• Viennese biotech start-up is first European prize winner.
  • New approach aims at targeting disease-causing proteins using small molecules.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim provides financing for office and laboratory space for 12 months and offers access to the company’s expertise.

VIENNA, AUSTRIA, July 31, 2020— The young biotech company Proxygen yesterday received the BI Innovation Prize for 12 months of free office and lab space in the new Start-Up Labs incubator at the Vienna BioCenter, as well as access to Boehringer Ingelheim’s expertise. Proxygen develops therapies against cancer and other life-threatening diseases by reprogramming endogenous protein quality control. Collaborations with start-ups from the life science community are an important element in the pharmaceutical company’s research strategy.

The BI Innovation Prize, launched in Boston in 2015, was awarded this year for the first time outside the U.S. and Japan. “We are very pleased to now bring the successful BI Innovation Prize to Europe to honor and support the innovative power of young life science companies,” said Ioannis Sapountzis, Global Head, Business Development and Licensing at Boehringer Ingelheim. “With the idea of combining cellular and genetic screens with their approach to target disease-causing proteins using small molecules, Proxygen’s application immediately stood out. This concept opens up a new path towards urgently needed medicines,” said Guido Boehmelt, Head of Research Beyond Borders at Boehringer Ingelheim Vienna, explaining the jury’s decision in favor of the biotech company Proxygen.


Treating the untreatable

Proxygen has developed a novel molecular principle that allows efficient removal of proteins previously considered untreatable. This is achieved by a special type of small molecule that can reprogram the natural degradation machinery of cells to specifically degrade those proteins that are, for example, the main cause of diseases such as cancer. Proxygen is thus breaking new ground in this field of science. “It is a great honor to be able to move into the new start-up labs at the Vienna Biocenter campus with the BI Innovation Prize in our pocket,” said Matthias Brand, Head of Research at Proxygen. “We are very excited about this and look forward to future exchanges with Boehringer Ingelheim’s researchers.”


Working together for research breakthroughs

For Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the leading research-based pharmaceutical companies, collaborations with the life science community are an important pillar of its research strategy. “Collaborations with young life science companies provide essential impetus for expanding our pipeline of first-in-class next-generation drugs,” explains Ioannis Sapountzis. “On the one hand, our Innovation Prize recognizes the commitment and risk-taking it takes to start a new company, and on the other hand, it gives us the opportunity to help biotech entrepreneurs with our expertise to develop much-needed medical breakthroughs for patients,” says Sapountzis on the importance of the BI Innovation Prize. The Start-Up Labs at the Vienna Biocenter campus provide an ideal environment and network to help founders advance their breakthrough ideas.

The prize provides a platform to showcase ideas and projects of innovative life science companies from the new Start-Up Labs at the Vienna BioCenter campus. In addition to access to Boehringer Ingelheim’s leading researchers, the pharmaceutical company will cover office and lab rental costs for 12 months. The BI Innovation Prize is part of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Grass Roots program, under which Boehringer Ingelheim has already provided mentoring and direct access to relevant expertise and industry perspectives from researchers and leaders within the company to more than 240 young life science companies.