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Bayer and Roche support QB3 in launching startups

By Mia Burns

Bayer HealthCare and Roche have both formed alliances to enable startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. The two major pharmas penned agreements with the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences to evaluate companies in life sciences with the aim of working together to advance those companies’ early-stage technologies and therapeutics. Mission Bay Capital, LLC will provide seed funding to the selected companies.

Scientists based at Bayer’s U.S. Innovation Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay will work with counterparts at QB3 and Mission Bay Capital as part of the arrangement, with the close proximity allowing the three parties to more efficiently evaluate a significant number of companies.

The Bayer agreement is not limited only to the United States, says Chris Haskell, head, US Science Hub at Bayer HealthCare. “The agreement was made with the San Francisco-based team but will likely involve research areas where our expertise is based in Germany,” Haskell told R&D Pharma Business Connect. But for Roche, the agreement is only for the United States. “This is indeed a U.S. only agreement, that has been signed for an initial duration of three years, with the possibility to renew it twice one year at a time,” says Zafrira Avnur, global head, academic collaborations, Roche Partnering.

“Many of the challenges associated with start-up companies aren’t associated with the science,” says Haskell. “The necessities of starting a small business and the understanding of what is necessary once you progress to the later stages of drug development are crucial to these companies. This agreement was made with those challenges in mind. QB3 will provide its ‘startup in a box’ program to selected companies, while Bayer will bring expertise in areas like development, regulatory, and market analysis.”

Although QB3 has done this type of work in the past, the company is looking to broaden its horizons. “QB3 has helped create more than 200 life-science startups, but we need to do more,” said Neena Kadaba, PhD, director of industry alliances at QB3. “We need to help these companies focus on the most important technical risks and to raise capital. Forming partnerships between the startup, Roche, and QB3’s seed-stage venture fund when the startup is just getting off the ground achieves both of these goals. The startups will gain invaluable expertise and insights, and Roche and QB3 will have an opportunity to fund risk-reducing experiments for new technologies.”

Once the agreement with Bayer comes to a close, Bayer hopes to have helped successfully advance the ideas coming from the startups. “By advancing these ideas in a collaborative manner, we will have assisted these companies to grow to more mature organizations and at the same time, positively impacted Bayer’s research activities and pipeline,” Haskell told R&D Pharma Business Connect. “In the long run, it is all about bringing innovation to impact the patient – but this will take a bit more than three years.”

Posted: September 2013