Photo: Max Planck Society website.
Companies in the Max Planck Innovation investment portfolio raised over 225 million euros in venture capital in various financing rounds in 2022. In 2021, this figure was still around 100 million euros, and around 80 million euros the year before. Max Planck Innovation's investment portfolio currently comprises 36 open or virtual investments in spin-offs that are largely based on research results from the Max Planck Institutes.
The financing volume in 2022 increased primarily due to very large financing rounds of the biotechnology start-ups Dewpoint Therapeutics and Bionaut. These two companies alone raised approx. 180 million euros of the total investment capital. Both companies are headquartered in the USA. Dewpoint Therapeutics applies the latest findings on biomolecular condensates to drug research, for example in the field of cancer. The company employs scientists at its sites in Boston, Dresden, and Frankfurt. Dewpoint Therapeutics is using the USD 150 million raised in a Series C to advance several pipeline programmes to IND (Investigational New Drug Application) and to further invest in its biology platform.
Micro-robots for medicine
Bionaut is based in Los Angeles and develops remote-controlled micro-robots capable of delivering drugs to hard-to-reach disease areas (e.g. the brain). The $43 million raised in a Series B financing will be used, among other things, to advance the clinical development of the company's lead programmes against malignant glioma brain tumours and Dandy-Walker syndrome. "Financing rounds of this magnitude are not a matter of course for our portfolio. The exceptionally high inflow of capital is a combination of several factors: Dewpoint Therapeutics and Bionaut with the highest financing volumes are located in the venture capital-friendly USA, among other places, and most of the other larger investments are also financing-intensive start-ups in the life sciences or energy sectors with a very attractive profile," explains Ulrich Mahr, member of the Max Planck Innovation Executive Board responsible for the spin-off area.
Support from Max Planck Innnovation
In addition to the MAX!mize incubation programme launched in 2022, this area also includes start-up and portfolio management, in which Max Planck researchers interested in founding a company are supported by dedicated start-up managers on all relevant topics and in all phases of the start-up life cycle. Initially, in the development and validation of a viable business model and business plan, as well as in the acquisition of funding for the pre-seed phase. In later phases, Max Planck Innovation provides strategic advice to investee companies within the framework of portfolio management (partly in an advisory board function) as well as in the coordination and implementation of follow-up financing or a company sale.
The financing rounds of the two start-ups Dewpoint Therapeutics and Bionaut are examples of such follow-on financing. At this late stage of maturity, start-ups have often already proven that they are ready for success on a larger scale. Additional funding is needed, for example, for the expansion of the product range and expansion or for necessary clinical studies. Early-stage companies, on the other hand, often need capital for company building and product development.
More efficient batteries
An example of larger early-stage financing in the Max Planck Innovation portfolio in 2022 is the company Batene from Wendlingen. "Max Planck Innovation is a valuable sparring partner for us as a young company. The start-up and portfolio managers provided us with enormous support during the foundation and financing round as well as during the negotiation of the shareholder structure among investors, thus creating the best conditions for the further expansion of the company," says Managing Director Thanh Nguyen T.D. of the start-up Batene.
Based on patented knowledge of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, the company makes lithium-ion batteries lighter and more efficient. An innovative "fleece technology", in which metallic fibres are processed into a dense, extremely conductive metal mesh and filled with the respective active material of the anode and cathode, increases the energy density of lithium-ion batteries and enables faster charging cycles. To further develop the technology, bring it to market and build up larger production capacities, the company raised €10 million in financing in 2022.
This article was first published on 17 March by Max Planck Society.