Biologist, researcher, entrepreneur and investor inin Biotech, Damià Tormo, founding partner of the capital fund Columbus Venture Partners SGEIC, visited the Institute of Molecular Science (ICMol) of the University of Valencia and gave a talk in which he underlined his personal conviction that science, especially high-level science, must have "a real social impact". And, in line with this conviction, he explained Columbus' investment philosophy: "In science, let's not look for projects, let's look for solutions to needs".

With a degree in Biology from the University of Valencia and a PhD in Immunology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Bonn (Germany), Tormo participated as a speaker in the ICMol Innovation Breakfast series, an initiative with which the institute's Transfer area brings the work of its scientists and research groups to companies, other centres or investment agents interested in one of ICMol's strategic areas.

In his speech, Tormo insisted on the sense of science as a transforming force. He explained that during his doctorate, with stages in Germany, the USA and Spain, he was proud to publish his advances in oncological therapies in scientific journals of impact. "We published in journals like Nature or CELL" and that was fantastic. But, he said, there came a time when "I wasn't looking forward to it at all". "I was determined that these new oncological treatments should reach patients and I gave up my scientific career, I abandoned it to achieve my real objective," he admitted.

At that point, Tormó decided to put research on hold. And to become "a scientist who no longer does science", but rather tries to build business projects. In these years he has participated in the birth of some twenty companies, with three premises: that they are based on knowledge, that they are scalable and, of course, that they "make social sense". "This really excites me," he said, "because this social sense is fundamental, for example, to create teams because only in this way are we able to attract talent.

Tormo's successes earned him the 2017 Princess of Girona Foundation Award for Business "for knowing how to combine a brilliant scientific career with that of an entrepreneur and investor capable of connecting, in Spain, the world of research with business initiative". One of these milestones of success was the sale to Bayer of Viralgen, a company founded in 2017 together with the US pharmaceutical company AskBio, in an operation valued at 4,000 million euros and which was the most important transaction in the sector in 2021.

The 'new' synthetic biology

Tormo and the Columbus fund also participated in the founding of the Valencian company Polypeptide Therapeutic Solutions (PTS), bought by Arcline, and Algenex, sold to Insud Pharma. "These things happen in Spain, with companies born here, but we don't just believe it," warned Tormo, before citing synthetic biology as one of the great oceans for research and investment. "

"We are moving beyond the stage of knowledge of natural life" he noted, "and now is the time, for example, to employ Artificial Intelligence to produce synthetic enzymes, for synthetic DNA". According to Tormo, greater control of chemical reactions "means that we can improve on what nature can do".

But he reiterated the question that every researcher should ask: "What are my values? He concluded with two pieces of advice. Firstable: "It doesn't matter what you do, but the impact of what you do"; and secondly: "Learn to sacrifice projects before you lose a lot of money".

"Project co-financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Operational Programme for the Valencian Region 2021-2027"