Claus Olesen: “Entrepreneurship is something you must learn” - BioInnovation Institute

Claus Olesen: “Entrepreneurship is something you must learn”

Claus Olesen: “Entrepreneurship is something you must learn”

Claus Olesen, Ph.D. in Physiology and Biophysics from Aarhus University, has been involved in BioInnovation Institute since the very beginning due to his strong background in the commercialization of research. He has been part of numerous drug development projects with both soluble and membrane protein targets, and he is currently involved in five start-ups and the Business Research Manager at the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University that establishes collaborations between academic researchers and the pharmaceutical industry.

In 2018, NMD Pharma which he co-founded together with Thomas Holm Pedersen and Ole Bækgaard Nielsen and now serves in as the Chief Business Officer raised EUR 38M, which is one of the largest ever series A investments in Scandinavia. With experiences like this, he teaches the modules on ‘Budget & Financing’ plus ‘Planning & Team’ at the Business Acceleration Academy (BAA) that helps early-stage companies develop a business plan to reach the market with their solutions.

Why did you say yes to take part in BII and the BAA program?
BII is a unique opportunity for early projects and it is the first time ever that a Danish initiative takes on the task of developing projects with such seriousness and a vision that benefits the whole country. Because of that, it was an easy decision for me to join, and I am used to traveling so the location in Copenhagen is no hindrance to me.

What do you teach in your modules in the BAA program?
In ’Budget & Financing’, we help the start-ups get an overview of how much it costs to reach the market, and we help them develop a final budget which is a necessity when raising funding. Depending on your product or solution there are different ways to approach financing. While pharma start-ups are often good venture capital candidates, a corporate partnership or private investors might be the more obvious way to go for other more technology orientated start-ups.
In ‘Planning & Team’, we help the teams make an action plan specifically for their project. If you aim to deliver a clinical ready compound in three years, you need to break it down and understand the tasks ahead to reach your goal. In this process, it also becomes clear which competencies are missing in the team and one of the most important things, when you start a business, is your team. If you don’t have the right people at the right time, your chances of success are very slim. Typically, early projects are strong on science but not on the execution, commercialization and business development.

How do you usually see researchers approach the business world?
Researchers often lack a general understanding of business aspects, and that is completely understandable because it is not part of the ordinary scientific education in academia, this I also experienced when I co-founded my first spin-out from the university, where I simply lacked knowledge of or training in how to commercialize research. Many are not very clear about their value proposition and although they might be clear on the upsides of their technology, they often haven’t identified the disadvantages and competitiveness against the existing pipeline or marketed products.

What are the options for life science commercialization support in Denmark?
There are a lot of initiatives available but not anything in the same caliber as BII or with such a strong global network. At Aarhus University, we work to prime and prepare the projects to a stage where we can find additional funding, however in the academic environment, we don’t have the resources you find at BII. I have the utmost respect for the scientists that do it themselves and learn along the way, but very often this slows down the pace of the development and cause loss of momentum and interest from investors.

Why should early start-ups apply for the BAA program?
BAA is the first step if you want to develop a solution that can benefit the world and for many researchers that is the biggest acknowledgment, there is. But entrepreneurship is something you must learn, just like anything else. 11 weeks at the Business Acceleration Academy in Copenhagen is a small time-investment in a case-based crash course on commercializing research. And although you might not succeed with your current start-up, you will gain the skill set necessary to identify potential innovations in basic research going forward.

Are you interested in the Business Acceleration Program? Check out the video below.