San Diego’s Scientist-Entrepreneurs Look to “Virtual Incubator” to Help Life Sciences Startups

8/11/10Follow @bvbigelow

A grassroots group of local life sciences entrepreneurs—frustrated by their inability to get the resources they need to start new companies—has formed a working group to develop a “virtual incubator” to help seed-stage biotech startups get established in San Diego.

Scott Struthers, a co-founder of the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE), which was formed by rank-and-file biotech researchers earlier this year, says their idea for a virtual incubator is akin to “letting a friend sleep on your couch.” The idea is to use LinkedIn and related networking tools to help match startup founders with unused laboratory space and other things they need, such as loaner laboratory instruments that would be too costly to lease or buy.

A lot of scientist-entrepreneurs are trying to get the technical data they need to reach a “proof of concept” threshold required for seed funding—or even a Small Business Innovation Research grant—without having to buy capital equipment or sign a long-term lease for laboratory space, says David Pearson, a consultant who provides life sciences management services in San Diego. If they do the proof of concept research where they’re working—if they are working—they’ll lose their intellectual property, Pearson says.

“The biggest problem we have as small companies is that you can’t rent 1,000 square feet of lab space,” says Struthers, who founded Crinetics Pharmaceuticals after leaving San Diego’s Neurocrine Biosciences (NASDAQ: NBIX) at the end of 2008. “You can rent 20,000 square feet, but you can’t rent 1,000 square feet.”

The real significance of the effort, though, might be in the way it shows how San Diego’s scientist-entrepreneurs are coping with new economic realities, including a scarcity of … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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