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Biotech start-ups & zombies

How is the German start-up sector doing? Are there ‘zombies’ here too – as in the USA? And what should we be looking out for? A number of heads of German technology transfer organisations were interviewed for this overview, including Ascenion’s Christian Stein.

Up to now the USA, with its impressive number of academic spin-offs, has been held up as a shining example in the German start-up landscape. A recently published analysis in Nature Biotechnology now shows a more nuanced picture: around 40% of US biotech start-ups have never really got off the ground, i.e. they have acquired no more than one employee, besides the company founder themselves. So Germany can learn more from the US than it thought: for example, that the number of start-ups alone is not a useful measure of transfer success. Christian Stein calls for the focus to be put on quality rather than quantity. Meaningful indicators include capitalization, number of employees and survival rate after several years.