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Innovating in California

Terry Hermiston“California is known as an innovation capital and drives a lot of the attraction of business starting or locating to California.”

Terry Hermiston, Ph.D. Vice President of U.S. Biologics Research and Site Head for the U.S. Innovation Center

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CaliforniaCalifornia naturally attracts innovators. With multiple innovation hubs and ecosystems, it is no surprise that the state is leading the country in life sciences.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in biotechnology and drug discovery. Our understanding of human biology and disease mechanisms has never been greater. Through a constant focus on innovation and excellence, we are more and more able to translate scientific breakthroughs into new health care solutions that enable patients to live longer, better lives.”

Ian T. Clark, CEO, Genentech

California has a strong network of innovation partners

The life sciences industry contributes not only to jobs and the economy but also to much needed new medical products that are helping patients and improving health care. The life sciences industry also includes more than research institutes, laboratory services, wholesale trade and biotech and pharma companies. A whole network of businesses, consultants and innovation partners are supporting the life sciences industry.

Veracyte“California offers a unique ecosystem of scientific excellence, institutional leadership in health care and VC funding, which is key to driving innovation. California is home to successful companies that spur new start-ups, as well as the multi-functional expertise that is widely available through consultants. The latter can help support the early stages of a company’s formation and growth when hiring that expertise full-time is not possible.”

Bonnie Anderson, Co-Founder and CEO, Veracyte

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For example, Organovo had a core science platform that could take human cells, such as primary or stem cells, and shape them into a 3-D tissue. Their technology was based on the ability to “print” cells into 3-D tissue structures that can replicate human biology for drug testing and research and eventually for therapeutic applications. To achieve this goal, Organovo needed to develop a reliable, commercial 3-D bioprinter. As a small start-up, it would not be fiscally responsible to hire a team of designers and engineers to create the machine as well as manufacture it.

Invetech“Companies need the broad range of experience and different outlooks that innovation partners can provide. We work collaboratively to fill gaps in experience, capability and capacity to deliver. By understanding our client’s needs and in turn their customer’s needs, we develop successful products quickly in order to generate early revenue for our clients.”

Richard Grant, Director, Life Science and Pharmaceutical, Invetech

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Partnering with Invetech, Organovo was able to design, develop, manufacture and ship the world’s first commercial 3-D bioprinter and keep its focus on the scientific and therapeutic applications. Read Q&A with Organovo.

As for large companies, they may have the resources to hire personnel, but the projects may not be core to the company’s expertise. For example, diagnostic companies focus on creating accurate, reliable commercial tests and instruments. Their core expertise may not be in the best design and practice for how the researcher or clinician interfaces with that machine. From the physical design to the software programs, the user interface can be extremely important in the commercial success of the product.

Cynergy“Innovation is hard and can be hard to do well without the right resources and expertise. Companies often need to work with innovation partners who have differentiated and integrated capabilities that cannot be captured in-house. Because every day we are focused on technology and creating great digital experiences, we can help our companies see further and go beyond “what is” to “what could be” to create market-changing solutions and products.”

Chris Mahoney, Director, Healthcare Strategy, Cynergy

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California is leading the nation in fostering early-stage companies and new health technologies

CaliforniaIn addition to having a great network of innovation partners, California also has a number of early-stage life sciences incubators. Early-stage funding of companies has declined in the U.S. Contrary to this trend, California has continued to increase funding to early-stage companies, which are essential for a healthy and vibrant life sciences industry.

Janssen“We believe that if more companies get started, we can reinvigorate the roots of the biotech sector. The process of company creation is fundamental to the success of the biotech industry. It takes a special skill set to not only understand the science but also how to make a practical solution to the science and take on the product path. We should try to make that easier.”

Diego Miralles, Head, Janssen Healthcare Innovation

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Starting a life science company is a capital and resource intensive expenditure. The dollars required for a biotech startup are many fold more than that required to start a technology company. Incubators are helping companies get started in a cost efficient manner. Lab space is a specialized resource, so providing access to large, expensive equipment, as well as facilities management that can manage protocols (SOPs) for hazardous materials and safety programs, can help reduce the barrier to entry for fledgling companies.

