Two North Louisiana entities have entered a formal partnership to increase biotechnology transfer, development, commercialization and company startup opportunities for researchers and universities in the region.
The Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP), an initiative of BRF, has partnered with private company Segue Science Management (SSM), headed by two former LSU Health Science Center Shreveport researchers, Drs. Jim Cardelli and Alana Gray, as a means to draw out undercapitalized technologies in the academic setting.
Too often, Cardelli says, technologies developed in the university setting are left uncommercialized.
A 30-year veteran in university research and development, Cardelli is an entrepreneur who has been through the arduous process of licensing and commercializing biotech.
Aside from SSM, Cardelli also heads Segue Therapeutics (STX), a repurposing drug discovery and development company. Technology he discovered while at LSU Health Science Center Shreveport is currently on the road to commercialization with the help of EAP.
Gray, now his partner and President of SSM, was a student at the time of the discovery and was integral in the development of the STX technology.
“We want to do for other researchers and universities what I’ve been able to accomplish as a researcher turned entrepreneur, and with the help of EAP,” Cardelli said. “North Louisiana, with all its untapped wealth of biotech, has an enormous opportunity for commercialization and startup success here. Who knows how many potential biotech startup companies there are out there, or what tech and medical advancements we have just waiting for discovery and the right ecosystem to help move research to commercialization.”
Cardelli said he was reluctant at first to step out of his “gilded cage” of academic research, a step he hopes others will feel more comfortable venturing with the experience and expertise of SSM and EAP.
EAP, which currently is working with three startup companies with licensed technology from LSU Health Science Center Shreveport — including Cardelli’s STX — screens startups and ideas for viability, matches them with informed investors, and nurtures them through the critical steps toward market.
Cardelli said SSM will facilitate public-to-private technology transfer, a service that has been limited at cash-strapped universities in Louisiana.
If a technology makes it to the marketplace, there is a potential for royalties to be returned to the universities from which the tech was licensed.
After a technology is licensed, SSM will then bring in EAP’s suite of services to assist the entrepreneurs and startups, services that include creating or refining business plans, preparing financial analysis and modeling, identifying investors, assisting with funding applications, and conducting market and industry research.
SSM’s first contract for licensing and tech transfer is with the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where Cardelli is an adjunct faculty member.
SSM has its sights already set on patent-pending technologies in the School of Pharmacy at ULM that have promise to treat a range of human diseases, Cardelli said.
Mining technology for transfer, development and commercialization will be the primary goal of Gray who will spend time “in the field” with local researchers at universities to understand what potential technologies already exist and can be commercialized, and she will identify promising technology under development.
Gray said researchers have a tendency to want to “publish rather than patent.”
“To be recognized and promoted, academic scientists are focused on the timely publication of their research; however, public disclosure of discoveries results in a loss of intellectual property rights,” Gray said. “These rights are crucial in commercial development and the delivery of potentially life-saving products to the public.”
Gray said part of her job is to regularly communicate with researchers on campus so that SSM can quickly identify valuable intellectual property (IP) and take the appropriate initial steps to patent-protect the IP, well in advance of publishing.
“SSM wants to educate researchers on the importance of protecting their ideas through patents and help build the entrepreneurial economy that centers around biotech on the I-20 corridor,” she said.
To further assist in the local development of biotechnology, Cardelli, Gray and EAP are opening Segue Science Labs. Segue Science Labs is located at InterTech 1 in the InterTech Science Park at 2031 Kings Highway in Shreveport.
Segue Science Labs will open the facility to the private sector to provide access to high-tech, molecular-biology laboratory space, equipment and expertise.