Home run exits happen stealthily for biotech

Startup exit tallies commonly underestimate biotech returns. Unlike most tech deals, the biggest profits in bio often come long after an IPO or acquisition.

Take Juno Therapeutics, a publicly traded cancer immunology company that sold to pharma giant Celgene this year for $9 billion. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a deal that would impact Juno’s early investors.

After all, Juno went public back in 2014. Though the Seattle company raised more than $300 million as a private company, pre-IPO backers had years to cash out at healthy multiples.

Yet some held on. Bob Nelsen, managing director of ARCH Venture Partners, Juno’s largest VC backer, told Crunchbase News that his firm was still holding nearly its entire 15 percent pre-IPO stake when Celgene bought the company.

In the end, the acquisition netted ARCH’s limited partners 23 times their money, bringing in close to a billion dollars. It’s an exceptional return, even by venture home run standards.1

“We tend to distribute on milestones, not financing events,” Nelsen said of his firm’s approach to exiting a portfolio investment. That often means holding for years after an IPO awaiting positive clinical trial outcomes or other value-creating inflection points.

For public companies, that can be done over time or all at once, and usually comes in the form of company shares rather than cash.

So when is it an exit?

It’s outcomes like Juno that help explain why life sciences, despite bringing fewer first-day IPO pops and buzz-generating unicorn exits than the tech sector, still consistently attracts roughly a third of venture investment. Big exits do happen. But oftentimes it’s not with a lot of fanfare and usually not with a public market debut.

“I don’t think IPOs are ever an exit in biotech. It’s always a financing event,” Nelsen says. While ARCH may hold shares longer than the typical VC, he says it’s not uncommon to hang on the stakes for a while post-IPO.

That IPO-and-hold strategy appears to have worked out well for the firm on other occasions. Other portfolio companies that went public and were later acquired for multiple billions include Receptos, a drug developer, and Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, best known for an injectable to reduce chin fat.

Using Crunchbase data, we looked to see how common it is for a venture-backed biotech company to go public and then sell a few years later for multiple billions. We found at least eight examples of companies selling for $2 billion or more in the past five years that went public less than four years before the acquisition. (See list here.) Altogether, these acquisitions were valued at more than $47 billion.

Racking up post-IPO gains

It’s also not uncommon for biotech startups to grow into multi-billion dollar public companies a few years after IPO.

Using Crunchbase data, we put together a list of a dozen life science companies that went public in roughly the past five years and have recent market values ranging from $1.5 billion to nearly $9 billion. (This is a sampling, not a comprehensive data set, and was assembled based on exits of several top-tier life science VCs.)

On top was gene therapy juggernaut Bluebird Bio, which has seen a seven-fold rise in its stock price since going public five years ago. Next was Sage Therapeutics, a developer of therapies for central nervous system disorders, up more than six-fold since its IPO four years ago, reaching a market cap of nearly $8 billion.

Then on the device side there’s Inogen, a maker of portable oxygen concentrators for patients with respiratory ailments. It went public at a valuation of less than $300 million in 2014. Today it’s worth around $4.3 billion.

Yes, it’s true tech stocks can see massive gains a few years after going public, too. But the drivers are usually different. In tech, a company may see its stock jump after a big rise in sales, but it probably had sales in prior quarters. The business hasn’t fundamentally changed; it’s just improved.

Moreover, tech venture capitalists do generally consider an IPO an exit. While insiders usually can’t sell shares immediately, they’re typically comfortable liquidating when they can around the IPO price.

For bio, hitting key milestones changes the entire value proposition. A company can go from having no marketable product and no sales to quickly having one or both of those things.

Milestones and money

Returns from biotech startup M&A exits are also hard to pin down because of the widespread use of milestone payments. Buyers pay an upfront price with the agreement of more to come following favorable clinical trial results and a commercially successful therapy.

Often, it’s several multiples more to come if milestones are met. Take Impact Biomedicines, one of this year’s biggest private company exits. Celgene bought the company for $1.1 billion. However, the deal could be valued at up to $7 billion over time.

