MBI Helps Biotech Companies De-Risk and Expand

2/28/12Follow @XconomyDET

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community who understands. In the bioeconomy, that’s very fluid. The rules haven’t been written yet.”

In 2006, Bobby Bringi—co-founder of the biotech company Phyton, which pioneered and commercialized a plant-cell technology to produce the anti-cancer drug that later became Taxol—was hired as CEO of MBI for his entrepreneurial expertise. Bringi describes himself as someone who “went to the sink or swim school of management” and realized his passion was getting promising ideas to work and get them to market to generate value.

“The market recognizes the value of de-risking,” Bringi says. “I came to MBI and set up a place where innovation could be accelerated and where we’d work with entrepreneurs, university researchers,and the corporate sector.”

Since then, MBI has had some notable successes, particularly with San Diego-based Genomatica, a biotech startup that uses engineered microorganisms to produce high-value chemicals. Though Genomatica is not currently able to respond to media inquiries as it prepares for its initial public stock offering, Bringi says that after Genomatica worked with MBI to de-risk its technology at the pilot scale, it was able to raise $45 million in a Series C round of venture funding, a key step along the way to its IPO.

Gage says compensation for project execution at MBI can occur in a variety of ways, ranging from fee-for-service to sharing subsequent royalties or equity, depending on the nature of the collaboration and whether IP creation occurs.

MBI has also worked with DuPont on a small-molecule project and with Boulder, CO-based OPX Biotechnologies to scale up a process for producing bioacryllic acid. After a successful production run at MBI’s pilot plant, OPX Bio told blogger Doris De Guzman earlier this year that it expects to have a commercial plant by 2015.

“MBI’s team was extremely valuable,” says Michael Rosenberg, vice president of business development for OPX Bio. “They helped us prove our technology and made that happen efficiently and successfully.”

As political leaders and entrepreneurs try to figure out how to turn greentech, cleantech, and biotech into the next great American commercial enterprise, MBI’s brand of collaboration and early failure could be critical in proving viability and preserving the capital needed to build an industry from the ground up.

“We think this could be really groundbreaking for MSU, the state, and the rest of the country,” Gage adds. “We want to solve problems to make the whole industry take off.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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