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15.02
2024

Secrets of a serial entrepreneur

In May, Igor Fisch launched NewBiologix at Biopôle – his latest pioneering life sciences start-up. Here, he reveals the secret to setting up a successful biotech business and why he has no intention of stopping just yet.

Our company NewBiologix develops advanced, innovative technologies to revolutionise the field of gene and cell therapies – and I’m immensely proud of the work we do.

It all started with a conversation I had back in February 2021, when I was celebrating my birthday in Zermatt. I remember getting a phone call from Marc Funk, the former CEO of Lonza, saying he’d taken the CEO position at Recipharm. He was looking to invest in the field of biologics and my mind immediately went to gene and cell therapy. So, I enlisted the help of my friend and co-founder, Nicolas Mermod, and together with the team at Recipharm, we spent a year in discussion, drawing up a compelling business plan.

From idea to implementation

Our plan showed that we needed CHF 45m to build a company from scratch – and thankfully Recipharm was keen to invest. For the first eight months, we rented serviced labs and offices at Biopôle’s Superlab. Nonetheless, we soon decided to build our own facility, getting the keys to our new headquarters at Biopôle in February 2022. We totally transformed the 1,800 m2 site, fitting out our labs and offices and buying the equipment we needed for our R&D. We officially launched in May 2023 and now have 20 scientists working for us – we plan to hire 10 more in the next couple of years. Our start-up is right at the heart of Biopôle’s busy life sciences community, so it feels like a really dynamic and stimulating environment in which to work.

A proven track record

Nicolas and I have now set up several companies between us – we’ve demonstrated that we can start with an idea, create a market and work successfully within it. And our experience is what gives people the confidence to invest. There was a time when things were not so easy for us – when we were setting up our previous company, Selexis, for example. That was over 20 years ago, and back then, we weren’t the ‘old hands’ we are today. We were basically travelling all the time, desperately trying to get in front of investors and convince them about our ideas. But eventually our persistence and persuasiveness paid off and we managed to raise a little money from angel investors, as well as prize money from other sources. It was enough to get us started – and 15 years later, we were in a position to sell our company. I think it was our passion that got us off the ground all those years ago. We were tenacious and focused, and we really believed in what we were saying and doing. So, what I’d say to anyone wanting to set up a start-up is: be passionate. That’s how you’ll get investors to buy into your vision. Then, of course, you’ll need robust financials, plus the interpersonal skills to negotiate and get deals signed off.

I’m not ready to retire and lie on a beach all day just yet

Nowadays, my job is to inspire and encourage the extraordinary team at NewBiologix. If they come to work with smiles on their faces every day, I’m happy. Together, we’re developing innovative technologies to improve the fields of gene and cell therapies, and helping biopharmaceutical companies to treat some of the world’s most devastating diseases. It’s an amazing thing to be part of.

And that’s not all…

When we put together that initial business plan, it included an exit route that I may take within six or seven years. It is exciting to start from scratch again. I have plenty of ideas and energy, and can definitely see myself getting involved with another start-up. I still feel I have lots to give and so much I want to make happen. I’m not ready to retire and lie on a beach all day just yet.

Igor Fisch
CEO of NewBiologix SA

Igor Fisch is an accomplished entrepreneur, protein chemist and molecular biologist with more than 20 years of involvement in the biopharmaceutical industry. He’s currently President of Fongit, a highly successful innovation incubator in Geneva, as well as Co-Founder and CEO of NewBiologix, which launched at Biopôle in May 2023 and develops advanced technologies in the field of gene and cell therapy.

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