But the probability of hitting all the milestones seems low. To get the full $7 billion, global annual net sales of Impact’s therapies would have to exceed $5 billion. However, some milestones look more feasible, such as a $1.25 billion payment for obtaining regulatory approval.

This kind of deal structure is pretty common, and not just for M&A. A study by medical news site STAT analyzed nearly 700 biotech licensing deals and found that, on average, just 14 percent of the total announced value was paid out up front.

As with returns from post-IPO acquisitions, it’s hard to gauge just how well investors end up doing on these milestone-based purchases. The largest payoffs can be years down the road.

The opposite of tech

If it seems like the dynamics of a bio exit are, in many ways, the opposite of a tech exit, it’s worth considering how different the two sectors are at the early stages, too.

In the tech startup world, it’s common for a company to launch with an idea that sounds silly (tweeting, scooter sharing, air mattress rentals) and then suddenly be worth billions.

Bio companies are kind of the reverse. Practically every one sounds like a great idea (curing cancer, alleviating pain, treating neurodegenerative disease), and many turn out to be worth nothing. Investments that work out, however, may take a while, but eventually deliver in a big way.

  1. Making 23 times your money back is exceptional at all stages of investment. However, when it does happen, it’s most common at the seed stage for investment, where investors put in single digit millions or less. In the case of ARCH, 23X it is a particularly high return because it encompasses all the rounds Juno raised before going public.

Zbiotics says it’s bioengineered a hangover cure

Y Combinator backed Zbiotics has spend two years developing what they’re billing as the world’s first genetically engineered probiotic. The startup’s initial product isn’t exactly world-changing but it might just save your day — given they’ve invented an elixir of ‘next day’ life: Aka a hangover cure.

Although you actually have to take it before — or, well, during — drinking rather than waiting until the moment of regretful misery when you wake up.

How have they done this? For their first product they’ve bioengineered probiotic bacteria to produce more of the enzyme that the body naturally uses to break down a toxic chemical byproduct of alcohol which is in turn responsible for people feeling awful after too many alcoholic drinks. So you could say they’re hoping to put probiotics on steroids. (NB: No actual steroids are involved, obviously.)

While probiotics themselves aren’t at all new, having been in the human diet for thousands of years — with wide acceptance that certain strains of these live ‘friendly’ bacteria/microorganisms can be beneficial for things like human gut health — the team’s approach of using gene editing techniques (specifically fiddling with the bacteria’s DNA) to enhance what a probiotic can deliver to the person who’s ingested it is the novel thing here.

So new they haven’t yet conducted the placebo controlled, peer-reviewed clinical trials that will ultimately be necessary to back up the efficacy claims they’re making for their biotech enhanced hangover cure.

Nor are they therefore in a position to defend their forthcoming hangover elixir from accusations of supplementary ‘snake oil’ — and, well, the supplement industry as a whole often has that charge leveled at it. And yet people keep buying and popping its pills. (Therein lies the temple rub, vitamin potion and wellness capsule. And, well, also the investor appetite for carving a fresh chunk out of a very large pie.)

Zbiotics co-founders Zack Abbott and Stephen Lamb freely admit it’s going to be a challenge to stand out — and be considered credible amid all this, er, goop noise.

“This consumer space is rife with pseudo science,” agrees Abbott, who has a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of Michigan. “Everybody is banging the drum of real science. And so we have a huge challenge to differentiate ourselves. And really convince the consumer that we’ve built something specific.

“And it really is a first effort to invent a product to specifically address their problem, as opposed to grabbing vitamins off a shelf, putting them in a bottle and labelling it.”

“There are some companies… [that] address dehydration [for hangovers]; that’s not enough. There are other companies they just put [vitamins] into a bottle, that’s not enough. There’s so much noise out there. How do we break through that? It could take some time,” admits Lamb. “And it could take a lot of work.”

Tested in vitro — and on birthday beers

At this pre-launch stage, the founders say they’ve tested their beefed up probiotic on themselves — and will go so far as to say they’ve seen “promising results”.

“I had the fortune of having the final prototype built just a week or two before my birthday and so I ended up trying it out for my birthday and it was great,” adds Abbott.

