Galperin, Sigman and an investor dream team are behind the accelerator that seeks the first biotech unicorn in Argentina

Marcos Galperin and Hugo Sigman

Some of Argentina’s most renowned business leaders, including e-commerce billionaire Mark Galperin and the pharmaceutical entrepreneur Hugo Sigmanare among investors pledging more capital for biotech accelerator GridX as early-stage investments begin to pay off.

The Sielecki family, which runs a pharmaceutical business, and the Gador laboratory are other names that renew their commitment to GridX. After a first fund raised $10 million, the second fund hopes to reach $50 million by next year.

“Entrepreneurship in Latin America is very difficult”, according to Miguel Galucciopresident of GridX. In an interview last month he said that his background creates a platform for success. Galuccio, 54, who sits on the Schlumberger board of directors, experienced firsthand the difficulties of starting a business in the region after launching Vista Energy, his own oil company with a focus on shale.

Miguel Galuccio, founder and CEO of Vista and president of GridX (Credit: Vista Press)
Miguel Galuccio, founder and CEO of Vista and president of GridX (Credit: Vista Press)

The new round of funding for GridX, which includes funding from US biotech investor Paul McEwan, and from family offices in Mexico and Argentina, it’s a nod to the high regard the startup accelerator is held after it began raising money in 2017. It has already met half of the $50 million goal and is expanding its investment targets to institutions.

The role that business executives and wealthy families are playing in investing in seed capital is helping to offset less liquidity from venture capital funds, while a slump in the tech sector and rising rates interest worldwide cause a setback.

GridX connects scientists working on biotech projects with entrepreneurs. Such is the case of Beeflow, which enhances pollination to increase crop yields; or Stamm, which makes small-scale machinery in a bid to proliferate access to biologists working on sustainable manufacturing.

Matthias Peire
Matthias Peire

According to the CEO, Matthias PeireArgentina has a distinguished scientific tradition—referring to the country’s three Nobel laureates in medicine and chemistry—but this sophisticated process of transforming science into something tangible is needed. Peire is a 44-year-old business administrator who came up with the GridX concept and found support from Galuccio.

GridX, which is based in Buenos Aires and employs 11 people, has 42 portfolio companies worth around $300 million, Peire said. Most of the companies had their opportunity thanks to the first fund, in which Sigman participated, one of the first sponsors, who also convinced the founder of Mercado Libre, Galperin, to also invest.

The second, larger fund will try to keep the better financed companies as they grow and reach more scientists in other Latin American countries.

GridX’s expansion comes as researchers in the region test solutions for a world struggling with climate change and a health crisis. But bringing the projects to fruition is being threatened by both global market volatility and Argentina’s broader credit problems.

Beeflow, one of the companies that accelerated GridX
Beeflow, one of the companies that accelerated GridX

After a record $16.3 billion of venture capital invested in Latin America in 2021, the story has been different this year. Investments through July 27 were $6.1 billion, according to financial data firm PitchBook.

GridX is not intimidated. According to Peire, this process of falling markets will soon end up being an opportunity for the sector, rather than a threat, and he estimates that the appetite of venture capital will not drop as much. However, there is a long way to go for biotech, which accounts for less than 1% of venture capital deals in the region.

Peire added that they are building the market for biotechnology. He maintains that there is no flow of agreements in Latin America, no company in which a large investor can enter and deposit USD 50 million and the creation of globally competitive companies needs this profound process.

GridX is based in Buenos Aires and employs 11 people, has 42 portfolio companies worth around USD 300 million

GridX has created a portfolio of startups like Puna Bio, which uses organisms sourced from the harsh climate of the Andes to make products for crop growth and soil nutrition; and Onco Precision, which develops tailored oncology treatments.

About 20 GridX companies now have outside sponsors, including investment from the American venture capitalist Tim Draper a tribe

There is also a tangible success story. Caspr Biotech, which aims to expand access to molecular diagnostics for clinicians, was recently purchased.

The GridX process involves a search for scientists who are hard at work on innovative projects in universities and laboratories, and then matches them with entrepreneurs. The resulting startups receive US$200,000 and, later, global investment connections.

These connections include IndieBio, another biotech startup accelerator, but with more clout and based in San Francisco.

To be sure, other startup accelerators also use programs that make it easy to create new teams. And there is competition in Argentina from biotech funds like SF500 and Acceleradora Litoral, as well as broader startup funds like Sancor Seguros Ventures.

Galuccio used a soccer metaphor to describe the success he sees in the future for GridX. “There are many companies with the smell of goals”held.

With information from Bloomberg

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