When Bio, Tech, & Beyond held its first open house a little over two years ago, co-founders Joseph Jackson and Kevin Lustig described it as an experiment in do-it-yourself biology. “We represent an opportunity where [scientists] can come in with their idea, and very inexpensively come up with results,” Lustig said at the time.
With generous lease terms from the city of Carlsbad, CA, Jackson and Lustig established one of the first “biotech garage” labs for entrepreneurs, and others who believe that life sciences innovation should be accessible, affordable, and open to everyone. According to Jackson, 100 startup teams sought space at their lab, 24 moved in, and seven have moved on.
Of the 19 startup teams currently incubating, nine delivered short presentations at a recent “startup showcase” at the Thermo Fisher Scientific facility in Carlsbad , which provided a glimpse at the kind of innovations that Bio, Tech, & Beyond has been incubating. For example, Exeligen Scientific is advancing new techniques in genome editing, GPB Scientific is using micron-scale cell sorting technology in so-called liquid biopsies, and at least two others are advancing PCR-related techniques for detecting and analyzing DNA.
“We’ve worked with companies on a case-by-case basis, helping with business development, but the incubator is still ‘no strings attached,’” Jackson tells me. “[The] next goal is to create a seed fund to go along with the lab and offer a package of cash plus services/benefits for some equity/options.”
Combining the biotech incubator with a seed fund has always been part of their plans, Jackson says.
In an e-mail, he writes, “I always emphasize that BTnB [Bio, Tech, & Beyond] can only address one particular piece of the rather severe problems holding back the biotech industry. We can help more entrepreneurs iterate faster on their ideas, but systemically, the life sciences industry must continue to evolve to embrace many of the best practices that emerged in the IT sector from the 1980s-2000s. This doesn’t happen overnight, but the trends are converging (automation, outsourcing to CROs and web-enabled “science as a service” options).”