Investing in science based startups in Leiden
Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. (LEH) is an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of Leiden University which creates, supports and invests in startup and spinout companies related to Leiden University’s activities, many of which are located on the Leiden Bio Science Park.
LEH currently supports about 40 startup and spinout companies aimed at increasing the impact of Leiden University. LEH holds the patent portfolio of the University, and patent management services are outsourced to the Luris, the technology transfer office of Leiden University.
LEH works across Leiden University and with many external organizations, incubators, foundations and investors to guide, structure, finance and develop entrepreneurship activities and startups.
The History of LEH
LEH was founded in 1996 at a time when Dutch Government spending cuts were combined with ideas to access commercial markets to provide services. It was believed that universities should be able to earn considerable income from the private sector, which would offset public funding. Archol B.V. was the first creation under LEH, fulfilling large research orders for archeologists and it still provides services to this day. Several academic service companies followed. There was also an ambition to generate income from founder shares in research spinout companies such as Crucel; one such successful example, which was floated on the stock market in 2000, and later bought by Janssen (now part of J&J).
In 2005, these private income-generating ideas were largely abandoned. The costs and risks involved in technology startups were high and difficult to manage from within a university. At the same time, internationalization in education provided the university with new income. Instead, Leiden University followed the new government’s ambition to foster new business in technologically advanced sectors through collaborative work programs with benefits to society in a more general sense. Leiden started collaborating with governments, regional development offices as well as private venture capital investment funds, which would selectively assess and invest in potentially valuable spinouts. Revenues for LEH remained relatively modest. Gradual growth in capital from the original service activities allowed LEH to directly invest in some scientific spinouts from about 2018.
From 2020 a dedicated investment team joined LEH, led by Rob Mayfield, a seasoned VC investor and formerly the Leiden tech transfer director, to actively support and invest in startups and spinouts in Leiden, dramatically increasing the investment activities. LEH has grown quickly in scale, impact and value over the last few years, and remains financially independent.
The Supervisory Board of Libertatis Ergo Holding B.V. was appointed in 2023 and plays a crucial role in guiding and overseeing LEH’s growing activities. The Board is made up of highly experienced investment and industry professionals in the field of life science and health.
Edward van Wezel
Managing Partner of Biogeneration Ventures, a leading European Pharma VC fund with Euro 400mln assets under management.
Prof. Douwe Breimer
Former Chairman of the Supervisory Board of EQT, one of the largest European Life Science and health investment funds with Euro 224Bln under management. Douwe was also the former president of the Executive Board (CVB) of Leiden University.
Mariska Koster, MD
Lead Sustainable Business Strategy for JNJ (Johnson and Johnson). Former pulmonologist with a focus on oncology and worked for a health insurer for five years.