Passion is the driving force in research and entrepreneurship: An exciting environment

Camilla Gustafsen has made a name for herself as a pioneer of new business ventures. She hopes that her example will inspire other researchers who want to try their hand at entrepreneurship.

Camilla Gustafsen
Camilla Gustafsen is co-founder of the companies Draupnir Bio and Muna Therapeutics, which develop new medicines. She believes initiatives like The Kitchen are vital for stimulating the academic entrepreneurial ecosystem. Photo: JS Danmark

She was named one of the ”25 female entrepreneurs you should know” by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in 2022 for her work as co-founder of Draupnir Bio and Muna Therapeutics. Camilla Gustafsen’s leadership role at Draupnir Bio is critical to the company’s development of new medicines for patients suffering from serious illnesses.

Camilla Gustafsen hopes that her strong professionalism and significant ambitions to help people in need will inspire other researchers to see and work with the commercial development of their research projects.

Starting from scratch

Camilla Gustafsen comes from an academic research background, and she needed sparring partners when she had to hang up her lab coat and transition from biomedical researcher to businesswoman.

”My background is in an academic research group (Simon Glerup’s research team, ed.) with a strong emphasis on conducting research that has the potential to help sick people. But when we started Draupnir Bio in 2017, we had to learn a lot of things from scratch,” says Camilla Gustafsen.

She knew everything there was to know about organising and managing a research project, as well as presenting her findings to the outside world. But she didn’t know much about ”all the things you also have to do when you start a business.”

”We had a research result that opened doors for us. But we didn’t know much about how to build an organisation, both scientifically and in terms of the board, HR, and so on. All the practical stuff. It was crucial for us to speak with someone who had done it before,” Camilla Gustafsen explains.

Draupnir Bio was fortunate to be associated early on with the mentor network Accelerace and later with the Nordic Mentor Network for Entrepreneurship, thanks to the assistance of Aarhus University’s Technology Transfer Office. This provided the young company with valuable advice and sparring with experienced biotech and pharmaceutical executives.

Responsible for other people’s investments

Having received an investment of DKK 225 million in 2019 for Draupnir Bio and subsequently DKK 450 million for Muna Therapeutics in 2021, today Camilla Gustafsen does not have to look far for interested and competent partners and advisers.

She has adapted well to the role of research director, which requires her to be very focused in her thinking.

”You are responsible for other people’s investments, which keeps you focused on the end goal. At the same time, medicines must meet stringent requirements, so during the development process, you must adhere to a defined process that is organised in such a way that the final product is reached as efficiently as possible,” she notes with a smile.

Camilla Gustafsen is new to The Kitchen, and she praises Aarhus University’s offer for academics who need to define and develop the commercial angle of their research projects.

”It’s important to play ball with someone who can ask constructive, critical, and inquisitive questions. Initiatives like The Kitchen help to strengthen and mature the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and it can undoubtedly assist more people in starting their own businesses.”

Camilla Gustafsen’s experience has taught her that it is rewarding and motivating to contribute to the creation of a company with a positive culture and fantastic employees who enjoy coming to work every day.

”It’s similar to the research environment in that the entrepreneurial environment is motivating because it’s a place where people meet and are excited about the things they create.

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