They are also keen to say they don’t want to encourage irresponsible drinking. So don’t expect their future marketing to talk about ‘a biotech license for your next bender’. Product pricing is tbc but they say they’re aiming for widely affordable, rather than lux or overly premium.

With hangover results that could speak for themselves, their hope is that people will feel confident enough to have a pop and see whether the idea of a biotech enhanced probiotic that’s pumping out extra alcohol-metabolizing enzymes stands up to several pints of lager and a few chasers (or not).

Though — when asked — they do say they also want to carry out clinical trials to glean data on the efficacy of their hangover cure.

“We are a very science-first company and so we don’t want to be making any claims about anything that we don’t have data to back up,” says Abbott.

“At this point… we’ve done significant testing in a test tube, in vitro, and shown that the bacteria we’ve built do perform the function that they’re supposed to perform. Which is to break down acetaldehyde. But we can’t make further health claims until we do clinical trials. And we in the process of drafting up a protocol for a human clinical study with one of our scientific advisors — Dr Joris Verster — a world expert in academic hangover research. But in the meantime we can’t make those claims until we have that.”

They are also planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this year — in order to start making some of their own noise and trying to drum up interest and, well, willing guinea pigs.

Though they are also adamant the product is entirely safe. It’s just the efficacy vs hangover misery that’s yet to be stood up in human clinical trials.

While a hangover cure might seem a trivial problem to focus high tech bioengineering effort on, they say the unmissable fact of a hangover — or indeed the lack of one — was one of the reasons why they selected such an “everyday problem” for the first application of their technique vs going for a more fuzzy (and, well forgiving on the efficacy front) generic goal like ‘wellness’. Or indeed targeting an issue where a ‘cure’ is pretty subjective and hard to quantify (like anti-aging).

Absolutely no one is going to mistake a hangover for feeling great. Though of course the power of the placebo effect working its psychological magic cannot be ruled out — not until they’ve clinically tested their stuff against it in robust trials.

On the other hand, even if it ends up that a placebo effect is what’s making people feel better, given that the target problem is (just) a hangover there aren’t likely to be too many consumer complaints and cries for money back.

“One of the reasons why we chose this use-case was that it would allow people to try it and feel the advocacy for themselves. That was very important,” says Abbott. “It’s something you can feel the results of. So that was really important. Having a visceral read-out of efficacy. People can experience the product working for themselves.”

The other reason for choosing a hangover cure was more practical: They needed a problem that could be solved with an enzyme and therefore which could be helped by genetically engineering bacteria to produce more of the sought for substance.

“The whole point here is that we’ve engineered a bacteria to express an enzyme specifically that can solve a problem,” he explains. “Enzymes are these really powerful complex molecules that are not easy to deliver to people. So it has to be a problem that you can solve with an enzyme.

“There has to be a nice fit with the technology. So we look for things where parts of the body where bacteria has access to you; you have a lot of bacteria in your gut, in your skin, in your mouth, in your nose… places were we can deliver bacteria and they can express these enzymes to solve problems of everyday health.”

“We start with probiotics that have an extremely good safety profile, have been used in regular food by humans for centuries. And we identify those because we know that they’re going to be safe, and we know that they’re going to be able to interact with your body in the way that we want them to. And then we engineer those bacteria as oppose to choosing something that your body may never have seen before,” adds Lamb, who brings prior experience helping food companies enter new markets to the startup.

He says they’ve been safety testing their prototype probiotic for the past year and change at this point — “making sure that this is ready for market before we actually launch anything”.

“We are not going to launch any kind of product until it’s completely safety tested according to every regulatory framework here in the U.S. — and we’re totally comfortable with that,” he adds emphatically.

They do also intend to move beyond hangover cures, with the plan being to develop additional probiotics that target other use-cases. And say they’ve been building a gene editing platform that’s flexible for that purpose. Though they’re not disclosing exactly what else they’re working on or eyeing up — wanting to keep that powder dry for now.

