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Snapshot: Bayer’s CoLaborator

Bayer HealthCare
Name: Terry Hermiston, Ph.D. and Christopher Haskell, Ph.D.
Title: Site Head, U.S. Innovation Center (Terry), Head, U.S. Science Hub (Chris)
Company: CoLaborator
Location: Mission Bay, San Francisco
Bayer HealthCare
Website: biotech.bayerhealthcare.com
Year Founded: 2012
Number of Companies Currently Incubated: 2
Description: The CoLaborator is a twist on the traditional incubator space. Its function is to accelerate the discovery and delivery of better technologies and therapies to patients around the world, by providing essential lab space, services, and access to Bayer’s global expertise to start-up companies in shared fields of interest.
Focus, Expertise, Stage: Cardiology, hematology, oncology, endometriosis, ophthalmology and drug development technologies. The CoLaborator provides resources to start-up R&D companies—and affords access to and potential collaborations with Bayer’s global network of more than 6,000 R&D scientists, as well as to Bayer’s business expertise in commercializing new products.
Resources, SqFt, etc.: 6,000 square feet with a number of resources intended to help companies get started quickly.

What is your incubator focus?

The CoLaborator is a twist on the traditional incubator space and was created as an extension of Bayer’s partnering program to increase collaborations with academic and start-up life science firms whose technology platforms, drug targets or drug candidates align with our research interests.

What are the resources you provide for companies?

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.

Why are incubators needed?

As pharma companies look for new ways to source early stage innovation, Bayer is looking at a number of tools that can help us build a robust and innovative pipeline. In looking for companies in the very early stages whose research aligns in some way with Bayer’s portfolio, we’re confident the CoLaborator could prove to be an effective way to do just that. We intend to focus on firms whose technology platforms, drug targets or drug candidates align with Bayer’s portfolio, and we will look for new and exciting ways we can partner with companies. This will provide startups with the resources they need to further their research and development while allowing Bayer to develop stronger relationships with companies whose innovation aligns with the company’s strengths.

What are your funding sources? What funding sources do the companies have?

Companies occupying the CoLaborator are free to have any number of funding sources – the space is intended to help companies reach the next stage of growth and hopefully outgrow the CoLaborator to become a permanent member of the Mission Bay life sciences community. These companies will often have funding from private agencies (angels and VCs), government grants, as well as collaborations with other companies.

Can you tell me about a success story?

The CoLaborator opened in September 2012 with two tenants. We hope to share a success story soon.

What are you funding sources?

Companies occupying the CoLaborator are free to have any number of funding sources – the space is intended to help companies reach the next stage of growth and hopefully outgrow the CoLaborator to become a permanent member of the Mission Bay life sciences community. These companies will often have funding from private agencies (angels and VCs), government grants, as well as collaborations with other companies.

What can be changed to improve the success of companies?

There needs to be a better understanding at a higher level at our state and local governments. The life sciences is a high-risk industry with a long cycle. To get a new therapeutic, we will have invested $1B and 10-15 years. We need to have the understanding at the government level that we are bringing revenue and value in a different fashion. Small business incentives can be very helpful as our companies, which are very sensitive to and can be helped by supportive policy changes.

We also make significant investment in the community, including giving to service and school systems. We need to foster and grow an educated workface that will feed and support the high tech jobs we have. California is where we are at today because of the academic institutions. We must continue to support education as it will be key to keeping California a top hub for innovation.

How did your company come to be in California?

Bayer chose California in the 1970’s when it purchased the Cutter Labs site in Berkeley. Cutter had a long tradition of expertise in plasma and other cardiology/hematology research and production, with a trained talent pool that made California attractive to the German-owned company. The excellence of the Bay Area’s universities assured Bayer that a constant stream of qualified employees would help keep operations strong over time.

Why is being in California important to your company?

The biotech industry was founded in California. Today, California represents the nation’s largest state of biotech investment, research, and production. Leading academic institutions partner with industry for an ever-growing synergy of discovery and commercialization.

Why do you think California has been leading in the life science industry?

California has always been the most innovative state in the country—in the world. Our economy is based on innovation—in information technology, aerospace, life science industries . . .. Investors, scientists, entrepreneurs, academics, risk takers gravitate here to create an inspiring, surprising community that breeds ideas and actions.

What do you think California does better/best?

California attracts the best: educators, scientists, inventors, investors, students who will keep our economy and our businesses strong in the coming decades.

What do you think California does well in supporting the life science industry?

California houses some of the greatest academic institutes in the world that serve as an anchor and attraction for interactions with VC and for initiating start-up biotechs.

Why is innovation important to the life science industry?

Innovation IS the life science industries. Our business is based on applying the incredible discoveries being made every day—by institutions such as UCSF, the Joint Genome Institute, Gladstone—to treat our worst diseases in ways that have never been imagined before. We live in a time of major breakthroughs in understanding that come every day. Innovation in thinking about their applications, in how to commercialize them for the benefit of patients around the world, in capitalizing them—all these challenges define innovation.

Why is innovation important to California?

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

What is the importance of NIH funding?

Almost every small company has or is in process of SBIR funding. This is a critical bridge to translate academic research into companies that can attract VC funding. NIH funds innovation. That is a government investment. That must continue if we want to improve the lives of patients and the health of the nation.

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