Biotech Spin-Outs: Discovery > Company

One of the great aspects of attending science shows is the knowledge base assembled to impart data and findings... on occasion wisdom and advice. The latter was the case for the 1st Focus Session I attended off and on during Wednesday morning. The speakers were all seasoned and came across as genuine in their effort to impart guidance on a less than formulaic bench to bedside roadmap. A few of the names on the podium, while I was there, made a number of good points and a couple which I noted down as iffy...

Use lawyers that have a contingency based dev account - not such a bad idea if they’re game. I know from battling a News Corp. division that it works if you can get your legal team to buy-in… (we won btw so they were happy to recoup & profit). Not sure how practical that is for a young researcher without a track-record...

Road-test your pitch to VCs without any intention to take their money - again sounds good, if not a bit Machiavellian… the more you practice & hone the story the better definitely... who knows you may even get lucky and one of the least likely “trialist” money men will spring for it

Be prepared for rejection - that’s sound advice! It takes stamina to succeed and know how to turn rejection into enhancement and energy - stay the course is a good mantra

Don't inhibit tech transfer to squeeze the deal making - this is one of those iffy ones, sounded a bit too much like a justification for commercial realities that are lop sided

Money will find good ideas - somewhat true but mostly money follows money and track records

Management are commodities - hired hands indeed run a tight ship and get rewarded for being efficient and clinical in their methodology, that’s positive on the one hand but I would say it depends entirely on the type of culture and organisation it is - there are situations which require a vested innovative leader that was born with the passion for the venture & drives it... 

Some of the speakers while I attended where:

Ken Chien Group of Karolinska 

After the presentations I had a moment with Hans Keirstead regarding his eye work, which he relayed was very much on with 3 dedicated scientists to the project and that they were focused on developing a RPE/Photoreceptor transplant using 3D culture technology. We weren't able to finishing the conversation as time was short and his departure from the event early made a request for a follow-up sit down not possible. 

All the Focus Sessions were 3 hours, so I took the opportunity to move between a few during the morning.

I stopped in for Jeanne Loring, of The Scripps Research Institute, presentation in the Stem Cell Engineering Session...

I’ve always try to catch what Jeanne says, as I respect her opinion and like her frank style. This bore out in my interview with her later during the show, which I will do a separate piece on. Jeanne presented a 2 year study of stem cell engineering sponsored by the NSF, NCI, NIH and the NIST (abstract & quote "from this assessment, the panel concluded that there needs to be an increased role for engineers and the engineering approach.." 

A few things stood out - the solid two year research done primarily by Robert Nerem, PhD, was a monumental task and an example of endurance that is routinely taken on by scientists...

On the hESC front it seems manual passage using MEF is the most stable long term for hESC versus alternatives which showed passage deletions in gene52 but not in MEF cultures.

Also Jeanne said that the FDA is not bothered with MEF culture use and it’s not an inhibitor to translation.

One further bit I had noted was that Japan is requiring whole genome sequencing - we can see that is important given the recent iPS RPE issue with a detected gene mutation in the final validation step.

One of the other session halls was featuring Stem Cell Banking and I stopped in to see what was being discussed. The advent of banking of pluripotent stem cell lines - notably the iPS initiatives - were well covered and the resource and QA aspects outlined. Given the history of the hESC initiatives and requirements for regulatory documentation the basic frameworks were existing but updated and adapted to include iPS now. Two good ports of call for more information are the hPSCreg and EBiSC resources. 

Last up for this post is the exhibitor review I had with Luke Dimasi, a Product Manager at Corning Life Sciences. I was interested in their new product distribution arrangement with BioLamina for their rLaminin-521 which Corning is launching under the trade name “PureCoat.”

To make a long story short BioLamina are an innovative Swedish biotech company affiliated with Karolinska Institute pioneering recombinant laminin products as cultureware. Their xeno-free, chemically defined and feeder-free system has been integrated by Corning into a robust line of PureCoat surface flasks for the lab. 

I have followed this technology as it has been published and is a patent pending innovation as a solution for Pluripotent cell differentiation. It is noted as an highly efficient method to expand cells in a scalable cGMP manner. Also a 3D micro-carrier Gen 2 product awaits in the pipe...

To close this type of service sector development, along with the productization of similar biomaterials, such as those out of the Langer Lab, are enabling technologies for success.

More to follow...