Interview with Renato Del Grosso, Co-Founder of Cube-Labs, an Italian life-sciences platform for academic spin-offs

Renato Del Grosso is Co-Founder and Executive Global Market Access Officer at Cube-Labs, an Italian life-sciences platform that creates, incubates and accelerates academic spin-offs (cube-labs.com).

Previously, Renato worked as Market Access and Government Affairs Manager in a number of international pharmaceutical companies, such as MSD, Abbott, AbbVie, Intercept.

Renato graduated in Public Law at Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II and in Health Care & Pharmaceutical Administration at Luiss Guido Carli University. Renato received an Executive Master in Finance from SDA Bocconi Business School.

Q: You were having a promising career in big medical and pharmaceutical companies, and then, in 2019, you decided to join full-time Cube-Labs, an Italian initiative that you founded together with Filippo Surace (MD, entrepreneur), and which aims to support the transfers of academic medical research. What led you to this decision?

Renato: Cube Labs is a bridge between the scientific community and the market, aiming to valorise the high-value Italian academic research and develop world-class technologies. Therefore, our goal is to enhance the Italian scientific research, and convey it to the market.

In Italy, academic research still struggles to market products needed by patients; business vision and capital for early developments is needed.

Fortunately, today more than ever, the world of finance is looking at these anticyclical sectors. So my decision to join full-time Cube-Labs.

Q: How is Cube-Labs organised? What investment opportunities does Cube-Labs target?

Renato: Cube-Labs partners with the Inter-University Consortium I.N.B.B. (National Institute for Biostructures and Biosystems). This ensures a close and direct contact with over Italian 650 researchers, 24 Italian Universities and other major research institutes in Italy and worldwide.

We target innovative R&D projects with solid research and track records in various sectors, including biotech (oncology, orphan diseases, nutraceuticals, anti-aging solutions) and medtech (in vitro diagnostics, cardio-surgery, dental care, dermatology, e-healthcare/A.I. solutions).

Q: What are the results of Cube-Labs till now? What are the firm development plans?

Renato: Today, Cube-Labs has a portfolio of 11 academic spin-offs focused on dynamic therapeutics areas, with positive trends of growth and strongly interesting from a scientific point of view. The current value of the platform is not only given by the current assets, but also from prospects R&D lines thanks to the INBB ecosystem. 

Our plan for 2020 is to raise € 25-30 million in order to support the development of our current portfolio companies and enlarge it. This means, for our pharmaceutical spin offs – end of preclinical stage/ Phase I – and for our medtech and nutraceutical companies – start pre-commercialisation through licensing partners.

As said, our long-term plan is to add academic spin-offs to our portfolio (we are already in a scouting time), and with the first exits, create a virtuous cycle for valorising the life science research in Italy.

Q: What do you think of the Italian start-ups ecosystem? In your opinion, are there good life-sciences investment opportunities in Italy?

Renato: The Italian start-up ecosystem is experiencing a positive phase. Since 2012, Italy has been supporting innovation and has been encouraging young people to create start-ups, also thanks to acceleration and incubation programs of universities and private entities.

The dynamics related to life-sciences start-ups are peculiar.

Biotech start-ups are strictly connected with the academic scientific research; they need to follow a complex clinical development up to commercialise their products, and this path requires great amounts of capital. One of the latest trends for therapeutics is the use of digital solutions and AI applications.

Medtech and diagnostics start-ups are definitely more connected with the IT and software development industry, as they focus on software development for managing personal health data (digital health/big data). These companies are run by scientists, but also by tech guys; companies require less capital and a shorter time-to-market.

In Italy, we see that more national and international investors are approaching the life-sciences industry, as they recognise the high level of the Italian academic research. Moreover, life-sciences is an anti-cyclical sector that can provide interesting returns. By investing in a diversified and specialised platform, such as Cube-Labs, investors can diversify their risks.

The way to go public for capital raising, despite the temporary bear phase, can be an option to consider through IPO or business combination with a listed SPAC (just to mention the recent case in Italy of BIOGENERA – biotech R&D company of DNA drugs).

I believe that in Italy there are very good investment opportunities in the life-sciences sector. Italian spin-offs and start-ups need capital to support their early stage developments and create scalable businesses. And this is why we created Cube-Labs. We are also glad about the Government commitment through the National Innovation Fund and the Fund dedicated to SMEs in the south of Italy.


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For more info on Cube-Labs visit: https://cube-labs.com/