Bioscience business models

Where to start on building a business model for a bioscience business? It’s a question that features when entrepreneurs set out to raise funds. Many conversations are on how they can make the biggest innovation contribution. That means understanding the environment for the business.

Take the pulse on innovation. Find out where you fit in. The pace of innovation in a sector and its openness to change is fundamental for your business model. We are now on the cusp of a true synergy between the in vivo and in silico worlds of biomedical research.

The reality of patients’ experiences is coming to the fore and outcomes are focussing on making a genuine difference to symptoms and quality of life, as well as underlying biology.

Rare diseases are a beacon for this movement. Tim Guilliaums, CEO and Founder of Healx, is using AI to transform the development of medicines for rare diseases. The company has grown dramatically since 2015, raising investment of $56 million for a Series B financing in 2019. Where the traditional drug discovery model takes more than a decade and can run into the billions of dollars, Healx’s AI-driven approach makes the process faster, more efficient and more cost-effective. Healx’s Rare Treatment Accelerator programme is a new initiative launched in close partnership with patient communities to identify clinic-ready treatments for rare diseases within 24 months.

‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together’, this African proverb is true for bioscience commercialisation. Partnering is key.

For example, over recent years Arecor, led by CEO Sarah Howell, has collaborated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to develop novel insulin treatments. Most recently in October 2019, Arecor entered into a collaboration agreement with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for a novel treatment for type 1 diabetes. This is to co-develop a novel co-formulation of pramlintide and insulin (AT271) for people living with diabetes who require prandial (during a meal) treatment. Arecor is using its proprietary formulation technology platform, Arestat, to develop a new, co-formulation of pramlintide and insulin. JDRF is the leading global organisation funding type 1 diabetes research. Their mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat type 1 diabetes and its complications.

Serial entrepreneurs bring product focus. Frank Craig is the CEO of Sphere Fluidics. The company spun out of the Chemistry Department at the University of Cambridge and he has led it through funding rounds, product focus and international expansion. The initial products were in R&D collaboration for scientist looking to investigate reactions in microfluidic droplets. He’s led the focussing of the company on microfluidic droplet analysis in antibody discovery. This began in 2013 with early version of the automated system and since then the company has signed many international distributorships and opened an office on the West Coast of the USA.

Chart the operations for your business. Charli Batley is the Senior Director of Operations at PhoreMost. She advises, ‘The availability of cell models and scientists expert in working on these in oncology has influenced our growth’.

Search the intellectual property landscape. Create an IP strategy. This is crucial for realising innovation. There needs to be Freedom to Operate – a clear landscape where the company can develop and sell its products and protect the value it generates. There are many talented IP firms in Cambridge to help companies. Appleyard Lees, Boult Wade Tennant, J A Kemp, Marks & Clerk, Mewburn Ellis, StratagemIP to name but a few.

Create a funding strategy. ‘Biotechs need a Plan B for finance from the word go. They need to think beyond grants, start-up, series A, B rounds. Large corporate investors need to know when a company is going to hit milestones.’ says Julie Simmonds, Director of Equity Research, Panmure Gordon.

There is money on the table for nimble start-ups that can demonstrate efficient testing and translation of new ideas from bench to bedside. Ahren, Cambridge Innovation Capital, IP Group, Cambridge Angels, Cambridge Capital Group, Amadeus, IQ capital are all Cambridge-based funds with significant experience, success and deep pockets.

Balance non-dilutive and dilutive funding. Health Enterprise East is connected with the NHS, medical technology industry and governmental organisations. They offer for example routes to grants, SBRI Healthcare for pre-procurement contracts, and equity investment through Medovate.

‘Cambridge is a safe place to do risky things,’ these are the stay-in-your-mind words of Dr Andy Richards, serial entrepreneur and investor. There’s a wealth of networks to meet entrepreneurs, would-be team members, advisors, industry experts. For example, Cambridge Network, Innovation Forum, One Nucleus all offer exciting events.

Think beyond the first phase. Uday Phadke and Shai Vyakarnam’s Scale-up Manual explains the challenges for companies moving from a validated prototype to a sustainable business. The approach supports different strategies for resource allocation, ranging from ‘lean’ techniques to sustainability initiatives based on the circular economy. The Manual includes many case studies and insights to use at different points along the commercialisation journey.

And most of all talk to people about your idea. I wish you luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

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