PULS is Sweden’s most successful private incubator in the life sciences. Since starting up in 2003, PULS has sold two project companies. Another two are in the exit phase, which means that discussions have commenced with potential buyers. The latest sale, which was carried out in October 2011 when the project company DuoCort Pharma was bought by the American pharmaceutical company, Viropharma, is worth more than SEK 1 billion.
“PULS’ business model is based on a clear exit strategy right from the start of the project,” says Pontus Ottosson, the CEO of PULS since it started in 2003. “Another important factor is that the project companies we start up have their base in a real medical need that is defined and unfulfilled.”
Simple ideas lead to tangible projects
PULS is currently involved in prostate cancer, eye disease, woman’s health and asthma/allergy projects and so there is no specific direction regarding which therapy areas PULS works in. Instead it is medical needs combined with their commercial potential that determine which projects will lead to a company being started.
“It has proved to be the case that it is simple ideas that lead to projects being started. Improving a treatment or a new form of administration could be enough to lead to a considerable improvement for the patient,” says Pontus Ottosson.
PULS works on the basis of a virtual concept with a renowned partner group that represents both the academic world and industry. When a project company starts up, a tailor-made team is put together based on the specific requirements. The project team then works in a virtual fashion from its own environment.
“Unlike many incubators, we do not force the researcher to become an entrepreneur. Those skills are already represented in the team by one or more other people. We quite simply allow each individual to do what he or she is best at”, Pontus Ottosson continues.
PULS’ business model proven successful
PULS has the entire Nordic region as its catchment area for new, interesting projects. The stream of new marketable projects is a prerequisite for PULS’ activity. A committed partner group plays a substantial role when it comes to networking activities, the identification and realization of new projects. PULS is organised on the basis of a small operational team of about ten individuals employed with PULS. The remaining one hundred or so individuals in PULS networks work in a virtual fashion on a project basis.
“This involves making economic use of the resources in a lean organisation. PULS is, and will remain, highly efficient. What is important for us is not the number of employees but what we achieve, from both a sales and a medical perspective,” says Pontus Ottosson.
At the moment, two project companies are in the selling phase, one for treatment of the woman’s disease, bacterial vaginosis, and the other dealing with prostate cancer. When it comes to selling, PULS reaches out to buyers from all around the world. PULS sells to the buyer it considers best suited for taking the product to market.
“We have shown that PULS’ business model can successfully produce new treatments for pressing diseases, which the pharmaceutical companies will pass on to the patient. Now we are actively seeking new projects to convert into companies”, Pontus Ottosson concludes.