The median cost for new drug approval by the FDA is estimated at $985 million. Combined with the fact that less than 10% of new drugs successfully get past just phase I trials, it's safe to say that starting a biotech company is not for the faint of heart. I interviewed three of our resident biotech founders with vastly different backgrounds to get the scoop on how to get a leg up in this daunting industry.
Find a great mentor.
Ashok Khandkar, Ph.D., known as AK, is CEO of Elute, Inc, a drug-device company whose technology allows for controlled and sustained drug release. Although AK is not a founder of Elute, he is a successful serial entrepreneur and has been a part of starting three other companies before his role at Elute. When asked what advice he would give himself as an aspiring entrepreneur, he stated: "As the saying goes - it's lonely at the top. It's hard to find many people in your boat who can help mentor you. I would find a great mentor whom I can rely on to help me think through the various aspects of making a start-ups exist. I was lucky to have had Pete Meldrum, co-founder of Myriad Genetics, who served on my Amedica board. Sadly, he passed away prematurely. Now, I am glad to have Denny Farrar as a colleague and sounding board."
Contact external stakeholders sooner.
Ian Quigley, Ph.D., co-founder of Leash Laboratories, is working on an assay that screens millions of compounds against thousands of protein targets to aid in drug discovery. Ian wished he had known this before launching Leash: "It would have been nice to get in front of the things that take a long time. When you are just starting, identify the things that could slow you down, especially those that are big and expensive, and get the process rolling early. For example, I wish we had realized from the start how long finding the right CRO would take, and once we found them, how long their process was to complete our project.
Believe in the value of your company.
Gerald Gleich, MD, the co-founder of NexEos Bio, has an extensive medical background, particularly as an allergist and immunologist. NexEos Bio is tackling the diagnostic and therapeutic industry with solutions for eosinophil-related diseases. Jerry and his co-founders started the company in 2019. Jerry credited one co-founder, in particular, Steve Tullman, with navigating how to create a company. Steve is a serial entrepreneur Jerry met while working at another company over 20 years ago. While Jerry believes finding a co-founder has been essential to building the company, his number one tip was: "Be patient; building a company takes time. More importantly, stick to your guns! If you believe you have something of value, test it. Of course, test it in every way possible, but if you've got it, hang in there. Keep hawking it, so to speak, and keep telling people. And if you get lucky, you'll find your Steve Tullman."