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The Opportunity

The 21st century has been dubbed “The Age of Biology”, and biotech is increasingly seen as a solution for global challenges in health, food, agriculture, and the environment; as well as a driver of economic development and diversification. Falling costs of performing life sciences research mean that biotech is no longer reserved for large corporations, universities and government organisations. In 2018, over US $12 billion was invested in biotech startups globally.

OneBio Seed Investment Fund

The OneBio Seed Investment Fund is an R100m venture fund that invests in early stage biotech startup companies. The Fund can invest as little as R500k to that of R20m per company. Startups will receive funding based on the achievement of defined milestones.    

Areas of investment

The potential of biology as a technology is such that the Fund is open to investing in startups focusing on problems in health, agriculture, energy, food, natural products, bioinformatics, direct-to-consumer applications, bio-fabrication and biological tools to name a few areas. The solutions need to apply the appropriate science and are likely to come at the convergence of work done in the laboratory and that of computational science. Startups need to solve African problems with global relevance. The Fund Manager is particularly interested in startups that focus-on or incorporate the following:

  • African genomics – focus on building data and value pertaining to unique African genetic populations (little is presently known on the African genome, important in pharmacogenomics, nutrigenomics, precision medicine and bio-prospecting)   

  • Industrial biotech – engineering biology to produce materials, proteins, biological tools

  • Microbiome – soil, gut, skin, ENT microbiome related solutions

  • Future of Food – cell based agriculture or plant based proteins

  • Bioinformatics / data science / AI / ML – using data and ML to solve hard life sciences data problems

  • Platform plays – a core layer of technology through which multiple products / services can be launched


The Fund’s focus is on deep science, IP, genetic data and tech. If there is no deep science / data / unique insight at the core of the investment opportunity then it is probably not something the Fund would invest in.

Stages of startups

Biotech startups that are late in the research cycle and early in the product cycle will be eligible for investment funding. OneBio is not a research and development institute; speed to market is critical. Startups will need to have a prototype or have some unique form of IP which could transformed into a marketable product in a short space of time. The investment capital the Fund advances needs to be able to take the startup to a clearly defined milestone. The majority of the investments will be seed investment, some in companies that are pre-revenue and some in those that are post revenue. The Fund’s mandate does, however, also allow it to invest post the seed round of investment.

Types of startups supported

The Fund will not only support entrepreneurs that approach it for investment, as per a typical venture capital model, but also look to build companies around novel science or IP. In terms of the latter, the Fund Manager will establish a startup around some unique insight or IP and hire-in entrepreneurs to further develop the startup. 


A critical component in the selection of startups is an assessment of the individuals making up the team. The Fund is seeking technically proficient, resilient, passionate, trainable and adaptable entrepreneurs, preferably a team of at least two co-founders who have known each other and worked together on previous projects.

A deep understanding of the proposed solution is also an important part of the assessment criteria. Some questions to be asked include: What problem is the team trying to solve? What is the solution? How big is the market? What technology is being used? Have they already built a prototype? Was this a research project? Is there any IP? Is the IP protectable or protected? If so, who presently owns the IP? Is there a go-to market strategy?

Geographic scope

The Fund has up to 85% allocation of funds to South Africa and up to 15% to the rest of Africa.


If you are a biotech startup looking for investment capital and would like to build a company with us please write to

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