Biotech Incubator: Bench Ideas to Business

  • February 22, 2018
iJOBS Blog

The following blog post was written after attending the iJOBS site visit to the Biotech Incubator: CCIT located in North Brunswick on 7th Feb 2018. At the event: Janet Alder, iJOBS program director; Lenzie Harcum (host), CCIT manager; Frank Bedu Addo (guest), CEO and President, PDS Biotechnology; Jeremy Pronchik (guest), Scientist, BioAegis, PhD students and Postdoc scholars from the Rutgers University(audience). Slide1 Is your Ph.D. research project based on an innovative idea that can be commercialized? Are you looking for a right place to take your academic lab work to a business-oriented space? Starting your own biotech company poses logistical challenges such as finding the lab space and having to do without the institutional support of a research university. Biotech incubators play a critical role in the early stage of a biotech company. They provide affordable lab spaces and core facilities, which helps reduce the cost of starting a biotech company independently. As a matter of fact, a start-up in an incubator is four times more likely to succeed than an entirely independent start-up. It is definitely great to know that new biotech companies can get the support they need at the initial stage of development. One such resource is Commercialization Centre for Innovative Technology (CCIT), a 50-acre research park that lies in the heart of New Jersey’s research corridor. This biotech incubator is part of the New Jersey’s economic development authority (run solely by the government fund), thus occupants of the space get incentives such as low interest financing, tax incentives, affordable lab space and access to the public and private investment community. CCIT houses different sized companies, which are grouped into three different tiers. The first tiers are the large companies, second tiers are the growing companies and the third tiers are the incubators (about 8 employees). Startup companies have to go through the application process in order to get the incubator space. The majority of CCIT applicants are from the ex-pharma personnel and only a handful from academia e.g. Visikol. It takes about one year to prepare an application for a space at CCIT and that includes creating a team and finding investors. Incubator spaces are rented on a yearly basis and are extendable for up to five years. Companies in the incubator have access to a conference room, NMR, autoclaves, and dishwashing facilities. CCIT not only provides lab spaces but also provide access to consultants from the local pharma community. The consultants provide the CEOs one-on-one advising and services include feedback on the individual company, accountant’s advice, etc. However, CCIT does not provide equity/fund to the companies and does not help with the grant application to the funding agency. Protein Delivery Science (PDS) biotechnology, a tenant at CCIT incubator space, is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing a novel drug for cancer immunotherapy. Their CEO, Frank Bedu Addo, was an international student at University of Pittsburg and had a long career in the biopharma industry. He started as a scientist, later became a director, and then transitioned to the business development executive. The advantage of being an ex-pharma employee is the experience gained in drug development and having the pharma network. Frank was able to build a team of experienced ex-pharma professionals, which includes a chief scientific officer who was involved in the development of almost 20 drugs. Finding an investor was not a smooth process; his initial attempt was not successful but, luckily, he was referred to an investor who was an old-acquaintance with a high net worth. PDS partnered with other pharma giants for its phase II clinical trial, which otherwise would cost the company 5-10 million dollars. The preclinical studies are outsourced through collaborations with academic labs. Thus, PDS biotechnology is great example of how experience, network and strategic planning can help in the growth, and success of the company. For a Ph.D. student who is looking for a career outside of academia, these incubators could be your next work place for a career in research. As the companies in this incubator space are made of small teams, one will learn many other aspects of building a biotech business. An example of such can be found in Jeremy Pronchik, a scientist who works for BioAegis Therapeutics. Jeremy studied lasers as a biophysics graduate student but he currently participates in clinical work at BioAegis and has been involved in many of the team’s brainstorming meetings. These incubators are an opportunity to learn about the different areas of a pharmaceutical industry in a short time-frame. The small size of such companies allow you to take on different responsibilities, which is often not the case in large pharmaceuticals. If you are someone who has a novel therapeutic idea and the entrepreneurial spirit to build a biopharma business, here are the take home messages from the visit:

  • Create a small team (maximum of 7 or 8 person).
  • Include experienced pharmaceutical industry personal in the team, if possible.
  • Find investors, angel investors, knock on doors and network, network, network.
  • To save money, outsource some of the work, collaborate, and create partnerships.

If you are interested in starting your own biotech company, reach out to CCIT biotech incubator to transform your innovative ideas to future products and help create new jobs.   This post was written by Sangeena Salam. Edits and suggestions that contributed in this post were made by fellow bloggers Tomas Kasza and Maryam Alapa.

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