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BioCrossroads Contest Helps Indiana Officials Track Biotech Startups

Xconomy Indiana — 

Calling all Indiana-based, early-stage companies working on biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics, ag-biotech, and health IT: The BioCrossroads New Venture Competition is now accepting submissions from startups that want to participate. Since its inception in 2012, the competition has awarded more than $240,000 to 16 companies, which have gone on to secure $21 million in follow-on funding.

“We help make industry connections,” said Chris Eckerle, who runs the BioCrossroads competition. “We’re trying to get startups to the stage where venture capitalists are interested in investing in them. We address their strengths and weaknesses.”

BioCrossroads, Eckerle said, is tasked with overseeing the state’s life sciences industry. While not a member-based organization, BioCrossroads is a public-private, nonprofit trade organization that works to promote biotech startups and the service providers that help guide them to market. It also has a for-profit arm that maintains life science investment funds. BioCrossroads gets its operating budget through donations from corporate and philanthropic stakeholders, Eckerle added.

According to the TEConomy/BIO report earlier this year on the health of the national biotech industry, Indiana’s bioscience sector is “large, highly specialized, and stands out in its diversity.” As of 2014, the state’s biotech companies employed more than 58,000 people. The report found that Indiana is highly specialized in three subsectors: agricultural feedstock and chemicals; drugs and pharmaceuticals; and medical devices. Overall, the state’s biotech industry has grown by 1.4 percent since 2012, with especially large job gains in the pharmaceutical industry. The state has also increased its bioscience patents over the past few years.

“For the competition, we broaden the life science definition slightly to include ag-biotech and health IT,” Eckerle noted. “We created the competition to identify investment opportunities. We wanted a better look at early-stage startups in the state.”

The winner of the BioCrossroads New Venture Competition receives a cash prize of $25,000 and access to the organization’s Indiana Seed Fund II (ISFII) staff and associated network of resources, which provide business planning and strategic support. The winner will also have the opportunity to make a presentation to the ISFII investment committee, which has supported several previous finalists. Second- and third-place companies will receive cash prizes of $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. There will also be a “pre-venture” prize of $10,000 awarded to a promising technology that is very early in its development.

Eckerle said that of the competition’s 16 winners across four years, most are still in business. Some past winners have gone on to score additional investments and achieve significant growth, including Anagin, a developer of drugs to treat post-traumatic stress; ag-biotech company Spensa Technologies, which makes tools to protect crops from insects and other threats; and biofuels startup Sparrow Energy.

Eckerle said the BioCrossroads competition typically gets about 35 applicants; from there, 15 are chosen as semi-finalists and asked to submit a formal pitch deck. Five or six finalists are then culled from the semi-finalists.

“I encourage anyone to apply that meets the requirements,” Eckerle said. “We can offer resources beyond money, and it gives us insight into the startup landscape and provides assistance to companies early on.”

BioCrossroads New Venture Competition applications are due by Aug. 15. The winners will be announced at the Indiana Life Sciences Summit on October 4.