WELBIO has a strategic fundamental research mission in the field of life sciences. One of its characteristics is the need to create industrial value from scientific discoveries. To this end, WELBIO invests in individualised support for its researchers in order to establish a strategy to increase the economic value of the results integrated in the research and, in close collaboration with members of the company-university interfaces of the host universities, it supports the development of and the creation of economic value from inventions
It is important to realise that WELBIO funds fundamental research projects for which the result is, by definition, uncertain, and for which several years are needed between the start of the project and the realisation of any value-creation activities. The research funded by WELBIO is innovative but high-risk. Only a fraction of the projects will ever succeed in creating concrete industrial value. Creating value for WELBIO's fundamental research projects must therefore be approached from multiple angles: protection of intellectual property, targeted or applied research projects stemming from WELBIO, collaboration with industry or new major sources of funding such as the European Research Council (ERC).
30 invention disclosures were submitted within the context of 22 research projects.
Patent applications are being examined for 10 inventions. They cover a variety of fields: diagnosis and treatment of cancer (in particular by immunotherapy), treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, of metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes) and of a rare disease.
Collaboration agreements with the industry
The excellent research carried out by Pr. Coulie, WELBIO researcher at UCL and Pr. Lucas (UCL), has resulted in a very fruitful collaboration with the Belgian biotech argenx (Ghent). Argenx entered into a collaboration and license option agreement with AbbVie, a global biopharmaceutical company, leading to first financial returns for WELBIO. This project aims at developing a new cancer immunotherapy (ARGX-115). AbbVie decided in August 2018 to exercise its license option for developing and commercializing products based on aARGX-115. In March 2019, AbbVie announced the launch of a 1st Phase 1 Clinical Trial with this therapeutic antibody (from now on named as ABBV-151).
A first spin-off emerging from a WELBIO project has been launched in April 2018. This company, named ChromaCure, is dedicated to cancer therapy, based on research conducted by Prof. Blanpain and his group at the Laboratory of Stem Cells and Cancer (ULB), in particular in the framework of his first WELBIO project. The current financing round (17 M EUR committed) will fund the identification and progression of a lead candidate through early stage clinical testing. ChromaCure will be based in based in Charleroi BioPark (Gosselies).
Targeted or applied research projects funded by the Public Service for Wallonia Research (DGO6)
CICLIBTEST project has been selected for funding under the WALInnov programme. This project is led by Pr. Roger, Welbio investigator (2011-2017) at the ULB. This project aims at developing companion diagnostics to CDK4-inhibitors adapted to different cancers". This project is based on the results of the 2011-2015 WELBIO project of Pr. Roger, after maturation through a WELBIO Bridge Fund. CICLIBTEST is conducted in collaboration with Jean-Pascal Machiels (UCL) and in partnership with the company OncoDNA (Gosselies).
BioWin, Health Cluster of Wallonia
BioWin has approved a first project that capitalised directly on a WELBIO project. This project called iCone (Human cortical neurons from stem cells), is based on the results of the first WELBIO project conducted by Pr. Vanderhaeghen a WELBIO researcher at ULB and one of the key opinion leaders in the field of stem cells and neurons. This project aims to create an industrial activity based on technologies for producing human cortical cells from induced pluripotent stem cells. It was launched in 2018 and will be conducted within the framework of a public-private consortium consisting of 2 academic groups and companies based in Wallonia: 2 SMEs that specialize in the production of cellular therapies (MastherCell et NCardia, Gosselies) and UCB (Braine-l'Alleud). Le projet is led by MastherCell.
Several WELBIO investigators are involved in the IT-Targets BioWin project « Identification of drug candidates and biomarkers for immunotherapy (cancer and auto-immune diseases) » led by iTeos Therapeutics (Gosselies) in collaboration with ChemCom (Brussels) and ImmunXperts (Gosselies).