• When medical doctors become entrepreneurs – Report from the 4. Charité Entrepreneurship Summit Berlin 2011

    The international workshop for start-up creation and entrepreneurship related to biomedical innovation was the place to be for newbies as well as serial founders.

    This year’s Charité Entrepreneurship Summit affirmed itself once again as the place to be for venture capitalists, start-up founders,  medical doctors and their cousins in biomedical research.  The summit was held on April 11 and 12 in Berlin’s historical center.  Not just a talking shop, this summit is all about business, networking and interdisciplinary exchange. The presence of a number of key founders and venture capitalists created an unmissable opportunity for new ideas and start-ups within the field.

    A strong turn-out of 300 people from Germany, North America and all over the world, discussed ways to turn research ideas into successful businesses. The Charité is Europe’s biggest hospital so naturally the discussions circled around biomedical innovations and pharmaceutical research. Although the exclusive location (a few steps from Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag) suggested a German bias, the discussion and presentations were fully international with a slight American flavor.

    The ambitious two day schedule was committed to  the direct exchange of knowledge and business experience. Half the time people gathered for keynotes, the other half they met in small work groups with expert panels to discuss the most important matters such as access to venture capital or regulatory hurdles and how to overcome them. A third round robin consisted of special events such as “Business speed dating”, the “Venture Lounge” and Charité-related issues.

    The ten keynote speakers were outstanding. Beginning with the Qiagen CEO Peer Schatz and ending with Peter Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal. All the speakers had a real story to tell. Peer Schatz spoke about his belief that personalized health care is the most important change in health care over the past few decades. Within that change, Qiagen has focused on the mega trend of Molecular Information. Using the opportunities of today’s gene sequencing, he sees ways to correlate genotypes and phenotypes. And that might very well be the start of an “information age of health science”. He extended this analogy to another point: Gene sequencing is becoming cheaper at a pace faster than Moore’s law, reaching  $10k now and going down to $1k for one set of genes. This will enable a new era of diagnostics.

    But what kind of industry is biomedical diagnostics? In today’s market, biomedical diagnostics is a $25 bn industry. To put this in perspective, pharmaceuticals make $600 bn per year. But while the pharma industry grows by 4% CAGR, diagnostics is showing 14%. Biomedical diagnostics technology will be one of the medical industry’s hot topics in the coming years.

    The main topic of the summit was entrepreneurship. And there was a lot of valuable knowledge for the starters and founders at the summit. One issue was  the development of business incubators, where science is transferred into business in a sustainable and professional way. Another presentation dealt with the topic “How to negotiate a term sheet with a venture capitalist”. This included an insider’s invaluable list of Do’s and Dont’s for this crucial part of any start-up foundation.

    The summit was imbued with the unmistakable atmosphere of entrepreneurial spirit and scientific know-how. This was where the business community got to meet start-up science and where ideas can receive the financial support they need. Among the attendees were a host of young founders and experienced entrepreneurs. And they all agreed on one point: If someone starts a business, they need to be enthusiastic and have a passion for their product. This enthusiasm combined with the optimism of those who showed that such dreams can be realized, gave the summit its inimitable character.