September 4, 2013 – French diagnostics company BioMérieux’s recent acquisition of University of Utah spin-out BioFire for $450 million displays the economic development behind the U’s startup companies. The U’s Technology & Venture Commercialization’s new stage-gated and milestone-driven process for startups is positioned to replicate BioFire’s success.
“The U’s forward thinking in the area of technology commercialization is paying off,” said Tom Parks, vice president for research at the U. “Innovation and commercialization are now broadly understood to be general university responsibilities worthy of support. This has led to an environment where U researchers, such as BioFire’s co-founder Carl Wittwer, are respected, encouraged and rewarded for their interests in innovation and commercialization.”
Since its founding in 1990, Biofire has grown to approximately 500 employees and is projected to have $70 million in revenue this year. Such economic success is a driving force behind TVC’s strategy to create university startups and support them in their growth.
“We are excited about BioFire’s acquisition,” said Bryan Ritchie, executive director of Technology & Venture Commercialization. “To replicate the success of startups such as BioFire, we created a stage-gated, milestone-driven process called ‘the Engine’ to improve our ability to quickly, effectively and consistently work with our partners to transform smart ideas into life-changing applications.”
The Engine is the result of TVC’s strategic decision to focus as much on the quality of its startups as the number it produces.
Through the Engine process, TVC, U faculty, investors and company representatives evaluate and de-risk U inventions, and, where possible, turn them into viable commercial opportunities. This system is a documentation-driven framework of discovery and validation, milestone identification, IP protection, the formation of marketing strategies, risk mitigation, resource allocation and accountability. External committees composed of industry and subject-matter experts advise TVC throughout the process.
“High-quality, BioFire-type startups is the goal for every spin out we produce” Ritchie said. “We have a number of emerging startups that we believe could potentially have the same positive economic benefit BioFire has. The Engine is the process that will empower future successes such as BioFire at the U.”