The biggest question in entrepreneurship is how does one take an idea and make it reality, make it something that’s tangible and positively affects an individual and society as a whole. This was the theme at March’s SDBN networking event with Organovo, sponsored by Invetech.
Invetech helps companies translate innovations into breakthrough products. They work with diagnostics, life sciences, medical devices, industrial, consumer and clean-tech industries. Based in Australia, Invetech opened an office in San Diego in 2008 and has worked with a number of local companies including Organovo.
From idea to solutions – focus on the need
From what seems science fiction, Organovo has developed a 3D bioprinting technology that can create fully functional human tissues; winning numerous innovation awards, including recognition by Time and MIT Technology Review. Organovo’s 3D human tissues better recapitulate human biology, a critical need for advancing medical research and improving patient care.
Organovo’s 3D bioprinting platform has built a number of tissue types including blood vessels, lung, liver and kidney tissues, nerve guides and cardiac sheets and patches. The technology is able to architect, without the use of scaffolding, 3 dimensional anatomically correct tissues with integrated microvasculature that can respond to biomechanical and soluble stimuli. This structural organization of the multiple cell types typical to tissue composition results in tissue-level responses and physiologic processes found in native biology.
These tissue constructs have many applications including disease modeling, discovering new drug candidates, testing therapeutics for safety and efficacy and investigating complex human biology questions. Ultimately, this technology offers the opportunity to create tissues used as direct therapies.
Innovation is a team effort
Organovo’s 3D bioprinting technology was pioneered by Professor Gabor Forgacs from the University of Missouri, who is also Organovo’s scientific founder. To advance the technology to a commercial product, Organovo selected Invetech as their technology development partner because of their sophisticated engineering and automation expertise that protected Organovo’s intellectual property, allowing Organovo to focus on its’ key competency in cell biology.
Because 3D bioprinting has so many applications, an important component of Organovo’s strategy resides in developing partner relationships. The company currently has collaborations with multiple pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, and leading research institutions, including Harvard Medical School and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.
Innovation doesn’t just happen in the lab
Organovo recently went public with a $15.2 million private placement and is listed on OTCQB under the symbol “ONVO.” The company was initially funded with angel money and grants.
During this event, Keith Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Organovo, shared some of his insight into the mindset for becoming a successful start-up business owner and what should be part of an entrepreneur’s toolkit.
His tips include:
Take what is around you and find the best possible application for those tools
Plan to weather the storm in your personal finances
Realize that failure is an option but that’s ok, it can be riskier to stay in your comfort zone forever
The best opportunity for angel funding comes from references from your existing network
The four most important words for a successful entrepreneur: network, partners, money, team (not necessarily in this order)
Watch where you are watching
Invetech shared the story about “The Invisible Gorilla Experiment.” If you have not seen it, click here to view the video and read more about the experiment. Invetech’s point about innovation is to make sure that when you focus on the details, you must also take a step back to focus on the big picture. Otherwise, you may miss something…something that could be the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.
Here at SDBN we’ve been updating our directory of 400+ San Diego biotech companies. We were surprised to find close to 40 companies removed from the local scene – due to acquisition or shut down. But we also found a net gain in companies, with 68 added. We’ve begun to add some of the ‘provenances’ of new companies, as well as what’s happened to those that are no longer listed, and welcome your comments and additions as well, please leave them as a comment below. Note that some companies are not new, we just missed them in our original directory and wanted to feature them in this post.
Updates to San Diego Biotechnology Company Directory
A recent report suggests evidence that the San Diego biotech scene is going strong. Released in December 2011 the Life Sciences Cluster Report by Jones Lang LaSalle rates San Diego #7 in the global biotech clusters. The report examines global locations for viable industry hubs, and defines a “cluster” by a multiple data points including:
Venture and investment capital
Centers of excellence and innovation
Industry-friendly political structures
Institutions of higher learning
Target economic development incentives
Other associations and supporting infrastructure
Ranking in the top 10 for funding – third in VC and sixth for NIH funding – it seems that the money is rolling in for San Diego. The 97-page study says San Diego’s dense concentration of incubator and start-ups is expected to continue growth in the near future.
Each of the submarkets reviewed – UTC, Torrey Pines, Sorrento Mesa, and Sorrento Valley – experienced growth in 2011, aside from Sorrento Mesa being almost completely leased. The report forecasts continued recovery in rents, vacancies tightening and, due to a lack of new development, re-positioning of older properties to meet demands for higher quality facilities, particularly in Sorrento Mesa.
Additionally, Torrey Pines, San Diego’s largest submarket, has seen a resurgence of growth, with more life science companies acquiring larger spaces. The report states that in 2011 Verenium signed a deal larger than Torrey Pines has seen in two years.
NIH grants have increased 28 percent from 2010 and by 70 percent from 2008. The outlook is sunny for San Diego in 2012, with a continued increase expected in the number of start-ups and dispersal of capital from venture capital and government funds.
Now that SLAS 2012 has wrapped up, the question is, amid all of those robotic arms, who truly stood out? We saw some great examples of vendors who were able to draw the crowds, while showcasing some pretty cool technology.
Here’s a list of some great ways to get a scientist’s attention, wonderfully demonstrated by three life science vendors at SLAS 2012.
Creativity counts. Rather than a bunch of cylinders and valves scattered about with some brochures on a table, Clippard center-staged an Air Guitar, rigged to be played. How does this awesome display work? Through 62 miniature air cylinders, and 58 valves to control those cylinders that can play each string individually or by strumming all six strings at once. ”Playing songs that are impossible by the human hand,” says Rob Clippard from Clippard Instrument Laboratory Inc.,”the controls are as up to date as the idea itself.” The iPad app “Pianist” plays the song, sends it via midi protocol to a translator board, and tells the miniature pneumatic, low wattage Clippard valves to turn on and off at the right times and move the appropriate cylinder with 50 psi of air. Did you get all that? That’s ok – the guitar is cool, the technology and idea are innovative and unique, and you can learn all about what they have to offer once you’ve been hooked. Here’s a video of the Air Guitar in action.
Product? What Product? Though I have a soft spot in my heart for robotics and laboratory automation, as a recent defector from a Drug Discovery lab, even I can glaze over a bit after the 10th or 11th robotic arm display. But, I loved how Agilent showcased their nimble technology, by bringing a bit of Vegas to SLAS. The pull to stay at the booth was not only the cheering crowd encircling the game, but the fact that as soon as you step into the booth, you receive a poker chip. An invitation to have some fun, and no need to talk to a rep first? You got me. After hours of wandering the aisles a distraction is highly welcome. Odds that someone will remain in your booth for a bit are good at this point, and I did as soon as that chip hit my hand. Microtiter plates covered with playing cards lined the stacker. Agilent’s Direct Drive Robotic arm swiftly dealt three people their hands of 21, amid cheering scientists waiting their turn. After the game, the robot dealer gave you a microtiter “card” that informed you of your prize. For the sake of some great word of mouth for Agilent, I hope that what happens at SLAS doesn’t stay at SLAS…?
Tap into competition. Though a large sign announced Artel’s Pipetting Olympics (grand prize iPad2!), what caught my eye as I strolled past, were scientists super – super – into pipetting. And a line of them waiting their turn. Pipetting? Ok, I knew it must be worth my wait – without even knowing what I was lining up for, I was there with bells on. All of this was to showcase their calibration and volume verification systems, which they did well. Scientists were excited, engaged, and most importantly, listening to the reps explain how the system works and how it can work for them.
We hope to see even more engaging tactics by vendors as they continue reaching out to all aspects of a scientist’s interests. Thanks for a great conference and see you next year!