5 Minutes With… Joško Bobanović from Sofinnova Partners
“In theory, the beauty about synthetic biology is that everything is possible. It allows us to design things without going through the classical disciplines like chemistry or physics.”
Sofinnova Partners is a well-known European venture capital firm. It invests in start-ups, early-stage companies, and corporate spin-offs. The companies that the firm invests in are involved in life sciences (biopharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices an industrial biotechnology). Based in Paris, France, Sofinnova Partners brings together a team of professionals from all over Europe, the US and China. The firm focuses on paradigm-shifting technologies alongside visionary entrepreneurs, and is currently investing in the synthetic biology space.
Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye catches up with Joško Bobanović, Partner at Sofinnova Partners and the manager of the Sofinnova Industrial Biotechnology Fund.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind your brand?
Joško Bobanović (JB): Sofinnova is one of the oldest venture capital investors in Europe. It started back in 1972, and today its main focus is on the field of life sciences. This includes healthcare and industrial biotechnology. We manage around €2 billion worth of funds at the moment.
LG: Before working in this role, what did you do before?
JB: I was working on venture capital in Montreal, Canada.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing synthetic biology companies?
JB: The biggest challenge is the fact that this is still a nascent sector. We started to invest in this sector around nine years ago, but collectively as a sector we are still looking for success stories in this field. We want to point to companies that demonstrate clear success. Consequently, this will then help to feed into new successes.
LG: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?
JB: The first thing I would suggest would be to look beyond your technology. One of the biggest traps is the fact that a lot of these companies are launched by technical people, so they are proud about their technical achievements. However, sometimes they have not thought through the market application. We need to help these companies think through their market story and their general appeal to the marketplace and the consumer. This needs to be done in order to help them look beyond their technologies.
LG: What are you working on next?
JB: We are very excited about the company that we have invested in recently. In general, we have a very interesting portfolio of companies. We have invested in a number of companies that are investing in providing solutions for acute problems in the market and in society. These could be companies providing products that range from new pesticides and fertilisers to ingredients that are extremely sustainable and healthy. We are working with these companies to help them put their technologies on the market. We believe these companies can succeed in this sector.
LG: What’s your favourite synthetic biology product?
JB: In theory, the beauty about synthetic biology is that everything is possible. It allows us to design things without going through the classical disciplines like chemistry or physics. In essence, it allows us to make products that were unimaginable before. This offers us an opportunity, but it also offers us a challenge. You can think of developing things that are self-adaptable and that can adapt to new solutions. We have been promoting different materials that can self-cure. For example, think of materials that can be used to self-repair being used in construction or on tissue. A solution that can self-repair is something that is extremely attractive.