Biotech in Hungary
The former Hungarian minister Károly Ereky is said to have coined the term ”biotechnology” in 1919. This EuroBiotechNews country focus takes a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of Hungary's biotech scene from the viewpoint of the government, financiers, scientists and the industry.
”Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought”, said the Hungarian Nobel-Prize winning biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi. Does the same hold true for solving the lack of venture capital for biotechnology in Hungary? ”I am waiting for the first VCs to wake up and invest in Eastern Europe. They will do the cherry picking”, says Ernö Duda, president of the Hungarian Biotechnology Association and CEO of Szeged-based Solvo Rt. Yet there is no specialized national life science investor according to a study of German Proventa Capital Advisors (PCA), published in early February. PCA's survey among 130 international VCs found none with ”sufficient experience in investing in Central and Eastern Europe.” The study identified a lack of investment targets, of regional co-investors and also of focus, as many projects are funded with an average Euro100,000-150,000 - not enough to reach commercialization. The study suggests an improvement of information flow, the creation of a strong life science investor base, closer cooperations between biotech and pharma and the promotion of the entrepreneurial spirit among scientists. There is room for improvement and first measures have already been taken. In January the National Office for Research and Technology was founded and an Innovation Fund set up. Hungary has excellent academic research, ”enough to grant the country a leading regional position in the biotech sector”, states PCA.