Advantages of Focusing on "Small"
Many smaller businesses contend that investor-owned companies will squeeze out funding now going to smaller startups with less capital. One umbrella group, Save SBIR, includes among its members Centrose, a developer of targeted therapeutics designed to fight cancer. Centrose has won five SBIR awards and one STTR award toward development of its extracellular drug conjugate EDC-One, which has shown efficacy against metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.
“Nowadays, you either get some government support so that people say, ‘Look, the government believes in this company,’ or you go and try to build partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. The only problem with that is that no pharmaceutical company is going to give you any money until you’ve actually got some results,” James R. Prudent, Ph.D., Centrose’s president and CEO, explained to GEN.
“The nice thing about the government is that they’ll look at what you’ve got, they’ll say your company is just getting started, it has a good team, yet it doesn’t have any money, so why don’t we put some money into this company and see what it can do?”
Centrose spent its first year as a virtual company before receiving its first four SBIR awards totaling $883,370. “From that, we’ve now brought in over $5 million in investment, and we’re now on our way to becoming a real company, where we’re actually getting partnerships and people buying licenses to the technology,” Dr. Prudent said.
Another Save SBIR member, CFD Research, won 418 SBIR awards totaling $104.9 million between 1987 and 2010 for innovations in the biomedical, energy, and aerospace sectors. The program has been critical in allowing the company to perfect its technologies into some 50 patents, four of which have been licensed to partners, Ashok K. Singhal, Ph.D., CFD’s president, told GEN.
“SBIR is a commendable program as compared to dozens and dozens of initiatives of government,” he added. “To me, SBIR is working and producing return on investment. It has allowed a company like ours to diversify in response to changing times. If it were not for SBIR, there is no way a large, giant corporation would give you even a chance to see that you may have an idea.”