25 years in the service of the IZB

Dr. Peter Hanns Zobel developed the IZB into one of the most renowned biotechnology centers in Europe

Dr. Peter Hanns Zobel, Managing Director of the IZB

To mark its 25th anniversary, the Biotechnology Innovation and Start-up Center (IZB) published a commemorative publication in 2020. “This is no more or less the content of my professional life,” Dr. Peter Hanns Zobel, managing director of the IZB, is quoted as saying in this comprehensive publication. One year later, he himself is now celebrating his 25th work anniversary. Since 1995, the IZB has developed into a start-up center with a global reputation, which is repeatedly compared in the press to Silicon Valley in the USA. Even a second location in Freising-Weihenstephan gave biotech entrepreneurs the opportunity to set up their companies in close proximity to the TU Munich. How much passion, how much energy and how much strength must have gone into setting up these locations? And what is the success of these exceptional locations? On the one hand, it is certainly the proximity to the top researchers at the two locations. On the other hand, Zobel is closely oriented to the requirements and needs of its start-ups and over the years has not only repeatedly built new buildings for the growing number of biotech start-ups, but above all has set high standards for other location factors. Zobel is proud of never having taken advantage of government subsidies to realize his goals.

In 1995, while still a management consultant at the Fraunhofer Management Gesellschaft, he developed the concept for the IZB and many other biotech locations in Bavaria and Germany. From there, he orchestrated the first phases of construction at the IZB. The first building covered 1,000 m2. At the time, people in Planegg thought this would probably be the kindergarten of the Max Planck Institutes. The first start-ups to move in were Medigene, Micromet, RD Laboratories and Cellcontroll. Micromet was sold to AMGEN in 2011 for 1.2 billion euros.  The second generation included MorphoSys AG, which over time has become one of the largest biotech companies in Germany. He obviously had a good instinct when selecting entrepreneurs.

Innovation and Start-up Center Biotechnology in Martinsried with the IZB Residence CAMPUS AT HOME

From 1996 to the turn of the millennium, Zobel completed seven buildings for the entrepreneurs on campus, one after the other. Not a single laboratory stood empty during this time. Even before or during the construction phase, he signed rental agreements with interested start-ups. The IZB has always been fully booked. Many companies are on the waiting list to get one of those coveted spots at the IZB. Zobel juggles desired entry dates as well as space needs, often arranging subleases with existing startups until the desired space becomes available. There is a great willingness to help among entrepreneurs. The network of top scientists at the IZB and on campus is one of the greatest advantages of the location. In addition, Zobel increases the visibility of the startups worldwide through targeted marketing and PR activities of the IZB. 14 IZB startups have been sold by 2021. “How successful the entrepreneurs from IZB are can also be seen in the fact that deals, financing or company sales of more than 4 billion euros have been realized since 2015,” Zobel is pleased to say.

“I consider it a great honor to have been able to spend almost my entire professional life working with and for the scientists who are changing the world of tomorrow. At the same time, this has enabled Bavaria to develop into one of the leading locations for biotechnology.  Thus, one of my primary goals is to support these courageous entrepreneurs who are incredibly committed to realizing their goals. If the business plan works out, they must be able to grow spatially. So internally, the IZB is constantly on the move. Today, I can’t tell you how many moves I’ve made in-house with the more than 160 startups over the past 25 years,” Zobel said.

“IZB was crucial to the establishment of our local office in 2010 and has supported us on our way to a successful acquisition and beyond.”

Mikkel Noerholm, PhD, MBA
Vice President Exosome Diagnostics

No entrepreneur in the IZB would want to miss out on the other site factors that Zobel has realized over time. These include the construction of a kindergarten in 2001, which, among other things, has a bilingual staff, a children’s laboratory and its own cook for organic food. This gave women on campus the opportunity to return to their jobs more quickly. When skilled workers in the industry became scarce, Zobel acted prudently, locating the Elhardt School of Chemistry at IZB in 2010. In 2014, after only a year and a half of construction, Zobel opened the modern-design campus hotel for national and international visitors to the site, which mutated into a beacon for the campus due to its architecture. Following the English model, the Faculty Club G2B (Gateway to Biotech) was made available to entrepreneurs at the IZB and campus stakeholders on the seventh floor of the hotel. The ultra-modern ambience inspires even global entrepreneurs who visit the hotspots of the industry worldwide.  Thus, an almost magical place has been created at the IZB, where both start-ups and scientists the campus can exchange ideas informally, as well as hold discussions with the biotech, pharmaceutical and venture capital companies in a relaxed atmosphere. Many projects and financings have started here. “Especially at investor meetings in the Faculty Club, the CEOs of the start-ups felt that this extraordinary ambience contributed to a successful conclusion,” Zobel tells of internal conversations.

“I feel comfortable all around at the IZB Residence. The proximity to the Max Planck Institute is of course unique.”

Prof. Edvard Moser
Nobel Laureate in Medicine 2014, after his visit to the Martinsried campus

Networking has a very high priority at the IZB. “The best deals are made at the IZB with a Bavarian beer and a view of the campus,” says Zobel, explaining his concept for success. Thus, the IZBrunch, the Biotech Press Lounge or the Munich Life Science Pitch Day have developed into sought-after IZB events that attract the industry’s multipliers. Under the motto “Science Meets Science”, scientists provide insight into their current research results and gain knowledge about the business areas of the current IZB companies. Numerous journalists moderated the events, thus gaining a very good insight into the dynamic life of the incubator. More than 200 co-operations have been established on the campus in recent years as a result of the intensive exchange of ideas.

Gratulation zum 25-jährigen Arbeitsjubiläum: Herrn Dr. Peter Hanns Zobel und das IZB-Team

“Munich is an important life science ecosystem of natural sciences where we can find great scientists and scientific collaboration partners to make patients’ lives easier.”

Michael Crowley
Head of Business Development for Pharma Research and Early Development, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.

Zobel often seems ahead of his time. Even before the Corona epidemic made home offices socially acceptable, he enabled his female employees to successfully combine work and family. “With the right digital infrastructure, you can do your job anywhere: in the office as well as at home,” Zobel says. The high proportion of female part-time employees reflects this understanding. “I am impressed by the efficient way of working and the great commitment of mothers returning to their jobs. Overall, I am very pleased to have realized all the goals for the IZB with my loyal staff of many years. All that’s missing now is the construction of the additional 20,000 m2 of office and laboratory space for our “adult start-ups” so that the IZB family can stay together.