The story of world’s first biotech accelerator:
Democratising science to build the future with biology
RebelBio was founded in Cork in 2014 by SOSV as the world’s first Life Sciences startup accelerator. The aim was to unlock the potential of biology as a technology, de-risk and accelerate scientific innovation and launch lean startups to build the future with biology. In 2004 Rob Carlson, a major founder and contributor to the DIY Bio (Do It Yourself Biology) movement predicted that the cost of DNA sequencing and synthesis would crash dramatically at a rate five times faster than Moore’s Law. This became increasingly evident in the number of companies offering services and products that were more efficient and less costly in a matter of years.
The opportunity to apply the same principles to running and operating a biotechnology company was realised to great success with companies such as Hyasynth, Perfect Day Foods, Afineur and Briefcase Biotec.
Subsequently, the program expanded to ‘IndieBio’ as a result of a joint collaboration between our US and EU teams, both eager to create new and exciting companies in the biotechnology sector and both have invested in early stage startups in both 2015 and 2016 with great success. See our full portfolio here
“Rapid commercial success has been the driver of technological progress for decades and now life sciences is poised to make a new leap.” said Bill Liao, Founder of RebelBio.
As both programs have expanded rapidly, a different outlook has formed for both in terms of diversity. RebelBio has rebranded it’s name from IndieBio to re-focus on its original value of democratising science. It opened it’s focus to support diversity and inclusion in sciences, innovation and entrepreneurship by supporting DIY bio-makers, university spin-outs, academics and innovators alike from various background from anywhere in the world.
The programme is in total three months long with a an additional one month business clinic before. The business pre-accelerator is designed to equip the scientists and engineers with critical business skills, refine the strategy and buisness plans. The summer accelerator begins in April and will continue until July, where companies will showcase their emerging businesses at Demo Day.
Steven O’Connell, the Associate Director and Programme Manager for RebelBio, had this to say:
“Ireland is becoming an emerging hotspot for lean, cost competitive synthetic biology startups, and RebelBio is at the forefront, a beacon supporting entrepreneurship in global biotechnology and innovation.”
Ireland is also of unique strategic interest to young emerging startups due to its unique position as one of the only English speaking economies with strong ties with the United States, the UK and the rest of Europe. Ireland is also a strong place to do business due to the corporate tax rate of 12.5%—meaning active subsidiaries are tax-free for two years with 12.5% being applied thereafter. Furthermore for research focused companies can avail of even lower rates around 6.5%. The prospect of being able to build companies in a low cost, knowledge-based economy strengthens Ireland’s position as a leader in startups.
With support and partnership from University College Cork, SOSV, and sister accelerator IndieBio in San Francisco, the RebelBio startups are uniquely placed to create a massive global impact in both economic and societal terms with jobs and exports being key beneficiaries in the wider economy. The world is just seeing the beginning of the massively impactful technologies that are being powered by technically enabled biology.
RebelBio since 2014 has invested in companies such as Perfect Day, creating the cow-free milk, the tasty and nutritious algae-based drink Spira or the top-shelf, exquisite coffee created by microbial fermentation by Afineur. The 2016 programme graduated 13 biotech companies including Helixworks, being the first to offer low-cost DNA-data storage on Amazon, MicrosynBiotiX improving marine health with a fish vaccine and Pili, who are bio-fabricating living colors.
Bill Liao, the founder behind RebelBio, serial entrepreneur, and General Partner at SOSV, had this to say:
“It is time to cast off the shackles that are holding back many tangible benefits of biology as a technology in our daily lives.”
The company also announced that it will be aiming to scale the accelerator programme to twice per year from 2018 onward with support from University College Cork to recruit 15 companies per programme with the new one month format.