NEW YORK – EureKare, an investment firm seeking to foster the growth of synthetic biology in Europe, is launching the first in a planned set of "studios" to incubate and launch startups.
"Within the next six to 12 months we intend to open three or four studios," CEO Rodolphe Besserve said. The firm has already announced its first one, slated to open in Brussels with a focus on biomedical applications.
"This biotech studio model is specific, in that we not only receive projects from a university, we also initiate projects," he said. "We select specific issues we want to tackle, and we find the scientists we want to work with us."
The studios are just one of several prongs of investment into the synbio market. EureKare also plans to invest in mid- to late-stage startups, where it has already invested €50 million in seven companies, as well as public companies. Besserve suggested the firm has invested in one US-based synbio initial public offering, but he declined to disclose which one.
And in May, it helped launch EureKing, a special purpose acquisition corporation dedicated to biomanufacturing, with a €150 million ($148.7 million) direct listing on the Euronext Paris stock exchange.
"Our first objective is that we monitor all the projects in synbio in Europe," Besserve said. "If there’s a Moderna that emerges in Europe, we need to be invested in it."
Founded in December 2020 and based in Luxembourg, EureKare raised $60 million in Series A financing in 2021 from high-net-worth investors and family offices. The firm declined to disclose the names of investors besides its two other founders, Alexandre Mouradian and Alan Howard.
"We have these postulates that there is high-quality research in synbio which is underexploited," Besserve said. EureKare has also considered investing in companies commercializing microbiome research; however, Besserve said it is focusing on synbio. "We see more opportunities in Europe on this edge," he said, "but that doesn't mean we have to stop investing in the microbiome."
In synbio, the company has already participated in investment rounds for companies including France's DNA Script, which is building a desktop DNA synthesis instrument with enzymatic chemistry, and Omni Possible, a firm creating xeno nucleic acids — alternatives to DNA and RNA with potential applications in therapeutics and molecular detection.
At present the company has nine employees, although it plans to recruit more — approximately 15 over the next year and a half — as it launches studios.
The company has developed an algorithm that ranks scientists in the areas the company has identified an interest in. "This tool helps us to rank the 10 to 20 best scientists we need to contact," Besserve said.
In addition to the scientific talent, EureKare plans to have a managing director and several project managers to help ideas along. Studios would not initially offer physical lab space, Besserve said, so the company will seek to partner with local organizations to provide that.
EureKare's offer is to pay for a postdoc-type scientist to spend a year to initiate the project and launch a company when the time is right. Once a project is mature, EureKare will arrange licensing agreements and invest between €2 million to €5 million. Each studio could have five to 10 projects.
Future studio locations could include Monaco, Finland, France, the UK, and Germany. "When we choose a location, there's always a story in the background," Besserve said. For example, Brussels has a history of cell and gene therapy, and in Monaco, the company has identified potential partners interested in environmental or oceanographic applications of synbio, such as the Centre Scientifique de Monaco and the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco, which did not respond to a request for comment.
With EureKing, Besserve and EureKare also plan to build a European contract development and manufacturing organization.
"The common vision was to set up a very operational team, fully dedicated to this industrial objective in this very specific space while avoiding any potential conflict of interest," Besserve said.
The SPAC is in the process of raising more money, Besserve said, and hopes to find an acquisition target. "This is the right moment; this sector is really exciting."