MassBio’s MassCONNECT program is the only entrepreneur mentorship program in Massachusetts that dives deep into the life sciences. The eight-week program matches entrepreneurs and founders with seasoned life sciences professionals to catalyze and commercialize innovation. To learn more about the program and how it supports the startups that participate, we sat down with Marcie Black and Bill Rever, Co-Founders of Advanced Silicon Group.
Why did you choose to apply for MassCONNECT?
While we have experience starting companies, we are new to biopharma and biomanufacturing. MassCONNECT was a great way for us to get a crash course on the biopharma industry from a group of industry experts. We were connected with 11 mentors in the industry that all had relevant and diverse experience from each other.
How does your idea/technology/product improve patient outcomes?
ASG is developing the next generation of biosensors using nanotechnology that will help biomanufacturers make drugs safer and lower cost for patients – better drugs faster. Our LightSense™ biosensor uses silicon nanowires to operate as a photo-electric ELISA. This allows rapid, sensitive, and low-cost measurements of protein concentrations in solutions. We are looking for partners to use our sensors to improve patient outcomes in other fields as well.
What are the biggest challenges you face as an emerging startup? How did MassCONNECT seek to address those?
MassCONNECT helped us refine our business strategy. Each week we addressed a different challenge. These included our customer discovery approach, target markets, sales channels, identifying the best partners and getting them on board, the purchasing process in biopharma, and the process to validate an analytical test method. The mentor team also helped us with fundraising, which we completed while participating in the MassCONNECT program.
How has the Massachusetts ecosystem supported your efforts as a startup? What separates Massachusetts from other leading life sciences clusters across the United States?
ASG has really benefited from being part of the Greater Boston community. Having started a company both in Boston and outside of Boston, I understand the value of a strong ecosystem. This includes experts, like the mentors we met through MassCONNECT, that can help us quickly get our product to market; partners like Professor Carl Lawton, who we collaborate with; experienced lawyers; the medical device incubator (M2D2) that we are a part of; and the shared facilities at UMass that we regularly use for our development. It also provides several benefits that are harder to identify; like the attitude it takes to build a startup and the support from colleagues and peers when the roller coaster ride of starting a company takes a downturn.
CEO & Co-Founder, Advanced Silicon Group
Marcie Black is CEO and co-founder of Advanced Silicon Group. Dr. Black brings to the company expertise in building strong teams, managing development projects, patents, IP strategy, encouraging healthy company culture, cost modeling, and running a startup. In addition, Dr. Black has a strong technical background in the areas of electronic materials, optics, semiconductors, solar cells/photovoltaics, batteries, renewable energy, nanotechnology, device design, and opto-electronics.
Prior to founding ASG, Marcie was the President and co-founder of Bandgap Engineering, which focused on lowering the cost of solar electricity through black silicon or silicon nanowire solar cells. Before joining Bandgap, Marcie was a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory and worked on a variety of nanotechnology and optical systems. She began at Los Alamos National Labs as a prestigious Director’s Funded Post Doc, developing organic and nano solar cells. Marcie has a Ph.D. from MIT in Electrical Engineering, under the supervision of Institute Professor, Mildred Dresselhaus. Prior to her Ph.D. work, Marcie was a device engineer at Motorola where she was on a small team responsible for combining non-volatile memory and logic onto the same chip. She improved the manufacturing yields by working with the process engineer to improve silicide formation. In 2009, she was awarded an R&D 100 award for her contributions to work at LANL. Marcie also was honored as one of the ten “Women-to-Watch in 2010” by Mass High Tech. Marcie has over 30+ papers and more than 15 issued patents with many more pending.
Chief Marketing & Sales Officer & Co-Founder, Advanced Silicon Group
Bill Rever is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing & Sales Officer of Advanced Silicon Group (ASG) and leads the company’s efforts to commercialize its technology. His career spans four decades of bringing innovative technology to market, beginning in photovoltaics with industry pioneer Solarex/BP Solar. Bill held a variety of roles within that company culminating as Strategy Director. In his tenure, Bill was involved in the production, marketing, and deployment of over 1 GW of PV in over 150 countries including many seminal applications, product innovations and projects.
Bill has a B.A. in Physics from the Johns Hopkins University, an M.S.E. in Energy Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.B.A. from that University’s Wharton School. He is a member of SEIA, CHESSA (formerly MDV-SEIA), and ASES, a past President of MDV- SEIA and former Co-Chair of the PV Group of NA SEMI.