Associate Professor Andreas Hougaard Laustsen heads the Tropical Pharmacology Lab at the Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark. The Tropical Pharmacology Lab is an academic research group focusing on developing biotherapeutics and diagnostics against neglected tropical diseases. Andreas himself is specialized in antibody discovery, toxinology, antivenom, and neglected tropical diseases, and holds a PhD from the University of Copenhagen (2016) and an M.Sc.Eng. from the Technical University of Denmark (2012). He is an Advisor to the World Health Organization’s Working Group on Snakebite Envenoming, and he is a co-founder of the biotech companies Biosyntia (2012), focusing on metabolic engineering and fermentation processes for fine chemicals, VenomAb (2013-2017) that focused on recombinant snakebite antivenoms, Antag Therapeutics (2017), focusing on therapeutics against metabolic diseases, Chromologics (2017), focusing on fungal fermentation processes for natural colorants, Bactolife (2017), focusing on gastroinstestinal infections and antimicrobial resistance, and VenomAid Diagnostics (2018), focusing on snakebite diagnostic tools.
Andreas is recognized as Denmark’s Coolest Engineer, a Top 6 Academic Entrepreneur under 35 in Europe 2017, and he was on Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2017 and MIT Technology Review’s list of the 35 Top Innovators under 35 in Europe 2017. Andreas’ chief scientific contribution is the development (in collaboration with IONTAS Ltd., UK, and Instituto Clodomiro Picado, Costa Rica) of the world’s first recombinant antivenom based on oligoclonal human IgGs targeting black mamba neurotoxins (Laustsen et al. Nature Communications 2018). Andreas spends most of his time with academic engagements, but also still plays an active role in most of the companies he co-founded.
Venturing into biotech entrepreneurship as a young academic
Upon graduation, the majority of PhD graduates nowadays transition from a daily work life in
academia to one in industry. This switch may involve a steep learning curve. However, often PhD graduates will have easy access to mentors and older colleagues that may help them make this transition. In contrast, venturing into biotech entrepreneurship is completely unchartered territory for many young graduates, who may not as easily find access to advice and mentorship. This is both because a much smaller number of biotech entrepreneurs exists in comparison with biotech industry professionals, but also because the young biotech entrepreneur will typically have to work in a very small startup team with only few co-founders and colleagues due to the often limited resources of a young biotech startup. In my talk, I will present my own story from how I co-founded my first biotech company (Biosyntia) during my master studies in 2012, over why I choose to go back to university to pursue a PhD, and end with describing why and how I chose to pursue a career as a university academic, while co-founding 5 additional companies alongside my academic career. I will reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of venturing into (biotech) entrepreneurship, as well as continuing your career in academia, and present my views on how one can merge or bridge these fields. Finally, I hope to share some personal advice for aspiring biotech entrepreneurs, as well as younger academics.