Visualising slow bio processes

Monday 30th January 2012

Pepric, a spin-off from Belgium research organisation imec, has successfully closed a €1.4m capital round. Pepric develops scanner systems for direct visualisation of magnetic labels and commercialises equipment for quantitative molecular detection and imaging to monitor biological processes evolving slowly over time.

 Pepric will develop equipment similar to PET or SPECT scanners to monitor processes that evolve very slowly over several days or weeks within the body. Infectious diseases are an example of such a process, as is  cell therapies in which it can take a few weeks before sufficient cells have migrated to the target tissue. (Left, cell migration)

For slow biological processes, when monitoring cell migration it is possible to locate the cells. However it remains difficult to determine the amount of cells that have reached the target tissue. Pepric’s sensitive tools will allow pre-clinical centres to evaluate the efficacy of new therapies and perform early diagnosis.

The investment of €1.4m will support production and commercialisation of Pepric’s first product: an analysis tool for quantitative molecular and cellular detection in tissue, urine and blood samples. And it will enable Pepric to develop its core technology towards detection and imaging within the body (‘in-vivo’).

An important part of the capital round was financed from SOFI, the Spin-Off Financing Instrument created to support spinoffs from the four Flemish Strategic Research Centres (IBBT, imec, VIB and VITO).

SOFI was  launched by the Flemish minister of Innovation, Ingrid Lieten (right) and is managed by PMV. It is the second spinoff that FIDIMEC, imec's investment vehicle for spinoff companies, has participated in. The first was Caliopa to develop and market advanced silicon photonics optical transceivers for data and telecommunications markets..

SOFI (Spin-Off Financing Instrument) was created in 2011 under the impetus of Innovation  Minister Lieten.  SOFI aims at stimulating the creation of spin-offs at the four Flemish Strategic Research Centres (VIB, IMEC, IBBT and VITO).  For this new instrument, the Flemish Government has provided €10m. Coordination of the fund is by PMV.

In the course of 2012, the Catholic University of Leuven (K.U. Leuven) in Flanders will celebrate its 100th spin-off. Amongst them are international companies, as LMS, Materialise, Thrombogenics and ICOS.  SOFI can invest in spin-offs in the form of shares or convertible bonds. Direct investment from SOFI may not exceed €1m per spin-off, over a period of twelve months.

“At our Strategic Research Centres more than 4,000 researchers are working on new inventions that, one day, can improve the quality of our lives,” says Lieten. “These inventions must find their way from the lab to the economy so that everyone can reap the benefits of scientists’ work.

"The spinoffs often are faced with a gap between a promising invention and finding capital to start up. Especially during these harsh financial times in which it became almost impossible for young and promising startups to find private financing, the government must stand ready to play its full part.

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