Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tapping Entrepreneurship In Biotech Startups

Gordon Webster, at The Digital Biologist, on Merck Serono:
Rather than re-investing this money in its own, in-house R&D, Merck Serono is instead, seeking to tap the rich vein of entrepreneurial innovation that exists amongst the smaller, more specialized biotech companies and startups in the Boston biotech cluster.

Creating a genuinely entrepreneurial environment within large organizations is challenging, especially given their innately hierarchical management structures. And while the risk associated with such venture-funded biotech investments is significant, it is arguably a more flexible and manageable risk for Merck Serono than expanding its own internal pipeline in such a challenging climate for commercial life science, with all of the concomitatnt overheads and commitments that this would entail.
Though I'm sure entrepreneurial innovation is alive and well in specialized companies, I wouldn't necessarily infer that entrepreneurship can't co-exist with larger organizations.  Sure, there's hierarchy in any organization, but 'intrapreneurship' has been a buzzword for those with a passion for launching something new, but without the circumstances needed to hit it out on their own.

So if you have a great project idea, nurture it. Can you establish a better identity for you or your company?  Rebrand yourself.  Even in academia, intrapreneurship helps create productive and successful faculty.

But I digress; back to startups.

A few months ago, GEN had a great article about 'creative acquisition' as a natural model for biotech (which I expanded upon) describing how innovation gets outsourced to startup companies, particularly in biotech.

And while the main point of compartmentalizing research in startups is to keep focus on a small number of objectives, it's also to place each level of research in the hands of those capable of hitting their goals.

More importantly, it prevents people from working on things they're not good at.

If you're the best at one or two tasks, you're probably average in many others, and if you have to do everything yourself you're probably going to achieve little.  And if you're a Merck shareholder, having your startups learn new things that others already do better isn't just wasteful, it's strategically risky.