“I spent over a year building the first product, and the lion’s share of that time was spent making sort of a genetic platform… that was adaptable to multiple use-cases,” says Abbott. “At first I just engineered the bacteria to be able to make a lot of enzyme generally. Whatever enzyme I put into the platform. And so the first enzyme I put in was to break down acetaldehydes. That being said it could be easily switched out for an enzyme to break down… a different toxin that your body has to deal with. So the platform is very adaptable and it was designed to be that way.”

“That being said there are certain use-cases we’re really excited about that may require additional optimization techniques in order to make them work specifically for that use-case. So, generally speaking, some may require more work than others but the platform we started with gives us a good launch pad,” he adds.

As well as YC’s standard startup deal, the team has raised an additional $2.8M in seed funding this year for R&D and the initial product roadmap. They’re hoping the forthcoming crowdfunding campaign will give them the additional lift to ship the consumer product into the US market.

Investors in the seed round aren’t being disclosed at this stage. Abbott also notes that he previously got a small amount of pre-seed funding, early on, to fund building the prototype.

It’s fair to say that biotech as an investment space isn’t a bet for every investor — given product development risks, timeframes and perhaps also some of the deflated hype of past years. Which perhaps explains why Zbiotics investors aren’t ready to shout all about it just yet. Even if they’re feeling great about not having a hangover.

“We’ve found different levels of success with different investors,” agrees Lamb. “Where we’ve found the most success is in investors who see the vision for the technology and understand it as something that is and can be truly innovative relative to what’s on the market today. So probiotics themselves — traditional probiotics —  are a $40BN industry, and the fact is that most of those probiotics don’t do anything or are inconsistent at best. So we found investors who have a mindset where they can see how a novel probiotic, something that actually is engineered to work and is based in a high level of biotech is something that can really disrupt that area. And that may or may not be traditional biotech investors. Oftentimes it’s investors who are really looking to push the envelope.

“We definitely had to find the right investor and the traditional biotech investor often is looking for different things than we had to offer,” adds Abbott. “And different pathways — more traditional pathways. We’re going not conventionally I think with bringing this hard biotech to market quickly. So it definitely is threading the needle and finding the right investors.”

While tech waffles on going public, biotech IPOs boom

For people who make investment decisions based on revenues and projected earnings, biotech IPOs are kind of a non-starter. Not only are new market entrants universally unprofitable, most have zero revenue. Going public is mostly a means to raise money for clinical trials, with red ink expected for years to come.

That pattern may be one reason the venture capital press, Crunchbase News included, tends to devote a disproportionately small portion of coverage to biotech IPOs. It’s more exciting to watch a big-name internet company pop in first-day trading or poke fun at an underperforming dud.

But with our fixation on all things tech, we’re missing out on the big picture. There are actually a lot more biotech and healthcare startup IPOs than tech offerings. In the second quarter of this year, for instance, at least 16 U.S. venture-backed biotech and healthcare companies went public, compared to just 11 tech startups. In three of the past four years, bio offerings outnumbered tech IPOs, according to Crunchbase data.

In the following analysis, we attempt to get up to speed on the pace of biotech offerings, assess where we are in the cycle and spotlight some of the rising stars.

Biotech outpaces tech

As mentioned above, U.S. bio IPOs outnumber tech offerings in most years. However, the bio cohort raises less total capital, partly because the largest technology IPOs tend to be much bigger than the largest bio IPOs. In the chart below, we compare the two sectors over the past four years.

Globally, the numbers are much higher. Using Crunchbase data, we’ve put together a chart looking at global VC-backed biotech and healthcare IPOs over the past four years. While we’re just over halfway through 2018, biotech and health IPOs have already raised more money than in any of the prior three full calendar years.

Fundamentals driven, cycle amplified

It’s pretty clear we’re in an upcycle for all things startup-related. VCs are flush with cash, late-stage rounds are ballooning in size and IPO and M&A action is picking up, too.

So what does that mean for bio IPOs? Is the uptick in the pace and size of offerings mostly a result of bullish market conditions? Or is the current slate of pre-IPO candidates more compelling than in the past?

