September 29, 2005

Lecture Links 'Technopreneurs'

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Dr. David Weinstein, CEO of biotech company Gliamed, Inc. and Matthew McCooe, associate director of the Science and Technology Ventures office at Columbia University spoke about the process of starting new biotechnology companies yesterday evening. The lecture was delivered both to the Biotechnology building and to the Syracuse Technology Garden in Syracuse, N.Y. via a videoconference from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y.

Weinstein, who left a professorship at Columbia University to found Gliamed in 2001, spoke about the necessity of taking risk to advance in the biotech industry.

“It’s a scary thing to wake up in the morning and not call myself ‘professor’ anymore,” Weinstein said. “But, you have to be willing to do whatever’s got to be done.”

Weinstein also spoke to the difficulty of balancing good medicine and sound fiscal policy, especially in fledgling companies.

“I have no credibility as a business person … until I get a drug into the marketplace,” Weinstein said.

McCooe, who spoke second in the lecture, promoted the role of the university in getting crucial funding for “technopreneurs.”

“It’s very had to get [venture capitalists] to pay attention to [new research],” McCooe said. He went on to describe how doing research through a university draws the attention necessary to pique the interest of investors. According to McCooe, Columbia has a $300,000 “pre-seed” fund to give to ideas that show promise.

Roger Williams, director of Technology Transfer at Cornell’s New York State Center for Life Science Enterprise, who was in attendance as part of the Cornell audience, explained how Cornell’s role in funding biotech ventures is limited to those that will “contribute to the economy of the state,” due to requirements stemming from state money.

“It’s the biggest problem we have,” Williams said, talking about obtaining funding for early-stage ventures.

Despite this, Cornell spins off approximately three companies a year, according to Williams. In Ithaca, the audience was composed mostly of graduate students who were personally interested in how to best enter the biotechnology industry.

“The more of these [lectures] they have, the better,” said Steve Broadwater grad.

The lecture, sponsored by the New York Biotech Association, was part of the Biotechnology Management & Entrepreneurship Seminar Series, currently in its fifth year. The lecture was organized by Prof. Shreefal Mehta, biotechnology management, RPI.

Archived article by Chris Barnes
Sun Contributor