March 12, 2007 | Last summer, Biogen-Idec began asking senior investigators for new ideas in ways to access external innovation. Rainer Fuchs, the company’s former informatics director, was ready for a fresh challenge.
The result? The Biogen-Idec Innovation Incubator, or BI3. In this imaginative new business model, Biogen-Idec will provide facilities, funding, and expertise to help scientific entrepreneurs develop new therapeutic candidates. Biogen-Idec will retain rights over the eventual product, but Fuchs says the partnership offers tangible benefits for would-be entrepreneurs.
The goal of BI3 is to nurture early-stage companies in drug discovery and possibly development. Fuchs is seeking proposals that champion innovative biology with disease-modifying potential, which will in turn produce drug prototypes — biologics or small molecules. Biogen-Idec hopes not to make money but to make key contributions to Biogen-Idec’s R&D pipeline.
BI3 offers four components: space, funding, scientific support, and business support. Biogen-Idec would invest up to $10 million, take an equity position, and require a pre-negotiated option for product rights. It’s “capping the upside,” Fuchs admitted, but offers “a compelling financial return in a short timeframe. The return for us is at the end.”
The BI3 shared space is located adjacent to Biogen-Idec’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. There would be ad hoc access to scientists and management services, Fuchs said. “We want scientists to spend 2-3 years concentrating on the science, not worrying about payroll, or hiring a CFO.”
In return, Biogen-Idec has a shot at virtualizing R&D by tapping external pre-proof-of-concept innovation, providing rapid entry into novel biologies with a direct impact on its pipeline. Biogen-Idec will maintain a disciplined investment approach, so failure to reach pre-set milestones would quickly end the program.
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