EO of A-Alpha Bio; UW surgeon Christopher Allan; Robin Alfieri, CEO of Aperture; Barry Lutz, co-founder of Anavasi Diagnostics; Ingrid Swanson Pultz, former CEO of PvP Biologics. (Photo by A-Alpha Bio and UW)
The University of Washington recently hosted a panel of five entrepreneurs to discuss what it takes to start a biological business.
Panelists shared how they got started in the industry and what they learned along the way.
The panel was moderated by Teddy Johnson, director of technology development at the Institute for Translational Medical Sciences at the University of Washington. ITHS is partnering with WE-REACH, which supports UW startups, to host an event as part of their Innovation Symposium in September. View dashboard highlights and tips.
Barry Lutz is the biggest reviewer and seller
Lutz is the co-founder of Anavasi Diagnostics, which develops rapid tests for COVID-19 and other diseases.
Hint. Lutz advises entrepreneurs not to lose the harmony inherent in science.
“We protect our technology all the time,” said Lutz, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington. “But self-criticism is very important. You should be able to go home and be your own biggest critic.”
Lutz also advises startups to think ahead about building parts and reagents, saying the process can be time-consuming.
Robin Alfieri to know when something is done
Alfieri is the CEO of Apertur, a new UW unit developing endoscopy and pupil dilation devices that connect to a smartphone.
Note: Alfieri said it’s important to strike the right balance between speed and the methodical pace inherent in medical science.
Aflieri is familiar with the world of technology, having previously held leadership positions at Microsoft. “Things move fast in high tech, not so much in healthcare,” Alfieri said. “I was kind of closed in this world. “Is that enough? Have we decided what needs to be done?
“I was thinking ‘good enough’ and I keep moving forward, right? Just keep going,” Alfieri said.
Ingrid Swanson Pultz on Finding a Champion
Pultz is the former CEO and principal scientist of PvP Biologics, which originated from the UW Protein Design Institute.
Note: Champion Search had a significant impact on PvP Biologics, which launched in 2017.
The company has developed a potential cure for celiac disease, an artificial enzyme that breaks down gluten in the digestive tract.
But the idea initially came out of nowhere from disease specialists unfamiliar with protein engineering, Pultz said. Finally, he found the main support. drug development pioneer Tadataku (Tachi) Yamada, a gastroenterologist who was once the medical and scientific director of pharmaceutical giant Takeda. Takeda partnered with PvP Biologics, which the company later acquired in 2020 for $330 million.
“Tachi was the kind of person that if he called people up and said, ‘You should really watch this,’ they would really watch it,” Pultz said. “So we went through the door.”
Yamada died last year after a long career that included leading global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and leading research and development at GlaxoSmithKline.
Christopher Allan in realistic settings
Alan is testing negative pressure gloves to treat hand injuries with funding from the US Department of Defense.
David Younger on partnership and customer understanding
David Younger, CEO of A-Alpha Bio, co-founded the startup in 2017, the same year he earned his PhD at UW. In Institute for Protein Design.
Note : Investors can be wary of startups led by young scientists and entrepreneurs, Younger said, but building partnerships has helped A-Alpha Bio gain interest.
In September 2021, A-Alpha Bio received $20 million in venture capital funding after securing three pharmaceutical partners.
Young also advises startups to talk to potential customers to find out what they want. When he launched A-Alpha Bio, Younger believed that biopharmaceutical companies could use his technology, which could identify interactions between millions of proteins. But he focused on the case of misuse, identifying potential drugs that disrupt these interactions.
The startup switched after talking to companies and finding they had little interest in the app. “We were able to go around and find other applications where we really met the needs of the industry,” Younger said.
A-Alpha Bio recently signed an agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb to explore protein interactions and cleavage mechanisms. This data can be used to develop drugs called “molecular glues”.
Sometimes the adoption of digital processes can lead to the largest bureaucracy in the world, with hierarchies and customs left over from British rule. These millions of bureaucrats are vulnerable to being replaced by technology that, if left unchecked, can streamline government work. Shivam VJ wrote in The Print that “No one, not even a leader as strong as Narendra Modi, will be able to reform India’s bureaucracy; reduce unnecessary steps in their ideal standard operating procedure and make people’s life easier. Bureaucracy. exists to make people’s lives more difficult.” Apparently, because each cog is just trying to stay in its office. No one sees the bigger picture and has less accountability.” K Yatisaj Rajawat, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Innovation, wrote that “Without bureaucratic reform, it is impossible for India to achieve its goals… Power is too concentrated in the bureaucracy, resulting in decision-making delays and project failures. “Training focuses solely on Category A employees, while the rest of the system, which employs more than 20 million people, is not critical enough to receive training.”