Sixty-plus years after rock n’ roll music took shape there, Cleveland is once again a birthplace for something with revolutionary potential—this time in drug discovery.
The for-profit biotech accelerator BioMotiv makes the same promise about bridging the funding dearth or “Valley of Death” between the seed stage and product launch made for decades by a slew of accelerators, incubators, venture capitalists, and other investors.
But where they all invest in forming companies around promising technologies, BioMotiv instead takes stakes in new drugs and technology platforms deemed to have market potential. So far, BioMotiv has signed an exclusive option to commercialize a cancer treatment being developed by an undisclosed New York state institution. The company is also in talks for options on an anti-inflammatory technology from a university in the South, and an oncology technology from a West Coast university.
BioMotiv is among a few groups nationwide looking at offbeat approaches for bridging the Valley of Death. Last year, VC firm CMEA Capital launched Velocity Pharmaceutical Development, with investment in repurposed drugs in mind. Also in recent years, several disease foundations have worked to advance new treatments through their own grants, like the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, or by carrying out R&D directly with academic partners, as the nonprofit Myelin Repair Foundation has done [see GEN, Aug. 29, 2012].
“They have, essentially, the same metric that a pharmaceutical company would have, which is, ‘We need to see a drug on the market.’ But they don’t have the constraints of quarterly stock reports and the market realities that would affect a pharmaceutical company,” Douglas Crawford, Ph.D., director of industry alliances and associate executive director of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), whose five incubators house more than 60 startups. “With that liberation and the freedom a pharma company wouldn’t have for thinking very long-term and not thinking about the return of investment, can they solve a problem that others have not been able to solve?”