Boston Mountain Biotech is this month’s featured IA client in Arkansas Business.
Earlier this week, we ran Part 1 of a bonus Q&A session with BMB founder Ellen Brune in which she talked about the startup’s origins, her success with dad and BMB CEO Ricky Draehn in taking BMB through a successful run of prestigious business-plan competitions and more.
BMB has developed the Lotus suite of cell lines that helps purify proteins used in drugs that treat diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Part 2 begins now:
INOV8: Is there anything else like your Lotus technology on the market?
Ellen: Today, the standard cell lines are provided by: Novagen, Invitrogen Life Technologies and Scarab Genomics. Novagen and Invitrogen represent the concentration of power within the biotech industry. They are the largest bacteria cell line providers and have extensive networks of suppliers and customers. However, their cell lines do not reduce nuisance contaminants thereby resulting in extensive and costly purification designs by their customers. Since they are the concentration of power in the industry, their pricing models are rigid, and they have no incentive to design their cell lines to be production ready.
Scarab Genomics, another direct competitor of Boston Mountain Biotech, has also addressed the issue of cell productivity by knocking out broad section of proteins to reduce cell energy usage and accelerate growth. Boston Mountain Biotech has patterned our market entry and growth strategy after this company which entered the market in 2002 with a university license and grew the business over 10 years to $1.8M in sales funded predominantly through the NSF and NIH.
Boston Mountain Biotech is patterning our market entry and growth strategy after Scarab Genomics; however we are further differentiating our research and market entry to focus on data-driven analysis of nuisance proteins leading to the rational modifications to the cell line to reduce nuisance contaminants while accelerating growth.
INOV8: What’s your planned end game?
Ellen: BMB intends to operate as a contract research organization in the NW Arkansas area. A CRO is an organization that provides support to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries in the form of research services outsourced on a contract basis. Our specialty will be downstream protein purification, upstream cell growth and metabolism as well as molecular biology modifications to our base cell line, Lotus.
INOV8: Where are y’all in terms of funding right now?
Ellen: We just opened our first private round of funding of $10,000 blocks with 100 blocks available. These blocks are debt based and will accrue interest at 10%, they can later be converted for equity in the company at a discount.
INOV8: Describe the NWA startup environment right now. Did being a UA startup help?
Ellen: The NWA startup environment has been very helpful so far. We’re very early into the process, but it has been great to learn about all of the opportunities that we can take advantage of. The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority has tax credits for high-tech research and Innovate Arkansas has been great at getting us hooked up with advisors, lawyers, etc.
INOV8: What’s been the most difficult thing about launching a startup, and what’s been the most fun?
Ellen: So far, the most difficult thing is that it’s a lot of work, a lot more than I ever imagined. Ricky and I both work full time jobs outside of BMB, so balancing the two can be complicated. They whole thing has been a blast though, especially getting to work with my dad. It reminds me of my Pinewood Derby days when he and I would spend hours perfecting the perfect mini car.