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Start-up generation

Miquel Vila-Perelló

Co-founder, CEO and CSO of ProteoDesign

PhD in Chemistry from the University of Barcelona, ​​his early career as a researcher was focused on the design and synthesis of bioactive peptides. He undertook postdoctoral studies in protein engineering and chemistry at the University of Rockefeller (New York) for six years. Later he joined Princeton University and headed the protein spectroscopy unit at the Department of Chemistry. He returned to Barcelona in 2014 and co-founded ProteoDesign, of which he is CEO and Chief Science Officer.

Miquel Vila-Perelló: "Researchers are trained to be self-sufficient, but to start a business you need a team"


ProteoDesign is a spin-off from Princeton University and is dedicated to the development of new personalized immunotherapies against cancer. The company is based on a technological platform for the specific modification of proteins that facilitates the design and development of new-generation biological drugs. The company is currently focusing its efforts on developing personalized cancer therapies which, by stimulating certain cells of the immune system, activate the innate and adaptive immune response against the tumor. Miquel Vila-Perelló, co-founder, CEO and Chief Science Officer of ProteoDesign, explains the company’s trajectory to date and its most immediate challenges.


Why did you want to be an entrepreneur?

For me, being an entrepreneur was not a goal in itself, but rather a means of bringing our knowledge and technology to people who could benefit from it most. The other co-founders and I realized that the technology we had developed through our basic research could contribute to the development of new and improved biological drugs, for which there was a clear need, and that it was therefore time to take it out of the university and turn it into a business project. On a personal level, I was interested (and still am) in helping to make it possible for results from scientific research to have a positive, direct and personal impact on the lives of other people.


What is the most important strategic decision you’ve made so far?

One of the great strategic decisions that we took was to go from being a technology provider to having and developing our own therapeutic candidates. Specifically, we decided to focus our technological platform on a specific therapeutic area, where we have a clear competitive advantage, and to develop our own drugs for the treatment of cancer. This decision allowed us to close a second round of investment in 2017 and to take a more ambitious approach to value creation.


What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t try to do it alone, but create a good team. I think that many entrepreneurs who come from an academic research background are trained to be highly self-sufficient. Having a good team is essential and you need to consider that it is not only about technical and scientific aspects but also other areas from financial, business, legal and product development to mundane issues like accounting and logistics, which at the beginning you may know very little about, or you don’t value as much as you should. It is necessary, therefore, to be aware of the limitations and to try to build a solid team that is complemented by knowledge, and also skills, and that can work together to take the project forward.


And now what? What milestones do you want to achieve in the short term?

Our main short-term goals are to complete the current preclinical studies with our two immuno-oncological candidates and to close a funding round to be able to develop them until they reach the stage of proof-of-concept testing in humans in a clinical trial.