While there are numerous technology incubators in Israel, there hasn’t yet been one for biotech companies — until now. Inter-Lab, the R&D center of Merck Serono in Israel, is opening the first biotech incubator of its kind here, sponsored by an international pharma company, and without government funding.
The incubator will be located in Yavneh, adjacent to Inter-Lab’s headquarters. Merck Serono, a division of the German giant pharmaceutical company Merck (Merck KgaA), has committed to investing at least 10 million euros in the project over the next six years, but even more important, a spokesperson for Inter-Lab said, the start-ups participating in the project will have access to the lab facilities at Inter-Lab, a crucial advantage for companies that need to engage in long-term research in order to bring new drugs to market. Similar to business incubator programs, which offer an array of business support resources and services to stimulate the entrepreneurial development of young companies, the Merck Serono biotech incubator is targeted towards the life sciences industry, the company said.
Companies will be chosen for the incubator based on their potential “to develop new products based on their technologies and ability to bring the products to market,” Inter-Lab said, especially in the areas of oncology, neurodegenerative diseases, rheumatology, fertility and endocrinology. Most of the start-ups in the program are expected to be early-stage companies, mostly prior to proof-of-concept.
So far, Inter-Pharm CEO Regine Shevach said that over 100 biotech start-ups have applied for the program. “I see this as a very important day for Israeli biotech,” Shevach said, adding that “this new incubator will provide a real opportunity for Israeli companies with breakthrough technologies to move forward to development and discovery of new pharmaceutical products.”
Established in 1978, Inter-Lab is considered one of Merck Serono’s most important research labs, as it was the chief developer of Rebif, one of the leading drugs in the world for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, with sales of over $2 billion annually.
Attending the opening of the incubator was the chairman of the executive board of Merck KgaA, Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, who said that “our vision is to connect between scientific innovation and business success. The biotech incubator’s purpose is to help Israeli start-ups develop technologies and products in Israel, with the aim of building new businesses that can benefit from the support of Inter-Labs and Merck Serono.”