Exogen Biotechnology, a start-up from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is forgoing the traditional fundraising route and turning directly to crowdfunding to commercialize a technology that measures DNA damage.
In 10 days, nearly 300 donors worldwide contributed a total of $50,000 to help develop Exogen’s technology, which analyzes an individual’s DNA to determine if that person might develop cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and immunological diseases.
“The advantage of [obtaining start-up funding] the way we have done it is we have better control of the whole process and the company right now,” says Sylvain Costes, co-founder of Exogen alongside Jon Tang. Because of the marked decrease in venture capital investments in new biotech companies, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding sites — Medstartr, VentureHealth, RocketHub and AngelList, for example — are attracting more and more entrepreneurial scientists who have trouble acquiring funds through more conventional outlets.
“Everyone should keep their eyes on [crowdfunding],” says Stephanie Marrus, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at the University of California-San Francisco. “Looking at the global trends, it’s definitely become a source of capital. If it becomes appropriated adaptively to health care, maybe we have a new avenue to go down.”
On Exogen’s Indiegogo page, donors who give $99 or more are offered a kit to extract blood samples. The samples are analyzed for any DNA damage, and later the results are posted online for the donors to view privately.
Overall, Costes is optimistic. “It’s going to be very powerful in the long term,” she says, “especially if a lot of people use it.”
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