Routinely, we read stories in the Birmingham Business Journal, the UAB Magazine, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama news flashes and news releases and elsewhere about innovation and entrepreneurship. It is of high value to DiscoveryBioMed’s Dr. Schwiebert and it cannot be talked about enough. The Birmingham Business Alliance estimates that there are over 700 technology companies in the Birmingham metro. Having said all that and continuing to talk about that in multiple articles with quotes and sound bites and the like, a critical mass of life sciences and biotechnology companies is still struggling to materialize. “Innovation is an over-used word. Action with creativity and urgency is more critical,” declares DBM’s Dr. Schwiebert.
That is why DiscoveryBioMed, Inc. has and is actively helping ‘hands on’ with creativity and urgency to help create a critical mass of life sciences and biotechnology companies in Birmingham. The list includes: Endomimetics, Soluble Therapeutics (now acquired), Vulcan Analytical, Blondin Biosciences, Reliant Glycosciences, CNine BioSolutions, Trialtus Biosciences, Nitor Therapeutics, Amytrx Therapeutics, Meridian Biotech, GLG Pharma, Sequela, Push PD, and others that are more nascent that have not even started yet. This help has been particularly vigorous in writing, crafting, assembling and submitting SBIR and STTR grant applications to Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the USDA. “In some cases, we just provide consultation about how to approach these applications, what review panels to target, etc. In other cases, we have provided templates that we have written for the different forms of SBIR and STTR applications. In a smaller number of cases, we have helped write and assemble part of all of the application. It is absolutely critical for a more established company to act and help with urgency and creativity.”
Soon after DiscoveryBioMed, Inc. was founded and called Innovation Depot home, it came to the attention of Dr. Schwiebert that the technology entrepreneurship courses at the Collat School of Business at UAB were not being offered because the founder of those classes did not have time to direct and teach them. So, Dr. Schwiebert suggested that two of the classes, Idea to IPO and Technology Venture Business Planning, be merged into one and taught at Innovation Depot and so they were for many years. Ten years on and with the new building opening for the Collat School of Business, these two classes in a series of three such courses are very popular there and are required as part of the curriculum for multiple MS level programs. “This educational piece is essential to the ecosystem, and I still give the Scientist to CEO lecture in the Idea to IPO course,” explains Dr. Schwiebert. “Our idea from years of discussing this in the class is to have faculty inventors remain at UAB and not vacate their tenured faculty position but found companies alongside UAB with their trusted PhD student and postdoctoral scholar trainees populating the company. This is not a novel model, but it needs to be adopted at UAB.”
“These UAB faculty inventors are intelligent individuals. They ultimately know who might acquire their technology out in their niche marketplace. So, my thought is to empower them to set up a company to be acquired in the near future and to have UAB facilitate that type of startup. Moreover, these aspiring entrepreneurs often seek us out at DiscoveryBioMed, Inc. for advice and guidance since we are presently ‘being there and doing that’ in the commercial and industrial marketplace.
We stand ready, willing and able to act with urgency to continue to help build the life sciences and biotechnology company ecosystem. “DBM is finding ways to submit collaborative Federal SBIR and STTR grants with select companies from the list above,” declares Erik. “If that is not possible, we help them in any way we can craft their own applications. However, a small business concern must submit such applications, so that requires UAB to create an open and facilitative path to the creation of more life sciences and biotechnology companies. There is a well of untapped technology that can be bundled and/or seeded into new companies to realize the critical mass. The time has come to be active and aggressive in making it happen.”