xista – building a new innovation hotspot in Europe
Europe’s strength in scientific research and relative weakness in successfully commercializing the fruits of that research has been conventional wisdom for years. This is changing though, and Europe is home to great success stories such as BioNtech and TTTech, both stellar examples of scientific research turned into globally leading businesses.
Building on the scientific success of ISTA, a dedicated team has developed an ecosystem to facilitate the creation of new companies and the translation of scientific discoveries into actual innovation in the marketplace.
An ecosystem for innovation
Under the newly launched common umbrella of xista, three pillars contribute to this ecosystem.
xista innovation: a company dedicated to commercializing research at ISTA, building links with industry, and training the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs. Several start-ups based on ISTA research in areas ranging from AI architecture, to sustainable blockchains, and neurological therapeutics have been founded in Boston, Silicon Valley, and here in Austria. Research collaborations include a multi-year joint research effort with Boehringer Ingelheim in the field of medical genomics. Most recently, xista innovation has launched XBIO, a joint training program for aspiring biotech entrepreneurs bringing together the major life science institutions in Vienna.
xista science ventures: a venture capital fund providing funding, expertise, and networks to help science-based companies get started and grow. Its first fund – formerly known as IST cube – raised 45 million euro in 2021 from about thirty private and public investors, and has so far backed fourteen spin-off companies based on pioneering scientific research. Collectively, these companies now have in excess of 120 million euro available in capital and employ more than 250 people. Examples include Ribbon Biolabs, a provider of long synthetic DNA, Sarcura, a company dedicated to improving delivery of cell therapies and prewave, a supply chain monitoring platform. Building on the success of its first fund, xista science ventures is now preparing the launch of its second fund.
xista science park: a joint venture of ISTA and ecoplus, formerly known as IST Park, provides infrastructure and lab space for science-based startups. Deeptech companies have particular needs, not least access to state-of-the-art scientific infrastructure and skilled operating teams. xista science park operates two dedicated buildings adjacent to the ISTA campus with fully equipped molecular biology labs, and facilitates access to the institute’s infrastructure. The third building is currently in development.
Markus Wanko, who initiated the development of xista, explains, “The journey so far has been fun, and it’s just the beginning – the groundwork has been laid, and with our great team of scientists, entrepreneurs, and VC investors we will continue to grow this ecosystem into one of Europe’s pre-eminent innovation hotspots.”
Martin Hetzer, ISTA’s new president, adds, “I’ve been excited to assume my new position as ISTA’s second president. In my previous role at the Salk Institute in San Diego, I could witness firsthand the great benefits of a thriving innovation ecosystem, building on strong scientific institutions and a vibrant entrepreneurial community with strong financial and infrastructure support. I am thrilled to see this happening here as well.”
xista science ventures is supported by InnovFin Equity, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments ("EFSI") set up under the Investment Plan for Europe. The purpose of EFSI is to help support financing and implementing productive investments in the European Union and to ensure increased access to financing.