Q&A With Glenn Batchelder
What is the current climate for life sciences startups and how do you see that changing in the next five years?
This is an incredibly exciting time for the life sciences industry, particularly in Massachusetts. Over the past decade areas of science that had historically been seen as very promising but largely futuristic, such as RNA therapies, gene therapies, and nanotechnology, are now poised to yield significant, even transformative, benefits for patients. In these fields much of the pioneering academic research and many of the leading companies have emerged from the Massachusetts life sciences cluster. With our accelerating understanding of disease biology, traditional small molecule and biotherapeutics drug modalities have created major breakthroughs. For example, the first disease modifying therapy for cystic fibrosis was discovered and commercialized here in Massachusetts. Success builds confidence and attracts both investment and talent. The enthusiasm in the public capital markets for the biotechnology sector has injected large amounts of capital into the local ecosystem. Also, we continue to see a migration of pharmaceutical company research centers to the Massachusetts area. All this bodes well for the prospects of startups. Launching a startup is never easy, particularly a life sciences startup, but I believe we are entering promising new era. The key to success will be staying sharply focused on the value chain right from the very beginning by developing products that dramatically improve the lives of patients. I am very optimistic about the opportunities of the next five years in both what we can accomplish for patients and as an industry.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in Massachusetts today?
Any success I have had as an entrepreneur I attribute to the many generous and talented mentors and colleagues I have had the privilege to work with and who have supported me over time. The unprecedented geographic concentration of the Massachusetts life sciences cluster has not only drawn together one of the most remarkable talent pools in the world of leading physicians, scientists, engineers, drug developers, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs, but they are often only a short walk or drive away. My best advice to a new entrepreneur is go seek them out, get to know them, learn from them. Whether through MassBio, the MIT Enterprise Forum, Xconomy or the many other organizations that facilitate making connections, these pioneers and veterans are accessible and generally willing to help. I believe our ecosystem is at the core of what makes Massachusetts such a fertile ground for startups. This network is readily accessible for any tenacious, talented entrepreneur with a good idea.
What are the most important challenges and opportunities on the horizon for MassBio?
I think the truism that the greatest risk associated with establishing a leadership position is complacency applies to the Massachusetts life sciences cluster. Our critical priorities need to be continuing to strengthen our unique ecosystem, proactively adapting to the rapidly evolving landscape and ensuring we do not become complacent. The cluster was strengthened through the Patrick Administration recognized early on the importance the life sciences to Massachusetts’ economy and visibly bolstering the underpinnings with initiatives like the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center a focus. Going forward we need to ensure all the stakeholders remain focused on maintaining the vibrancy and growth of the life sciences industry. To support innovation we need to ensure we focus on translating research and development into value for all constituencies: patients, doctors, healthcare centers, life science companies and payers. One important dimension in delivering value is continuing our progress in precision medicine, right medicines get to the right patients through more targeted therapies along with enabling diagnostics and data platforms. This is important both for improving the patients’ experience as well as to ensure our innovation model remains viable and affordable for society. With leaders from all the constituencies present in Massachusetts and MassBio uniquely positioned to bring the various constituencies together and collaboratively find solutions, this is our opportunity and our responsibility. The recently published Impact 2020 report provides a roadmap and I am confident we can make significant progress together.