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Study finds that, for life science start-ups, timing is everything

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: February 15th, 2017

A recent study from professors at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Canada finds that timing is crucial when it comes to succeeding as a life science start-up.

According to SFU professors Elicia Maine and Jon Thomas, an inventor’s decision-making after a scientific breakthrough could make the difference between commercial success and failure, whether it’s through the publication of findings, the launch of a start-up, or the creation of R&D partnerships.

“Canada has an exemplary record in scientific research but lags behind when it comes to creating long-term value from science-based ventures,” says Maine. “Our research looks at ways in which we can help ventures get these innovations out of the laboratory and into the commercial market by improving their strategic timing.”

Maine and Thomas looked deeply into various nanobiotechnology drug delivery start-ups. They found that companies that had reached an Initial Public Offering (IPO) had all employed elements of strategic timing. One strategy, for example, is to pursue broad patents on technologies while they’re still in the university lab. Maine and Thomas also argue that life science start-ups should wait to launch until the technology is closest to commercial viability, making venture capital investment more likely.

“Building on the results of our study, Canadian scientist-entrepreneurs aiming to launch science-based spinoffs can use strategic timing to better position their ventures for success and social impact,” says Thomas.


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