Accelerating Drug Development: Accelerator Models and Strategies
By: Maria Oldenburg and Baiju Shah
Crossing the valley of death—the resource gap that prevents promising breakthroughs from becoming medicines—and translating scientific research into viable treatments for patients requires more than just luck and perseverance; it requires a precise combination of experience, resources, and industry partners. The emergence of biotech accelerators in the last few decades has helped to align these different pieces of the puzzle and push academic discoveries through the drug development process. Different biotech accelerators have developed their own unique models of funding, partnership, and management to provide their partner companies with what they consider to be the most important resources.
Accelerators help speed up the work of getting a new biotech off the ground in many ways—sometimes the aid comes in the form of funding, other times in access to drug development expertise or network growth. Often, accelerators blend capability-enabling resources like management consulting or teams with additional sources of funding and support so that the emerging companies are advised on how to best use the resources they receive. This “hands on” support distinguishes biotech accelerators from other drug development partners whose support is primarily financial, such as venture capitalists and venture philanthropists like disease foundations.
While each accelerator uses a unique model, many incorporate funding support in addition to a capability-enabling element like real estate access, education, or hands-on management, often in return for an equity stake in their partner biotech. LabCentral, for example, is a Boston-based accelerator that provides affordable, move-in-ready laboratory facilities to biotech startups, giving them the space to conduct their own early-stage research. This strategy empowers scientists to accelerate the development of their research as they see fit. IndieBio, one of the largest biotech accelerators in the United States, offers the company they are accelerating access to a four month “bootcamp” that provides the emerging biotech with lab space, entrepreneurial curriculum, and coaching and mentoring. BioMotiv provides its programs access to drug development experts and management teams to advance academic discoveries into medicines. BioMotiv’s portfolio companies also leverage the accelerator’s partnerships with CROs. Other examples of biotech accelerators include Accelerator Life Science Partners and Breakout Labs.
The funding, management, and support offered by biotech accelerators are vital contributors to solving medicine’s valley of death challenge. In combination with the resources provided by disease foundations, biotech accelerators and the unique models and strategies they follow can help bring more drugs to market and to ultimately allow more patients to benefit from the new treatments.