Many of us in the biotech world know that the idea of a lone biotech entrepreneur creating a successful biotech company in his garage is a laughable idea to most of the biotech/pharma industry but it is none the less a very alluring idea to those of us with an entrepreneurial affinity. Recently, I’ve come across a string of scientists who have and run their own labs in their garages (many former academics and commercial scientists) and it made me revisit the idea of Garage Biotech.
It’s very difficult to get any sort of statistics on the number of Garage Biotech’s being started or run currently by scientists or small entrepreneurs as many are hesitant to disclose their projects until they’re close to completion (not unlike the Garage entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley) but anecdotally there seems to have been a rise at least in regards to resources available to this types of biotech entrepreneurs with dramatically dropping assays, used lab equipment sold on ebay and increasingly sophisticated open source bioinformatics tools.
There have also already been signs of success for some small biotech/bioinformaticsstart ups:
Eric Engelhard – is bioengineering a honeybee in his garage and hoping to use this technology to develop non-venom producing honey bees.
James R. Graham – was inspired while making electronic music on a half-dozen computers in his bedroom and used the algorithms that he developed to create Diction, a tool that converts the genome into a series of waveforms and locates crucial regions that are actively producing proteins utilizing the human genome which is publically available at the NIH website.
Agribiotics – an agricultural biotech start up was aquired by Nitragin for $24M and was developed by a garage biotech entrepreneur.
Spaltudaq – Johnny Stine a lone entrepreneur in Seattle and a former scientist at Icos founded a small therapeutic biotech called Spaltudaq which has been successful in setting up three partnerships to make rabbit-based antibody drugs for biotech and pharma companies. These partnerships could generate as much as $200 million, if he manages hit all of his targeted milestones (which as we know in the biotech world can be difficult).
So it seem that even though hard statistics may be hard to find in this growing niche, there’s definitely growing promise!