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Biotech incubator seeks start-ups solving African challenges

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 18 Feb 2019
OneBio is looking to support entrepreneurs solving problems in consumer biology, bio-materials, food and agriculture.
OneBio is looking to support entrepreneurs solving problems in consumer biology, bio-materials, food and agriculture.

Cape Town-based biotech incubator OneBio, in partnership with Zimbabwean entrepreneur support organisation TechVillage, invites biotech entrepreneurs to enter its first six-month incubation programme.

Last April, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, together with energy sector entrepreneur, Michael Fichardt, and Dr Nick Walker, innovation scientist at Next Biosciences, signed a collaboration agreement with the Centre for Proteomic and Genomic Research, to launch OneBio.

The biotech incubator aims to support South African and Zimbabwean biotech start-ups at the convergence of laboratory work and computational science, working on solutions aimed at driving change in Africa. It will draw projects and talent from a diversity of disciplines, including biochemistry, microbiology, and genetics and material science.

The programme is funded by the Finnish government through its Southern African Innovative Support initiative and the South African government's Small Enterprise Development Agency.

"The programme has been created in response to the growth of investment seen in biotech start-ups around the world and the opportunities in the African biotech start-up ecosystem," says Michael Fichardt, CEO and co-founder of OneBio.

"In the past year, OneBio has been working with biotech entrepreneurs and has been blown away by the talent and potential of the region's start-ups. The programme is purposed to source, amplify and accelerate local life science talent and support a new wave of biotech success stories for Southern Africa. We encourage scientists, bio-hackers, entrepreneurs and anyone using biology to solve large problems to apply."

Applications are open to biotech entrepreneurs who are late in the research cycle and early in the product cycle; typically scientists who have a great concept but require business acumen and support to get their concept off the ground, notes OneBio.

Entered products and services will cover many sectors, including entrepreneurs solving problems in consumer biology, future food and agriculture, bio-materials, industrial biology, biological tools, animal health, therapeutics and regenerative medicines.

Solutions that arise at the convergence of laboratory work and computational science are encouraged, adds the accelerator.

The six-month incubation programme will deliver three bootcamps, virtual workshops, expert coaching sessions and tailored online content. The bootcamps will take place in Cape Town, with accommodation and flights sponsored for local start-ups needing to travel. Co-working space and lab facilities will be provided to start-ups in Cape Town and Bulawayo.

"The workshops will be themed according to growth hacking, sales and user experience design, etc. We will also have one-on-one sessions where we will work directly with the start-ups. Many of these workshops will be in response to the unique requirements of the start-ups," notes Fichardt.

The programme is free for participating start-ups and valued at over R350 000 per business. It will culminate in a demo day where entrepreneurs will pitch their companies to local investors.

Selected participants will have access to lab facilities, co-working space, innovative excursions and inspirational fireside chats.

The programme will kick-off with an Immersion Bootcamp on 13 May.

Applications are now open for biotech start-ups seeking support to drive change in Africa, until 10 March. Entrepreneurs can apply here: