Last week I attended a morning session of the Bio2Device group. The topic was “Butterfly effect in the pharmaceutical development” by Dr. Jayakumar Rajadas from Stanford University. The butterfly effect, in chaos theory, illustrates how a small change at one place can result in large differences at a later point. In the pharmaceutical industry, this effect has shown to be particularly true on a number of occasions. Dr. Rajadas illustrated multiple occasions. One example was a man who attempted suicide with rat poison, but due to his (fortunate) unsuccessful attempt, led to the discovery of warfarin, the most widely prescribed oral anticoagulant drug in North America. Another example was a pulmonary hypertension drug that was not finding success in its endpoints, however one side effect noticed by the male participants gave way to the discovery of Viagra.
Overall, the session proved to be informative and entertaining. Dr. Rajadas’ own personal experience in the butterfly effect was the discovery of a technique in surgery on arteries and veins. This tricky procedure had difficulty in maintaining artery structure during surgery, but the use of a polaxymer (found in your toothpaste!) allowed for the structure to keep shape and arteries to be reconstructed during surgery in a successful manner. This procedure is now common and comes from innovation and knowledge sharing.
This was a topic addressed during the Q&A session; as R&D is being outsourced, the innovation can be missed. The thinking process happens everywhere, as Dr. Rajadas explained, so the butterfly effect can be bypassed when knowledge is not being shared by collaborators working around you. An effect that also can be missed in a competitive vs. collaborative environment between large Sponsor companies with numerous, unused compounds which didn’t meet their intended use, and Universities (as pointed out by the man sitting to my right).
I left the morning meeting with a smile, having learned how valuable this effect can be in this industry and sharing in the great, thoughtful discussion among my peers.
I recently went to a networking event at the San Jose BioCenter to learn more about the facility as well as meet people who work there. The BioCenter is a unique facility that allows life science, nanotech, and cleantech companies to plug in to their lab and office space for innovation. By doing so, start-up companies can bypass the costs and time required to set up for research and dig directly in to discovery. I had a good time at the event, meeting people and learning about the incubator in a relaxed, enjoyable environment.
An appealing concept
The BioCenter was founded in 2004 in collaboration with the city of San Jose and the San Jose University Research Center. The facility is 40,000 sq ft and houses about 20 companies and will soon be expanding to almost double its current size. While touring the facility, I saw people from multiple companies going in and out of labs and office spaces, all with the common goal of elevating life through better pharmaceutical, better diagnostics, or bettering the environment.
I met with 2 people from one of the companies in the incubator who are developing a bacterial detection platform for molecular diagnostics. The company in entirety is 7 people, a common theme of the BioCenter. It is an electric environment to see these small companies sharing this large facility. The BioCenter has been at 100% occupancy for the last 5 years. During the crisis in 2008-09, they found a shift from less life science to more cleantech companies moving in, an interesting trend that has stuck with me.
A convenient format to nurture promising research
Some interesting things I learned about the BioCenter and its occupants are that the success rate coming from the incubator is not only high, but often very profitable. Companies have emerged from the space, garnering deals worth 50, 80, even 130 million dollars. A benefit to the companies who do not make it out of the facility is that with this plug-and-play format, decisions can be made quicker and at lower costs, allowing funds to be redistributed to more successful ideas.
I believe that such places play a great role in fostering research, it allows researchers, indivually or in small cells, to start a research program without a big investment and it lowers the risk. At the end of the day, more innovations can be brought to the market.
The event was a great opportunity to learn about the BioCenter as well as meet the tenants. The atmosphere was relaxed, they had yummy bites and my favorite beer, and overall was an evening well spent.
Check out the BioCenter at http://www.sjbiocenter.com to see for yourself what I experienced first hand.
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