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Munich’s rising Biotech stars you have to know

Vaccines, machines and Covid-19 tests: Check out these six companies with the highest funding in Munich and what they are working on

Munich offers ideal conditions for biotech startups and the scene is flourishing. In addition to the leading universities, such as the TU Munich and LMU, several international investors like LSP - Life Sciences Partners, Forbion or GimV have branches here. The Innovation and Startup Center for Biotechnology IZB, founded in 1995, has also developed into one of the top ten biotechnology centers in the world. Most of the startups in this list are located within the biotech cluster. In addition to the IZB, BioM, a network organization commissioned by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs for the biotechnology sector in Munich and in Bavaria, coordinates all players of the ecosystem. These are ideal conditions to work on vaccines, drugs and tests around Covid-19. Let's take a look at the best-funded startups.

Immunic Therapeutics

Dr. Daniel Vitt, Dr. Hella Kohlhof, Dr. Manfred Gröppel, Dr. Andreas Mühler, Founders Immunic Therapeutics


Immunic Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with a diverse portfolio of selective oral immunology therapies. The startup develops new ways of treating inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease or multiple sclerosis. 

Multiple sclerosis, for example, is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Eventually, the disease can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves. Immunic Therapeutic’s lead product IMU-838 could offer an easy and convenient way of treating these diseases and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, since injections and infusions would no longer be needed. The technology could also be used to treat virus infections such as Covid-19. 

The company started out in Munich in 2016, where it still carries out research and development. The startup merged with the company Vital Therapies in 2019 and thereby gained access to the US stock exchange. Since then, the company’s headquarters have been in New York and the workforce has grown to approximately 25 employees. 

Business model: Immunic Therapeutics plans to develop and produce its drugs independently and to sell its drugs through its own channels, but is also open to partnerships.

Amount of funding: Immunic raised 31,7m€ in a series A round closed in 2016 and 2017, another 26,7m€ concurrently with the closing of the reverse merger in 2019 and approx. 36,5m€ in equity issuances in April and June 2020. In total they have collected 94.9 million euros.

Number of employees: 25

Leon-nanodrugs

Leon-nanodrugs, which was founded in 2011, delivers novel and ready to use nano solutions to increase the water solubility of medicines, which is important for their absorption. Approximately 40% of drugs with market approval and about 80% of molecules in the discovery pipeline reveal low water solubility as a study shows. The size of the market is therefore huge. 

Leon-nanodrugs aims to size the particles of the medicament to nano for this purpose and hopes to make them therefore easier for the body to absorb. This could also mean that fewer preparations are needed and higher doses can be taken in smaller forms.  

Business model: Leon-nanodrugs cooperates with pharma companies and other Biotech startups and attempts to nanonise their medical ingredients. Furthermore, they work on their own drugs and are open to renting out production facilities to licensed partners. 

Amount of funding: The startup raised in 2015 in series A funding 18,5 million euros

Number of employees: 10 


GNA Biosolutions

The GNA Biosolutions team


After being founded in 2010, the Martinsried-based biotech company GNA Biosolutions has recently received major startup financing from the Bavarian Government in order to advance the development of its ultra-fast Covid-19 test to series production readiness and hence for large-scale application. This test provides a reliable result within only 15-25 minutes as to whether an acute infection with the Sars-CoV-2 virus is present. A further advantage is that the test can be used on-site via a battery-powered portable device.

Bosch, UnternehmerTUM Venture capital and KfW Banking Group are some of the investors.

Business model: Potential customers are hospitals, doctors and governments. The Bavarian state has already expressed interest, should the first product go into serial production. "With 1,000 devices, we can carry out around 300,000 tests daily", says the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger. 

Amount of funding: 18,3 million euros

Number of employees: 40  

I'll Attend

Tubulis GmbH 

CEO Dominik Schumacher and CSO Jonas Helma-Smets, both Co-Founders Tubulis


Current treatments of severe diseases such as cancer often utilize toxic drugs to destroy cancer cells or other diseased tissues. One of the major hurdles of these treatments are toxic side effects of the drugs in healthy tissues. A novel approach to overcome this problem is to link the drug to antibodies, small proteins that specifically recognize and attach to diseased cells, to bring these toxic substances directly to the target tissue.

However, until now the instability of these conjugates has been one of its biggest limitations, leading to early detachment of the drug before the antibody reaches its target destination. Tubulis, a startup that was spun out in 2019 from the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie in Berlin (FMP) and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) in Munich, developed a technology that allows creating these conjugates in a very stable and safe way.

Their approach creates a very strong link between antibody and toxic drugs to deliver the latter only to the area where it is needed. This allows effective treatment for cancer and other diseases without causing major side effects. In the future, the company also plans to expand its approach to indications beyond cancer.

Business model: In the long term, the start-up company wants to build up its own product pipeline and evaluate its product candidates in the clinic.

Amount of funding: 10,7 million euros 

Number of employees: 8

Thermosome

Dr. Martin Hossann, Dr. Lars Lindner and Dr. Pascal Schweizer, Founders Thermosome

The object of the startup, which was founded in 2015, is a novel cancer therapy in which the ingredient is released directly into the tumor's bloodstream. This enables a significantly higher local drug dose in the tumor. At the same time, it leads to fewer systemic side effects than the classical administration of the same active ingredient. The company uses for that purpose temperature-sensitive nanocarriers, known as thermosomes, which only dissolve in tumors. These tumor cells get warmed up before and due to their higher temperature the membrane of the nanocarrier disbands and reveals the medicines.

Compared to conventional drug delivery, up to 15 times higher local drug concentrations in the diseased tissue can be achieved with a simultaneous reduction of side effects. The technology puts medication in “the right place”, as most of the medicines get lost in the body and lead to side effects.

Business model: The customers are pharmaceutical manufacturers with a specific focus on cancer drugs, who could then sell these drugs as being particularly well tolerated.

Amount of funding: 4,6 million euros 

Number of employees: 10

IRUBIS

Lorenz Sykora, Anja Müller and Alexander Geißler, Founders IRUBIS - photo by Astrid Eckert – TUM

The 2017 founded startup facilitates the monitoring of bioreactors in which biopharmaceuticals such as insulin or vaccines are produced. It is important for the cells floating in the culture medium that nutrients such as glucose, are present in a constant concentration. 

Currently, the glucose concentration in the majority of bioreactors is manually monitored and regulated”, says Co-Founder and COO Anja Müller. Day after day, the laboratory staff have to take samples and, if necessary, manually control the addition of glucose. This is not only very time-consuming, but also involves a certain risk of contamination.

The startup helps biofactories to produce larger quantities of the desired substances in better quality. This process regulation could enable a higher yield, better quality and could shorten the process development as a whole. 

Business model: IRUBIS will be selling their technology to biopharmaceutical companies with a focus in medical manufacturing bioreactors. 

Amount of funding: 1,9 million euros

Number of employees: 10

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