The latest organization to spring fully formed from the brow of San Diego’s Life Sciences community was not Athena, but the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange, which Denise profiled in March when the SDEE was preparing to hold its first meeting.
I’d guess close to 140 people turned out earlier this week for the group’s second meeting, which was organized around a case study presentation and discussion among local biotech entrepreneurs who were successful in winning Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the National Institutes of Health. These are small grants. David Larocca, the founder, CEO, and principle scientist of Mandala Biosciences, says a Phase I SBIR “proof of principle” grant is usually limited to $150,000, while a Phase II “commercialization” grant is typically limited to $1.2 million.
But even the smaller figure might be enough to help an early stage biotech survive. Although SDEE’s focus was on SBIRs awarded through the NIH, the Pentagon also awards a big chunk of SBIR grants. (Some local tech entrepreneurs previously talked about their experience here.) SDEE founder and Orphagen CEO Scott Thacher says he founded the SDEE for biotech entrepreneurs like himself who are unlikely to get venture capital funding for their early stage startups. “We try to attract entrepreneurs or people who have lost their jobs or who are trying to get their company to the next level,” Thacher says.
John Finn, the chief scientific officer of Trius Therapeutics, says life sciences startups can’t live by SBIRs alone. In his case study presentation about the early years of Trius, Finn says he potentially saved millions of dollars by acquiring … Next Page »