Terry Hermiston“The CoLaborator design is open and flexible and intended to decrease the time necessary for small companies to get up and running. The space includes basic equipment for life science start-ups, such as freezers, hoods and waste disposal. Our support also includes Environmental Health & Safety and Biosafety licenses. CoLaborator researchers and entrepreneurs have access to UCSF core services including imaging, flow cytometry, and pharmacology and work in the heart of Mission Bay, one of the world’s most dynamic life science discovery clusters.”

Terry Hermiston, Ph.D. Vice President of U.S. Biologics Research and Site Head for the U.S. Innovation Center

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The key goal of the incubator is to create a cost efficient way for a scientist or a small company to get early validation for their technology. A bonus is that these incubators have become their own innovation ecosystems, where like-minded people are learning and growing from each other.

“We provide access to extensive equipment and also have a full range of mentorship and networking. For example, we have Gantt charts on how to get the lab set up quickly to do the first experiment. We have a purchasing group, active partnership programs, KOLs, clinical experts and search communities. QB3 also has peer-to-peer network and support, which improves net productivity of the whole group.”

Douglas Crawford, Ph.D., Associate Director, QB3

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Companies in these incubators must have their own funding. Funding come from a variety sources, including seed funding, venture capital, angels, NIH and SBIRs/STTRs.

Christopher Haskell“Almost every small company has or is in the process of SBIR funding. This is a critical bridge to translate academic research into companies that can attract VC funding.”

Christopher Haskell, Ph.D., Head, U.S. Science Hub, Bayer CoLaborator

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Cross-pollination is creating new health technologies that are reimagining health care

CaliforniaCalifornia is home to a major innovation in health care – the joining of health and technology.

Proteus Digital Health“Health care will be transformed by a new utility more available than electricity: the mobile Internet. In the 20th century we all plugged in and transformed our homes, factories and hospitals. In the 21st century we all log on, and even greater benefits are emerging.”

Andrew Thompson, Co-Founder and CEO, Proteus Digital Health

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The budding industry of health technologies, including mobile health (mHealth) holds the promise of improving the overall delivery and, possibly, cost of health care. With Proteus’ ingestible digital sensor that can be attached to pills, physicians can tailor a therapeutic regimen based on a patient’s physiologic response to a drug. The sensor can also tell if the patient is taking the drug as prescribed, as compliance is a major issue in health care.

Mobile devices and wireless sensors can provide real-time, in-depth biological data as well as behavioral information that is more accurate data than patients self-reporting. Studies have also shown that patients using mobile reminders and wireless technologies can better manage their disease, such as type 1 diabetes, or achieve better health behaviors, like quitting smoking.

Cynergy“mHealth is the use of sensors and mobile devices, like iPhones and tablets, to enable the delivery of health. By working to better connect people to their health, mHealth seeks to improve the delivery and outcomes of health care.”

Chris Mahoney, Director, Healthcare Strategy, Cynergy

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Incubators are especially important for supporting new health technologies. Linking entrepreneurs and developers with health and technology experts is essential in this space where there are many barriers to entry, including regulation and reimbursement.

Founded in 2010, Rock Health is the first seed accelerator for digital health startups. Rock Health’s accelerator program provides funding, mentorship, operational support, office space, and a curriculum of speakers and workshops to early stage health startups. They have developed a number of resources to help entrepreneurs and experts make sense of the complicated digital health landscape.

Rock Health“Traditionally, health care is a highly siloed industry with little collaboration or integration across different stakeholders. Health incubators not only provide momentum and industry context for technologists who may not have a background in health care, but also provide infrastructure for major health care networks to collaborate with these early-stage businesses.”

Halle Tecco, Co-Founder and CEO, Rock Health

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By lowering barriers to entry, providing cost efficiencies to start-ups, creating fertile ground for innovation, and cross-pollinating to support new fields, California incubators are helping replenish and reinvigorate the life sciences industry.

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