Life sciences sector in Slovakia through the eyes of its leaders: Not enough talent, not enough investment


Life sciences sector in Slovakia through the eyes of its leaders: Not enough talent, not enough investment

Today, it is innovation and technological progress that sets the pace of society's development. The success of the life sciences sector is crucial for the future of health care, the economy, quality of life and the entire direction of Slovakia. We have considerable room for growth in this area and a lot of untapped talent. However, the key to success might be connecting innovators with growth capital, agreed scientists, investors and representatives of successful Slovak startups and life sciences companies during the event Life Sciences & Slovakia: Emerging Sector for the Upcoming Decades, which was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with Crowdberry.

Untapped talent

The outflow of human talent, or brain drain, is a frequently discussed topic in Slovakia, yet representatives of fast-growing companies in the life sciences sector – Pavol Čekan (CEO MultiplexDX), Eva Kováčová (CEO Glycanostics) and Michaela Šišková (CEO DNA ERA) – agree that there is no shortage of promising candidates.

"When we posted a new geneticist position, we had over 100 applications in two days!" Michaela Šišková from DNA ERA, a company that strives to make genetic testing accessible to everyone, summed up.

"Paradoxically, we have a literal glut of talent in Slovakia, but we still lack success stories of companies that would convince key partners that it is worth investing in them," added Pavol Čekan, CEO of MultiplexDX, a company mainly engaged in the development of fast and accurate diagnostic products for the detection of diseases such as breast cancer.

"From my point of view, we do not lack talent directly in the sciences, but in the infrastructure above that, in the so-called tech transfer sphere. We need people who understand the business environment, who can communicate with relevant companies, who are familiar with creating licensing agreements and so on," pointed out Eva Kováčová, CEO of Glycanostics, a company developing affordable, non-invasive next-gen cancer diagnostic tests. 

The development of these Slovak startups with global potential is also hampered by the lack of linkages with foreign capital markets. "Neither Slovakia nor the Czech Republic are practically on the map of international investment markets in the field of Life Sciences," noted Michal Nešpor, Partner at Crowdberry. However, this connection is essential for the upscaling of local innovations to the international level and their application in a broader context.

The good news is Slovakia is not that far off from being in this position. And Crowdberry is playing a key role in bridging this gap. It allows companies to kick-start their initial growth so that they can connect with international investors in the future to expand their services or products that help improve or even save lives in the field.

Pioneers in biotech and healthcare sector in Slovakia from Crowdberry’s portfolio

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Finding synergies

Cooperation and interconnections were highlighted by the speakers as equally important for the further growth of the life sciences sector in Slovakia. However, creating an ecosystem in which other companies can emerge won’t happen without those who tread the virtual path to success and put the Slovak life sciences sector on the map at a global scale. MultiplexDX, Glycanostics or DNA ERA are just such companies.

"We don't need to be the first unicorn; I wish success to everyone," Čekan remarked during a pleasant fireside chat.

"The important thing is that we have companies that break through, and then from them, so to speak, talent emerges, which, like an investment, can be capitalised on in other successful projects," elaborated Nešpor, who runs the CB Investment Management investment fund, a subsidiary of Crowdberry, during the panel discussion. 

The emerging medical hub Lab28 provides the ideal environment for companies in the life sciences, biotech and medical fields. Pavol Marcinko, CEO of Your Doctor and founder of Your Doctor Polyclinic and initiator of this project, also spoke about the importance of cooperation. "Our goal is to create a common space where companies from the life sciences sector can collaborate, learn from each other and grow together," Marcinko said.

This approach not only allows companies to share resources and knowledge, but also to create new opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening the entire sector and opening the door for more successful projects.

Another tangible example of the synergy between the interconnected sectors is the newly opened Your Doctor Clinic, which brings a holistic view of client health and focuses on prevention and wellbeing. "We want people to have access to comprehensive care and plenty of information, which is why we try to bring together multiple specialists in one place. At the same time, we focus on prevention, and one of our goals is for people to not be afraid to take responsibility for their health and quality of life," Marcinko explained.  

The search for synergies and mutual support was also stressed by DNA ERA’s Šišková: "If there is an opportunity, I would certainly like to give something back to the life sciences sector, either through cooperation or by supporting start-up projects. We are not often used to going the extra mile here, so I think it’s important to support those who want to develop their own projects."

Successful life sciences stories

The success of companies in the life sciences sector depends not only on their innovation and scientific advances, but also on their ability to be open and accessible outside their sector. When these companies are open to collaboration and communication with different sectors and investors, they find it much easier to attract potential investment and capital. This approach allows life sciences companies to better present their projects and visions, thereby increasing their attractiveness for investment and support, which is essential for their continued growth and development.

"We need investment and an education system not only for product development, but also to develop talent for strategic and commercial management of life sciences businesses," emphasized Kováčová from Glycanostics. "Only a company that knows the rules of the game in the life sciences sector, and plays them best of all, can be globally successful."

The key factor is not only the rich talent that Slovakia has in the field of science and research, but also the need to support the appropriate environment and create optimal conditions for the growth and development of this sector. Peter Potúček from the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL), who represented the regulator's perspective in the discussion, stressed the importance of creating a level playing field for business in this sector. "I am aware that the business sector expects a transparent environment and fair competition. That is why we are open to communication and want to set the regulatory framework in a way that does not create bureaucratic hurdles, but at the same time does not compromise on the quality and safety of products," he said, addingthat the state and business share a common goal, which is to improve people's health and quality of life. This common interest creates a solid foundation for the development and support of the life sciences sector in Slovakia.

Invest and co-own Glycanostics – a successful Slovak biotech company.

The success of the life sciences sector is the success of Slovakia

In recent years, Slovakia has established itself as a major player in biotech and health care. With a growing number of innovative companies such as Glycanostics, DNA ERA, MultiplexDX and Your Doctor bringing revolutionary changes to diagnostics, treatment and patient care, Slovakia is proving that it has enormous potential and talent in this field. "We see both the potential and the societal impact that the life sciences sector has. At the same time, however, we choose companies that are able to multiply the value of the invested capital," Nešpor stated at the end of the discussion.

It is through responsible investment that successful companies can capitalise on their potential and build a better environment not only for health care and improving quality of life, but also for the overall growth of the economy. The success of the life sciences sector will also determine the success of our country, the guests agreed in conclusion.

‘The success of the life sciences sector will also determine the success of our country.’

Private investors have already invested more than EUR 10 million in the Life Science sector via Crowdberry.
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