We turned to Bob Nelsen, co-founder of ARCH Venture Partners, one of the top-performing biotech investors, for his take, which is that it’s a “fundamentals driven, cycle amplified” IPO boomlet.

More companies are launching well-received IPOs because the pace of startup innovation is faster than in the past. Nelson calls it “the result of the previous 30 years of investment and innovation in biotech that has finally led to essentially data-driven innovation.” That’s leading to more curative treatments, disease-modifying therapies and preventative technologies.

Yet we’re also in a bullish segment of the market cycle for biotech. That’s prompting companies that might have stayed private under other conditions to give going public a shot. It’s also providing bigger outcomes for emerging companies that were already on the IPO track.

The latest example of a big outcome IPO is Rubius Therapeutics, which develops drugs based on genetically engineered red blood cells. This week, the five-year-old company raised $241 million at an initial valuation of over $2 billion, making it the largest bio offering of 2018. The Cambridge, Mass. company, which previously raised nearly a quarter-billion-dollars in venture funding, is still in the pre-clinical trial phase.

This year has delivered several other good-sized offerings as well, including drug developers Eidos Therapeutics and Homology Medicines, recently valued around $800 million each, along with Tricida, valued around $1.2 billion. (See the full list of 2018 global bio and health offerings here.)

As for aftermarket performance, that’s been up and down, but includes some big ups. Last year, biotech led the pack for best-performing IPOs on U.S. exchanges. The sector accounted for four of the six top spots, according to Renaissance Capital, led by drug developers AnaptysBioArgenx and UroGen, along with Calyxt, an agbio startup.

Looking ahead

While things are already up, bio VCs, generally an optimistic bunch, see several reasons why bio IPOs could go higher.

Nelson points to what he sees as the lagging pace of in-house innovation at big pharma and biotech players. Increasingly, they need to acquire startups and recently public companies to stay competitive and build out new product pipelines.

There is also tons of fresh capital earmarked for healthcare startups. In the U.S. in 2017, healthcare-focused venture capitalists raised $9.1 billion. That figure was up 26 percent from 2016, per Silicon Valley Bank.

More dollars also are flowing from venture firms that invest in a mix of tech and life sciences through a single fund. That list includes well-established VCs with dry powder to invest, including Polaris PartnersFounders FundKleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital.

Still, Nelson observes, deep into an IPO bull market, the average quality of offerings does tend to decline. That said, he’s been through similar inflection points in previous cycles and “for the same point in the cycle, the quality is markedly higher.”

Implantable 3D-printed organs could be coming sooner than you think

At MBC Biolabs, an incubator for biotech startups in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, a team of scientists and interns working for the small startup Prellis Biologics have just taken a big step on the path toward developing viable 3D-printed organs for humans.

The company, which was founded in 2016 by research scientists Melanie Matheu and Noelle Mullin, staked its future (and a small $3 million investment) on a new technology to manufacture capillaries, the one-cell-thick blood vessels that are the pathways which oxygen and nutrients move through to nourish tissues in the body.

Without functioning capillary structures, it is impossible to make organs, according to Matheu. They’re the most vital piece of the puzzle in the quest to print viable hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs, she said.

“Microvasculature is the fundamental architectural unit that supports advanced multicellular life and it therefore represents a crucial target for bottom-up human tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” said Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University and an expert in 3D-printed implantable biomaterial structures, in a statement.

This real-time video shows tiny fluorescent particles – 5 microns in diameter (the same size as a red blood cell) – moving through an array of 105 capillaries printed in parallel, inside a 700 micron diameter tube. Each capillary is 250 microns long.

Now, Prellis has published findings indicating that it can manufacture those capillaries at a size and speed that would deliver 3D-printed organs to the market within the next five years. 

Prellis uses holographic printing technology that creates three-dimensional layers deposited by a light-induced chemical reaction that happens in five milliseconds.

This feature, according to the company, is critical for building tissues like kidneys or lungs. Prellis achieves this by combining a light-sensitive photo-initiator with traditional bioinks that allows the cellular material to undergo a reaction when blasted with infrared light, which catalyzes the polymerization of the bioink.

