For the past 25 years, UF Innovate | Sid Martin Biotech has provided the foundation that has turned many startup companies into successful businesses. For many CEOs, Sid Martin played a fundamental role in keeping their companies alive during their infant stages.
Gary Ascani is a former CEO of Banyan Biomarkers, Inc., a biotechnology company that uses biomarkers to diagnose traumatic brain injuries. Gary has worked with Sid Martin since it opened in 1995. He has 43 years of experience within the biotech industry and has worked with startup, early-stage, and late-stage companies. He shared his thoughts about his experience at Sid Martin.
“The commitment from UF and through the staff and facilities at Sid Martin in aiding startup and early-stage biotechnology companies has been the impetus for the growth of the biotech sector in North Central Florida,” said Ascani.
As a tenant at Sid Martin, Banyan Biomarkers secured a government contract to continue technology and product development. Once two of their founders migrated from university positions into the company, they acquired greater opportunities for follow-on funding. They were also granted Intellectual Property rights with claims by the U.S. Patent Trademark Office.
Taking a business off the ground can require a lot of support. Ascani emphasized that Banyan Biomarkers, Inc., benefited in its early stages from the laboratory space and shared equipment that Sid Martin provided at an affordable price. Ascani noted that the shared use of expensive and sophisticated laboratory equipment at Sid Martin allowed his company to prioritize its financial resources without having to purchase or lease expensive equipment.
“This was no small matter in helping conserve capital while getting laboratory work performed in a timely fashion or having to hire expensive outside consulting laboratories. Early-stage companies are always in need of conserving capital while at the same time making significant progress to qualify for follow-on or initial funding,” said Ascani.
Under Ascani’s leadership, the company grew and made great progress in both technology and product development. His successor completed the FDA-authorized clinical study and the company was granted approval for their product before graduating from Sid Martin and moving to San Diego.
Dr. Chandra Nataraj, the CEO of MLM Biologics and Vet Bio Solutions, has worked with Sid Martin since 2012. MLM Biologics provides cost-effective and clinically proven medical devices to improve wound healing. Originally, MLM Biologics was established as a Sales &Marketing-focused entity. However, due to issues with its manufacturing partner, company leadership decided to restart its product development with Sid Martin.
“Sid Martin was necessary for us to exist as a company since we had to restart product development,” Nataraj said. “Being an implantable medical device manufacturer, our processing needs depended on a number of the common equipment that Sid Martin offers to their clients. It got us far enough to get a product cleared by the FDA.”
Nataraj utilized many of Sid Martin’s resources and felt that the institution was “a complete package” too. He admired the staff and management for supporting the company.
“A special nod to Ms. Merrie Shaw, who has seen us through our good, bad, and ugly times with support and positive feedback,” Nataraj said.
Thanks to Sid Martin, Nataraj said his company was better prepared for success. He was fond of how Sid Martin made its tenants well-rounded by introducing them to legal services, accounting services, investors, key opinion leaders in the field, influencers, policymakers, and more.
“Getting all of these done ‘in-house’ is an invaluable intangible for a start-up company,” he said.
A few accomplishments that MLM Biologics achieved during its time at Sid Martin included generating an FDA-cleared state-of-the-art wound care product, setting up an ISO certified manufacturing space, and successfully getting through the company’s first FDA-inspection with no major observations.
Nataraj encourages other startup companies to plan well on their strengths and hire well to aid in their weakness.
“While it is critical for startup companies (and thereby its CEOs) to be nimble, it should not come at the expense of focus,” he shared.
Overall, many have seen great benefits from working with Sid Martin and it has played a key role in promising their company a future in biotech.
“Sid Martin has been the home of very successful public and private companies, has help seed the vision of two neighboring cities to focus on the biotech industry as engines for economic development and was instrumental in cultivated local, state, national and international recognition and attention from innovators, funding agencies and investors in the region,” said Ascani.
In honor of its 25th anniversary, CEOs are happy to celebrate the wonderful work Sid Martin has done within the technology industry.
“Fantastic concept that was clearly 20 years ahead of its time when it started in 1995. But has actually kept up with the times, adapting as the world of science evolved,” said Dr. Nataraj. “It does not surprise me that Sid Martin occupies a unique, and solo place atop the world of biotech incubators.”
Written by Denielle Smith, a former marketing intern at UF Innovate | Tech Licensing. Denielle graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Florida and started her master’s program at Cornell in September.