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Molecular Mining Digs for Academic Funding Gold with New Partnership Program

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Molecular Mining, a firm founded by five PhDs, is looking to its roots in academia to tap into the billions of dollars in research grants awarded every year.

Last week, the Kingston, Ontario-based company launched the Gateway to Systems Biology program, a marketing concept designed to create new revenue streams by aligning its data analysis technology and services with academic researchers seeking grants.

The program’s aspirational goal is to enable investigators to enter a loosely defined world of systems biology. Acknowledging that the term is “a buzzword and people throw it around loosely and debate the definitions,” Evan Steeg, CEO and co-founder, said Molecular Mining has the tools to make the concept less of an abstraction. The program, he said, is geared toward academics who have “the right biological and biomedical background to ask good questions and to deploy instrumentation, but may not have the experience in statistics and data mining.”

Molecular Mining, with some 12 PhDs on its staff, will step in to assist in the creation of a research plan in the early stages as an advisor or, more formally, as sub-contractor or co-investigator. The company will offer assistance in experimental design, plans for data analysis, and statistical validations for particular datasets as well as access to its software tools like GeneLinker Gold, Platinum, and, where appropriate, the yet-to-be-released Diamond. Investigators that list the company on an application will be entitled to a discount.

The company’s ideal clients are researchers using high-throughput and high-content assay technologies seeking grants of $150,000 or more.

“We think that if researchers are putting in money for labs and hardware, then maybe they can put in funds for services as well,” said Steeg.

The program is in its initial stages with no clients signed, though Steeg said there has been encouraging response from a direct mail campaign the company conducted to market the concept.

Molecular Mining will review one-page proposals and will select projects based on the potential for the success of the grant, the quality of the science, how much of a need there is for the tools and knowledge provided by Molecular Mining, and the revenue potential, Steeg said. Issues revolving around disclosure and intellectual property will be discussed and negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

If the program is successful, it will ally the firm with promising early-stage concepts, expose it to many different vertical segments, and build its customer base, Steeg added.

Kenneth Bresslauer, dean and director of the division of life sciences at Rutgers University, told BioInform that Molecular Mining is on the right track with this idea.

“The company has correctly identified a need in the life sciences field,” he said. However, academe’s answer may be to try to connect expertise in-house, he noted.

An additional challenge lies in working out an understanding of what IP belongs to whom, he said: “Most people take the path of least resistance, looking in-house, or looking to other universities to do the grants together.”

And, he added, it might be difficult to get researchers to show their IP cards early in the process and expose themselves to possible rejection.

— MOK

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