Prellis didn’t invent holographic printing technology. Several researchers are looking to apply this new approach to 3D printing across a number of industries, but the company is applying the technology to biofabrication in a way that seems promising.

The speed is important because it means that cell death doesn’t occur and the tissue being printed remains viable, while the ability to print within structures means that Prellis’ technology can generate the internal scaffolding to support and sustain the organic material that surrounds it, according to the company.

The video above, courtesy of Prellis Biologics, shows real-time printing of a cell encapsulation device that is useful for producing small human cells containing organoids. The structure is designed to be permeable and the size is 200 microns in diameter and can contain up to 2000 cells.

Prellis isn’t the first company to develop three-dimensional organ printing. There have been decades of research into the technology, and companies like BioBots (which made its debut on the TechCrunch stage) are already driving down the cost of printing living tissue.

Now called Allevi, the company formerly known as BioBots has seen its founders part ways and its business  strategy shift (it’s now focusing on developing software to make its bioprinters easier to use), according to a report in Inc. Allevi has slashed the cost of bioprinting with devices that sell for less than $10,000, but Prellis contends that the limitations of extrusion printing mean that technology is too low resolution and too slow to create capillaries and keep cells alive.

Prellis’ organs will also need to be placed in a bioreactor to sustain them before they’re transplanted into an animal, but the difference is that the company aims to produce complete organs rather than sample tissue or a small cell sample, according to a statement. The bioreactors can simulate the biomechanical pressures that ensure an organ functions properly, Matheu said.

“Vasculature is a key feature of complex tissues and is essential for engineering tissue with therapeutic value,” said Todd Huffman, the chief executive officer of 3Scan, an advanced digital tissue imaging and data analysis company (and a Prellis advisor). “Prellis’ advancement represents a key milestone in the quest to engineer organs.”

Matheu estimates that it will take two-and-a-half years and $15 million to bring implantable organs through their first animal trials. “That will get a test kidney into an animal,” she said.

The goal is to print a quarter-sized kidney that could be transplanted into rats. “We want something that would be able to handle a kidney that we would transplant into a human,” Matheu said.

One frame of a 3D map of animal tissue from 3Scan .

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Manchester href=”https://newatlas.com/working-kidney-cells-grown-mice/53354/”> grew functional human kidney tissue from stem cells for the first time. The scientists implanted small clusters of capillaries that filter waste products from the blood that had been grown in a Petri dish into genetically engineered mice. After 12 weeks, the capillaries had grown nephrons — the elements that make up a functional human kidney.

Ultimately, the vision is to export cells from patients by taking a skin graft or blood, stem cell or bone marrow harvest — and then use those samples to create the cellular material that will grow organs. “Tissue rejection was the first thing I was thinking about in how I was designing the process and how we could do it,” says Matheu.

While Prellis is spending its time working to perfect a technique for printing kidneys, the company is looking for partners to take its manufacturing technology and work on processes to develop other organs.

“We’ll be doing collaborative work with other groups,” Matheu said. “Our technology will come to market in many other ways prior to the full kidney.”

Last year, the company outlined a go-to-market strategy that included developing lab-grown tissues to produce antibodies for therapeutics and drug development. The company’s first targeted human tissue printed for clinical development were cells called “islets of Langerhans,” which are the units within a pancreas that produce insulin.

“Type 1 diabetics lose insulin-producing islets of Langerhans at a young age. If we can replace these, we can offer diabetes patients a life free of daily insulin shots and glucose monitoring,” said Matheu in a statement at the time.

Matheu sees the technology she and her co-founder developed as much about a fundamental shift in manufacturing biomaterials as a novel process to print kidneys, specifically.

“Imagine if you want to build a tumor for testing… In the lab it would take you five hours to print one… With our system it would take you three and a half seconds,” said Matheu. “That is our baseline optical system… The speed is such a shift in how you can build cells and fundamental structures we are going to be working to license this out.”

Meanwhile, the need for some solution to the shortage in organ donations keeps growing. Matheu said that one in seven adults in the U.S. have some sort of kidney ailment, and she estimates that 90 million people will need a kidney at some point in their lives.

