HBio: A Biotechnology ecosystem with emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship
We attended with great interest the second International Hellenic Biocluster Forum, where distinguished speakers from Europe, the USA and Australia covered a variety of topics focusing on the complex and constantly evolving Biotechnology ecosystem of our country, as well as the vision of national and international organizations for a healthy and sustainable Europe.
If we were to make a summary of the conference, it would focus on the need to support and promote entrepreneurship and innovation but also on the importance and specificity of investing in Biotechnology enabling business representatives, researchers, investors and various actors in the ecosystem to reconcile, express their fears or concerns and shape concrete solutions and proposals.
With more than 15 years of operation, Hellenic Biocluster ( www.hbio.gr ) has proven in practice that it has created a strong ecosystem with a vision, which includes the largest research centers in Greece, leading universities, partners from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry with significant multiannual market presence but also innovative small and medium-sized enterprises, including many Spin-offs and Startups.
The Hellenic Biocluster follows international standards and differs significantly from a typical collaborative innovation formation, as in its members you will find companies and individuals that offer complementary services and have unique know-how. Of course, the intense research and development activity is the common guideline of all members.
The Hellenic Biocluster is associated with clusters and organizations abroad, such as EuropaBio, the European Clusters Association, the Council of European Bioregions and the Swiss Biotech Association, whose representatives were present at the event leaving their mark. These contacts of the cluster help in extroversion, cooperation and participation in international actions, events and consultations, something that Greece and its businesses undoubtedly need.
The topic of the arduous and time-consuming transition from market research to the 18 innovative companies – members or partners of the cluster – that presented impressive products with a clear impact on society as a whole also caused a sensation.
Innovative companies – members of the Cluster – that presented impressive products with a clear impact on society as a whole
Laboratory of Cell Technology of the Agricultural University of Athens.
The team of the Cell Technology Laboratory of the Agricultural University of Athens, a founding member of Hbio, under the direction of the Professor and Rector Spyridon Kintzios, has more than 25 years of research experience in the field of Biotechnology and especially biosensors.
At the second Hellenic Biocluster Forum, the Assistant Professor Sofia Mavrikou presented an innovative and highly sensitive cell biosensor that detects the S1 protein-spike of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in just three minutes, without requiring prior processing of the sample, discovery that won the second place in the IDea Incubator Competition held under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS.
The diagnostic test presented is expected to radically change the rapid diagnosis of coronavirus and a series of respiratory infections.
Diestia Systems offers consulting, design, development and prototypes for optical devices, optoelectronic systems and software for ocular diagnosis and treatment. The Diestia Systems team has many years of experience in the development of ophthalmic devices, such as diagnostic devices, surgical instruments, intraocular lenses and other ophthalmic implants.
“Our participation in HBio has created for us opportunities for professional collaboration and funding that have exceeded all expectations,” said Dr. Harilaos Ginis, Senior Scientist at Diestia.
George Nikolaidis, CEO of Ergobyte, a new health technology company, presented the PrescIT research project. The project team designs and develops an intelligent, personalized and interoperable platform to support electronic drug prescribing. PrescIT offers value to healthcare providers at all levels, from primary care units to tertiary university hospitals, to all healthcare professionals.
“In a pleasant and friendly atmosphere, HBio promotes innovation and collaboration, enhancing the extroversion of its members. Although we are a new member, we have already entered into important collaborations thanks to the valuable guidance of the cluster “.
Nanoplasmas is a spin-off of NCSR “Demokritos”, with great specialization in the processing and modification of surfaces using nanotechnology. Nanoplasmas offers high-tech diagnostic products for health, food safety as well as agricultural and environmental applications.
“Our participation in HBio has helped us in matters of cooperation with other bodies and companies, in our participation in collaborative research activities as well as in the promotion of our company through the actions that are organized. At the recent conference organized by HBio, we presented our new diagnostic products for the detection of the legionella bacterium and the SARS-CoV-2 virus “, said Mr. Kosmas Ellinas, one of the co-founders of Nanoplasmas.
PharmaGnose is a spin-off of the UoA, specializing in the research and development of natural products with the aim of discovering innovative ingredients for the pharmaceutical, food and cosmetics industry. High quality research services are provided: development and production of plant extracts, utilization of Greek biodiversity, isolation and chemical characterization of natural products, metabolic studies, identification and quantification of biomarkers. In addition, it is actively involved in national and international research projects.
Nature Crete Pharmaceuticals
The Professor of the University of Crete Elias Kastanas briefly presented the goals of Nature Crete Pharmaceuticals, a spin-off of the UoC, with the aim of developing new drugs based on natural products. He demonstrated the available methodology, while presenting a product, already protected by an international patent, against coronavirus and COVID-19.
