Crowdfunding can be a great tool for bio-based industries

Irun Cohen explains why he utilised crowdfunding to finance therapies to tackle inflammatory bowel disease.

Irun Cohen | Photo credit: Alma Biotherapeutics

By Irun Cohen

26 Sep 2016

Earlier this month, Alma Biotherapeutics invited the public to help finance the development of a therapy for the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

We embarked on this fundraising round with WiSeed the first Equity-based Crowdfunding Platform in France. WiSeed provides individual investors with the opportunity to collectively finance innovative companies. 

Here at Alma Bio-therapeutics we are assisting WiSeed in establishing a precedent for conducting a crowdfund specifically to support the development of an innovative therapy.


We are among the first biotech companies to enter the arena of crowdfunding. The way it works is: WiSeed provides a web-based platform and members of the public can choose to endorse and/or contribute to the fund after reading a detailed profile on Alma Biotherapeutics. 

Crowdfund investors are numerous and represent many facets of the community, so we thought a crowdfund would be a good vehicle to involve someone who suffers from IBD or someone who knows a patient. 

Alma-Bio is located within the Lyonbiopôle healthcare innovation cluster in France's Rhône-Alpes region. Despite the ongoing support of the cluster, finding investment for an experimental therapy in preclinical development remains a challenge.

We think that the public will be interested in advancing a therapy with the potential to cure patients with IBD, the collective term for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The funds raised will be used to advance our lead candidate, toward a clinical trial in patients that currently do not respond to any treatment. 

The European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation estimates up to three million people across Europe are affected by IBD. High incidence rates combined with the limitations of current available therapies mean there is a need for a new and better approach to treatment. 

Current therapies provide therapeutic benefit by suppressing the immune system and patients require treatment for their entire lives. 

Also, a proportion of those suffering are unfortunately unresponsive to the treatments currently available. My extensive research on autoimmune diseases has led to a new understanding of autoimmune disorders. Alma Biotherapeutics was founded to apply that knowledge. 

Research conducted in my laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science discovered key molecular signals in the ongoing dialogue between damaged, inflamed tissues and the immune system's response.

Using those signals, we are developing a way to curtail the misguided inflammation characteristics of autoimmune diseases. 

Activating the immune system to better regulate itself would mark an improvement over the way autoimmune diseases are currently treated. 

Alma's crowdfunding campaign is doing more than making a public case for a new approach to treating autoimmune diseases.

Crowdfunding is a promising prospect for addressing the infamous funding gap (between initial start-up capital and industry investment) that can hinder the successful development of early stage biopharmaceutical companies. 

We are embracing a progressive funding model that we hope will help other young companies and benefit the biopharmaceutical industry's development.