What does it take to build a successful biotech incubator? Here is a link to a recent article on this topic. I’ll skip to the summary listed in the article first:
What It Takes to Succeed
- Access to capital
- A critical mass of expertise
- Leaders experienced in all stagesÂ of development
- A diverse service provider community
- Experienced workforce
My home state, Indiana, aspires to be a biotech hub. I agree with the bullet points above. In my honest opinion, Indiana does not meet many of these criteria.
- Access to capital – There are semi-active venture funds. The major sources of funding for biotech start-ups are BioCrossroads and the IEDC 21st Century Research & Technology Fund (and the 21Fund received a recent blow with the new state budget).
- Innovation – Indiana University and Purdue University are the major research institutions in Indiana. Both are active in life sciences. Innvative, though? I’m not in a position to say either way.
- A critical mass of expertise – Not really.
- Leaders experienced in all stages of development – Not really.
- A diverse service provider community – This might be a strength of Indiana.
- Experienced workforce – The potential is there but not really a strength.
I wish my opinions were different.
Here are a few more excerpts from the article:
Regions are looking to biotech to make the difference between boom and bust for their economies, but it takes more than tax incentives, buildings, and land to construct a winning biotech incubator. Unfortunately, the regions doing the planning often ignore that basic fact and proceed blithely onward despite a scarcity of the type of human capital and infrastructure that makes the difference between success and failure.
â€œGo to any established cluster,â€ Panetta says, â€œand there are strong universities.â€ San Diegoâ€™s companies can collaborate with researchers at the University of California at San Diego, The Scripps Institute, the Salk Institute, and other nearby stellar resources.
Having worldclass researchers nearby fosters an intellectual climate in which ideas are exchanged easily and partnerships are developed.
So although a researcher may generate the ideas for the next blockbuster, to bring them to fruition there must be a pool of people with the skills not only to start a company but to help it grow.
Very good companies can acquire capital regardless of where they are located. That said, itâ€™s easier when the company is near the money because venture capital companies tend to concentrate on the dominant industries. Firms in biotech hubs like Cambridge, San Diego, or San Francisco can access local venture funds. Biotech companies starting in less biotech-intensive locations such as Oregon and Oklahoma will find that local firms are focused on other industries, so venture capital will be harder to attract.
Entrepreneurial support and training are vital to biotech start-ups. Brilliant scientific founders arenâ€™t necessarily brilliant in business, and even experienced executives can be stymied by the regulatory considerations associated with bringing a drug to market. To fill in some of the gaps, the savviest business accelerators hold regular get-togethers and seminars.