Professor Kastanas also participated in a round table, presenting the problems of the translation process from academic research to a final product, based on his 20 years of experience in the field. “The participation of a company or a laboratory in the HBio cluster provides an opportunity to exchange views and conclude new partnerships and agreements with partners with additional experience and know-how. “Representation through HBio also provides greater extroversion and representativeness in the international environment.”
FORTH Institute of Computer Science
Dr. Angelina Kouroumbali, collaborating researcher at the Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology, elected member of the International Academy of Health Informatics and founding member of the Hellenic Digital Health Cluster that the Electronic Health Applications and Services of FORTH develops.
“HBio is characterized by high professionalism, with leading executives of entrepreneurship, innovation and research. Our participation is particularly useful, as it expands the scope of our collaborations and offers us the opportunity to highlight and promote the research and production activities of the Institute of Computer Sciences of FORTH. “
Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens
Dr. Zoi Kournia, principal investigator at the Institute for Biological Research of the Academy of Athens, in her speech on “From the computer design of drugs to the preclinical testing of new anti-cancer compounds” presented the new building with the co-funding of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the activities of the Institute for Biomedical Research in the field of Medical Precision and pointed out the need to strengthen pre-clinical trials in clinical trials of original drugs in Greece.
The team that “runs” HBio
At the Forum we had the opportunity to meet the HBio team. Mrs. Stamatiki Kritas, Business Development Manager of HBio, was born and raised in Australia, studied Biology and for more than 15 years pursued a career as a researcher. In 2016 she came to Greece transferring the know-how she had acquired abroad but also special elements as a member of the Diaspora. From 2019, aiming to link research and innovation with entrepreneurship, she supports HBio members to improve and dynamically address the highly volatile business environment.
In collaboration with Mrs Kritas, the scientific coordination of the cluster was undertaken, a few months ago, by the new Scientific Manager of the cluster, Dr. Evi Tsaliki. Dr. Tsaliki is also a biologist and recently returned to Greece after 12 years abroad. Her tenure at University College London in England but also at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics in combination with her participation in the establishment of an innovative Startup in the past, but also her many years of experience in managing research programs and coordinating research laboratories, make Dr. Tsaliki an important addition to HBio’s potential.
You will hear them both talking enthusiastically about the cluster, its members and the actions they are preparing. Although they have lived and worked abroad for many years, they have an in-depth knowledge of the Greek ecosystem, its weaknesses and its needs. They attach great importance to the substantial support of the cluster members, to the creation of strong collaborations and sustainability. Their immediate goal, among other things, is the empowerment and practical support of women in the field of research and entrepreneurship, which was evident from their efforts to ensure equal representation of the two sexes in the Forum, but also the development of opportunities for the necessary “green” transition of the Greek small and medium-sized businesses.
The Hellenic Biocluster is undoubtedly an initiative that has a lot to offer in the field of Biotechnology and follows the developments, or is possibly ahead of them. Finally, we could not miss the fact that this effort was realized thanks to the practical support of its sponsors (Abbvie, Elpen, Galenica, ITF Hellas, Pharmassist, P Zafiropoulos, Bioemtech, CBL, Fuse and Protatonce) as well as the numerous supporters of the Forum of the General Secretariat for Research and Innovation.
The people behind HBio
HBio consists of a nine-member board. The members of the Board of Directors offer valuable guidance to the cluster and its members on a non-profit basis, enhancing any innovation opportunities identified, thanks to their many years of experience in the field of business and translation research.
Dr. Ioanna Koukli, CEO of PHARMASSIST LTD and Chairman of the Board of HBio, said characteristically for the Forum: We were happy to welcome in person and online more than 200 friends and partners of Hellenic Biocluster in this year’s two day conference to talk about the pathogenies of the Greek Biotechnology ecosystem but also the opportunities that appear before us even during the difficult period we are going through due to the pandemic. Personally, I consider it a great benefit that the actions that should be taken from all sides were emphasized in order to form a strong, sustainable and extroverted Biotechnology Industry in Greece, but also to support the innovative research carried out in our institutions “.
Dr. George Lountos, CEO of BIOEMTECH and a member of the Board, considers that the recent HBio conference was undoubtedly an extremely successful event, since after a while we attended naturally inspiring presentations and participated in lively discussions between different players in the domestic Biotech ecosystem. “Especially the presentations of Mr. George Giakoumakis from EIF and Mr. Spyros Arsenis from NGB were a positive challenge-invitation for the Greek Startups in the area and give us a very strong incentive to organize a next event, in which all Biotech Startups must be present in order to participate in the fermentations that take place and take advantage of this positive situation “.