Roughly 330 people die every day from organ failure, and if there were a fast way to manufacture those organs, there’s no reason for those fatalities, says Matheu. Prellis estimates that because of the need for human tissue and organ replacement alternatives, as well as human tissue for drug discovery and toxicology testing, the global tissue engineering market will reach $94 billion by 2024, up from $23 billion in 2015.

“We need to help people faster,” says Matheu. 

Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital

Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp

Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures

Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures

Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel

George McDonaugh, KR1

Candice Lo, Blossom Capital

Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners

Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel

Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

DNA analysis site that led to the Golden State Killer issues a privacy warning to users

As more details emerge about the arrest of the man suspected to be the Golden State Killer, it’s clear that one of the most infamous unsolved cases of all time was cracked using a popular free online genealogy database.

The site, known as GEDmatch, is a popular resource for people who have obtained their own DNA through readily available consumer testing services and want to fill in missing portions of their family tree to conduct further analyses. Compared to a polished service like 23andMe, GEDmatch is an open platform lacking the same privacy and legal restrictions that govern user data on more mainstream platforms.

To home in on their suspect, investigators used an intact DNA sample taken at the time of a 1980 Ventura County murder linked to the serial killer. The team uploaded data from the sample into GEDmatch and were able to identify distant relatives of the suspect — a critical breakthrough that soon led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, 72.

Given the high-stakes nature of DNA data and the popularity of voluntary online DNA databases, the case immediately raised a number of flags for data privacy advocates.

On Friday, GEDmatch confirmed on its landing page for logged-in users that law enforcement sifted through its DNA database in the case:

To correct a BIG misunderstanding, we do not show any person’s DNA on GEDmatch. We only show manipulations of data such as DNA [matches].

We understand that the GEDmatch database was used to help identify the Golden State Killer. Although we were not approached by law enforcement or anyone else about this case or about the DNA, it has always been GEDmatch’s policy to inform users that the database could be used for other uses, as set forth in the Site Policy

While the database was created for genealogical research, it is important that GEDmatch participants understand the possible uses of their DNA, including identification of relatives that have committed crimes or were victims of crimes.

If you are concerned about non-genealogical uses of your DNA, you should not upload your DNA to the database and/or you should remove DNA that has already been uploaded. To delete your registration contact gedmatch@gmail.com.

Though an initial misunderstanding raised suspicion that law enforcement used a major player in consumer genetic testing like 23andMe or Ancestry DNA in the Golden State Killer development, investigators instead leveraged another voluntary DNA database with no such hoops to jump through. Both 23andMe and Ancestry require law enforcement to create a legal request in the form of a search warrant or a court order before accessing any specific genetic or personal information.

23andMe explains its policies toward forensics in a special page dedicated to its relationship with law enforcement:

Use of the 23andMe Personal Genetic Service for casework and other criminal investigations falls outside the scope of our services intended use.

Therefore, it is a violation of our TOS for law enforcement officials to submit samples on behalf of a prisoner or someone in state custody who has been charged with a crime.

While the revelation that investigators have apprehended a suspect in the long-cold case is good news, the incident is reigniting justifiable concerns around consumer DNA testing.

In an interview with The New York Times, Paul Holes, the Contra Costa county investigator who helped crack the case, marveled at the power of GEDmatch. “I was blown away with what it could do,” Holes said.

Corporate bio VCs are backing more rounds and making bigger bets

 Biotech is a lot like venture capital. Vast amounts of research, testing and marketing go into a wide range of therapies. But in the end, it’s just a tiny fraction that deliver most returns.
That similarity may be why most of the biggest biotech and pharmaceutical companies have a long history of engaging in the venture business as startup investors, spin-out creators and strategic partners. Read More

RightEye’s portable eye-tracking test catches concussions and reading problems in five minutes

 They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but physiologically speaking, they’re windows to the brain. RightEye is a startup that looks through that window to detect common but often subtle vision issues resulting from concussions and other brain troubles. Its quick, portable eye-tracking station can tell in minutes whether you should see a doctor — or look into becoming a pro… Read More