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London Tech Week

Cutting-edge European startups that secured funding from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

aphea-bio

At $38.9 billion in value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s investment portfolio befits Bill Gates’ status as the fourth-richest individual in the world, as measured by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in 2023. The American Private Foundation was founded by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates in Seattle in 2000. As of 2020, it is touted to be the second-largest charitable foundation in the world, holding $69 billion in assets. As per the foundation, they are a non-profit organisation fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world.

Recently, the philanthropic giant, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, unveiled plans to augment their spending in 2024 to $8.6 billion. This is a 4% surge compared to the preceding year and a substantial $2 billion hike from 2021. The announcement came amidst a shrinking healthcare budget for the world’s most weakened nations, following the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. While they focus on the healthcare segment, the foundation has endowed and supported a broad range of social, health, and education developments.

When it comes to Europe, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a financing partnership in 2023 to address critical global health opportunities, eradicating polio and ensuring that innovations in health are more accessible to the people who need them most. Also, the European Commission and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide a substantial financial contribution to support and advance the priorities of the Mission, with a focus on Africa.

That said, we at TFN have curated a list of European startups backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Picnic (Netherlands)

Picnic
Picture credits: Picnic

Founder/s: Bas Verheijen, Frederik Nieuwenhuys, Joris Beckers, Michiel Muller
Founded year: 2015
Total funding: $1.4B

Amsterdam-based Picnic, an online supermarket lets customers place their order via an app, receive a one-hour delivery slot in advance and 20 minute delivery window on the day, and fresh produce appears at the door. With sustainability goals, Picnic delivers groceries via electric trolleys and collects empty packaging for recycling. 

Recently, the foundation invested in Picnic’s €355 million round alongside its shareholder ts shareholder Edeka, a German supermarket chain, and well-known Dutch family businesses. The company plans to use the funds to expand its market position and further rollout to new cities and robotisation.

Aphea.Bio (Belgium)

Aphea.Bio
Picture credits: Aphea.Bio

Founder/s: Isabel Vercauteren, Steven Vandenabeele
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: $127M

Belgian agritech startup Aphea.Bio is a spin-off of the VIB (Flemish Institute for Biotechnology) and its partner universities Ghent University and KU Leuven. It is dedicated to food security and ensuring a safe and healthy food chain. The company aims to provide novel, science-based solutions to build the agriculture of the future: sustainable, reliable, and profitable.

In July 2023, the company netted €70 million in an oversubscribed Series C funding round supported by the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF). Alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the round saw participation from Korys Investments, SFPIM, and BNP Paribas Fortis, as well as existing shareholders. It aims to advance sustainable agriculture practices. 

LumiraDx (UK)

LumiraDx
Picture credits: LumiraDx

Founder/s: David Scott, Jerry McAleer, Ron Zwanziger, Sumit Nagpal
Founded year: 2014
Total funding: $715M

London-headquartered LumiraDx’s molecular TB test is designed to fill these gaps and needs in the TB testing market and significantly increase access to testing. Its diagnostic testing solutions are being deployed globally by governments and leading healthcare institutions across laboratories, urgent care, physician offices, pharmacies, schools, and workplaces to help screen, diagnose, and monitor wellness as well as disease.

In late 2022, the next-generation point-of-care diagnostics company, raised $14.2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the ongoing development of its molecular tuberculosis (TB) testing system.

ExPLoRNA Therapeutics (Poland)

ExPLoRNA Therapeutics
Picture credits: ExPLoRNA Therapeutics

CEO: Jacek Jemielity
Founded year: 2019
Total funding: NA

A Polish biotech company ExPLoRNA Therapeutics develops mRNA therapeutics to treat cancer and other diseases. It specialises in novel cap analogues, the starting part of mRNA that is crucial for enabling the successful production of the encoded protein. ExPLoRNA’s technology increases protein production beyond the scale observable so far with other standard cap analogs.

In 2022, ExPLoRNA Therapeutics received a $800K grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It will be used for a 14-month project to make mRNA technology more accessible in low-income countries to help fight disease.

Bactolife (Denmark)

Bactolife
Picture credits: Bactolife

Founder/s: Mads Laustsen, Sebastian Søderberg
Founded year: 2017
Total funding: $45.7M

Copenhagen-based gut microbiome health company, Bactolife uses its proprietary Binding Protein technology to develop novel biological solutions to strengthen the gut microbiome and help solve the daunting challenge of antimicrobial resistance development. Its platform comprises technology for selecting and producing Binding Proteins without targeting growth or killing the bacteria directly.

In 2022, Bactolife raised $5 million from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Back then, it was announced that the funds would enable Bactolife to accelerate its technology platform’s impact to develop Binding Proteins, a novel biologic solution to reduce the risk of gut infections in humans and animals.

Naobios (France)

Naobios
Picture credits: Naobios

General Manager: Eric Le Forestier
Founded year: 2019
Total funding: NA

A contract development and manufacturing company Naobios provides bioprocess development and production of clinical batches of virus-based products. It intends to manufacture a human viral challenge agent that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infections and to accelerate the vaccine development process.

In late 2023, Naobios received a €1.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support vaccine development. It aims to support the development of low-cost, effective mucosal vaccines to stop respiratory virus transmission. 

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