal problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The fund specifically focuses on startups developing ways to mitigate and protect against the pandemic. The technology can include medical protective equipment, digital tools, or lab equipment such as test kits. In addition, the startup must demonstrate that the idea can work in a post-Covid-19 era.
Startup teams worldwide are eligible.
- The fund will go to up to five selected teams.
- Once applications are screened, those selected will pitch their ideas to Antler via video call.
- The deadline for applications is the 15th of April.
- Apply here.
The US seed accelerator Y Combinator will fast-track investment applications from startups that are developing methods to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Any kinds of coronavirus programs developing diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. In addition, any technology able to mitigate the pandemic such as hospital equipment, monitoring tools, and data infrastructure, can be funded.
According to Y Combinator, the startup applicants need high levels of expertise in their area. Additionally, applicants need to think about how their project can have the biggest global impact on a short timeline, as well as remain a sustainable business post-Covid-19.
- The fast-tracked applications apply to Y Combinator’s summer batch, which runs until August this year
- Apply here.
Austrian Research Promotion Agency
From here, we cover some national European programs. For example, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency is investing €21M in Covid-19 related research and development, guaranteeing a rapid evaluation of project proposals.
R&D projects that focus on transmission and epidemiology of the virus, prevention and control, treatments and diagnostics, or planning and conducting clinical trials. Clinical studies are welcomed, however it is a prerequisite for these projects to build on research and existing effective treatments for other coronaviruses (e.g. SARS, MERS) or for Covid-19 symptoms from alternative causes, such as respiratory diseases.
Only Austrian companies and industries are eligible.
- Projects must have a development period of less than 12 months.
- Projects will be funded via grants.
- Apply here.
- The first deadline for fast decisions has already passed, but the 11th of May will be a second deadline for additional applications and funding decisions.
Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology
Portugal’s Foundation for Science and Technology launched Research 4 Covid-19, a €1.5M rapid response fund for R&D projects and initiatives in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The main purpose is to support ongoing initiatives and adjust existing projects so they focus on controlling the virus and respond to the needs of the Portuguese National Health Service.
Projects can include research and development of prevention tools, therapeutics, diagnostics, clinical and epidemiological studies, and surveillance projects.
Businesses are eligible, provided that they partner with research institutions. The other main target is public or private non-profit scientific associations or institutions.
- Maximum funding for each project is €30,000, with a budget allocation of €1.5M.
- Proposals must be of rapid implementation (three months maximum development time) and should complement ongoing initiatives and the reorientation of existing projects.
- Apply here.
- The first application deadline recently passed, but a second will be decided, most likely in May.
Help with Covid network
This special mention isn’t a funding initiative per se, but offers a more community-based solution to funding shortages. The website Help with Covid offers a platform where companies can call for volunteers around the world to assist in projects developing technology to counter Covid-19.
For example, the Singaporean AI drug repurposing company Gero has a project asking for skilled volunteers to carry out tasks including preclinical lab work, fundraising, and organizing clinical trials.
Past initiatives to watch
There were also numerous initiatives in March that have already passed their deadline, but it’s worth keeping an eye on them for future opportunities!
To begin, the Innovative Medicines Initiative launched a €45M call for EU-based companies working on the development of therapeutics and diagnostics combating coronavirus outbreaks. Moreover, the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) issued an urgent call to raise €1.8 billion ($2 billion) to fund vaccine development and has raised more than €630M of this goal so far.
Other Europe-wide initiatives include the European Innovation Council Accelerator programme with a budget of €164M, which called for startups last month developing technologies that could support treatment, testing and monitoring of the Covid-19 outbreak. The European Research Council also published a list of 38 of its grantees across Europe embarking on frontier research on Covid-19.
As for nationwide calls, various initiatives were launched in March with regards to urgent solutions to Covid-19. For example, the Norway Research Council issued an emergency call of €2.5M and the French National Agency for Research launched a €3M flash fund for organizations and companies tackling coronavirus. LifeArc, the British life science medical research charity, made €11.3M (£10M) available for the identification of Covid-19 therapeutics from repurposing existing drugs and treatments.
Meanwhile, the UK Government invested a share of €23M (£20M) into rapid-response projects addressing the prevention and treatment of Covid-19, including vaccine trials and investigating antibody therapeutics. Similarly, the Spanish government approved a total of €30M for research projects, with €25.2M going towards the development of an urgent aid programme and €4.5M to research Covid-19 and vaccine development.
Arming the startups
The European battle against coronavirus will likely take months, with vaccines expected to enter the market in 2021 at the earliest. Despite the large number of calls shown here, this is likely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the funding needed to fully arm biotech startups against coronavirus.
While it is a daunting task to meet for the funding environment, biotech innovations could play a huge role in helping society to weather the storm. Given the right funding, time can only tell what achievements lie in store for biotech startups!
Got any other sources of European startup funding? Let us know in the comments!
Born in Madrid and brought up in London, Carolina recently graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc in Neuroscience, and is hoping to start a Master’s in Biotech soon. She is also a huge foodie, loves to travel and is Sir David Attenborough’s biggest fan.
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