Chiasma Career Catalyst Session 3

Commercialisation – Turning Science into a Business

Speaker: Adam Podmore, UniServices Business Manager in Biotech/ Pharma

Adam provided a view of science commercialisation using the ‘UniServices’ approach as an example. While I had come across most of the content before in other commercialisation/ funding workshops, I found their process for analysing new inventions/ideas quiet insightful. This matched with the activity provided students with a great introduction into the world science research commercialisation.

Facts about UniServices

  • conduct contract research on behalf of external parties  while also commercialising the IP generated within the University
  • Predicted to generate $140 million in 2012
  • Have spun out 23 companies, approx 7 being in the biotech area. They are aiming to achieve 3-4 more a year.
  • Employ a stage gate model (refer to figure below)
  • Inventors take 33% of the benefits extracted from the IP. For students, the reliance is on their supervisor to see their IP interests are managed and accounted for.
  • UniServices have created a seed fund based on superannuation funds from Australia in order to get companies across the ‘valley of death’.
  • Funding is given for proof of concept studies $5-15K, Stage 2: 10-100K allowing prototype development/ in vivo data to get get ready for the industry. This is followed by seed funding and development of a full business plan resulting in the spinning out of a company of licensing of the technology.

Figure: The Stage Gate Model to Commercialisation for UniServices Ref: UniServices Intranet

Analysing ideas– To analyse whether to invest in research of a commercial nature, UniServices employs 5 areas of criteria to score a proposal.

  • Business strategy – does it fit the business profile
  • Technical success – resources required, manufacturing capacity and skills capability
  • Does it have commercial success – its market, competitors, uniqueness
  • Reward – investment required? What will be the return? How long will a return take?
  • The X FACTOR

Funding avenues for biotech

  • basic research grants
  • spin out a company and raise investment or license – is the the company based on a platform technology? More likely to spin out rather than license if the IP is a platform technology with multiple applications.
  • Seed funding – typically earlier than VCs ranging from 100k- 1mill
  • VC – Series A 10mill (can be instead of seed), Series B 30mill (typically for phase 2, trying to achieve a 5x return)
  • IPO – a hard road to take
  • Trade Sale – favoured exit strategy

Example: Proacta – the makers of PR-104, a small molecule prodrug targeting hypoxic tumours.

’04 – 8million Series A funding from GBS Ventures, Genetech/Roche, No.8 Ventures/ Endeavour Capital

’07 – 35million in Series B funding from Claris and Delphi Ventures


Assess whether we (controllers of a seed fund) would invest (1.5 million) in a new small molecule anti-cancer compound, SN28049 . A profile of this technology can be found at:

Based on point scoring scale using the criteria under ‘analysing ideas’ our decision was – ‘Yes, grant funding but in the form of milestone payments’. The team has a strong proven ability to commercialise successful chemotherapeutics. The drug itself exhibits a strong profile in both toxicology and efficacy data with clear benefits over competing drugs.


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