By Samantha Ginther, senior associate, IU Ventures
Everyone at the Indiana University Innovation and Commercialization Office and IU Ventures congratulates drug discovery company MBX Biosciences for recently completing a $34.6 million Series A round of funding.
This is the latest entrepreneurial good news for Indiana University researcher and Distinguished Professor Richard DiMarchi, IUPUI alumnus Kent Hawryluk, and their fellow founder Tim Knickerbocker. MBX Biosciences’ success commercializing IU-based research is the latest manifestation of the collective expertise and work of IU innovators, faculty and staff.
Licensing and developing IP
As part of its development plan, MBX Biosciences funds research at IU and licenses IU intellectual property through the Innovation and Commercialization Office. Licensing inventions by IU faculty to a company committed to commercializing them — in the case of MBX, an IU startup — is one way the university tries to boost the impact of research beyond the laboratory.
Simran Trana, IU associate vice president for innovation and commercialization, credits DiMarchi’s entrepreneurial skill.
“Professor DiMarchi has been uniquely successful in collaborating with pharmaceutical companies and generating startup investment for technologies developed in his lab. He has been a great advocate and contributor to IU’s translational efforts,” she said.
Trana said the Innovation and Commercialization Office works closely with faculty to develop commercialization plans for IU intellectual property.
“This involves doing the groundwork to develop robust patents that will validate future investment and a multipronged marketing plan to identify technology development and funding partners along with entrepreneurial talent,” she said.
Power of partnerships
Since retiring as group vice president for biotechnology research and product development at Eli Lilly and Co. in 2003, DiMarchi has been a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at IU Bloomington for 17 years. In that time, he has worked with students, alumni and other researchers to launch several companies, including Assembly Biosciences and Ambyrx Biotechnologies. A uniting element across all these projects is a focus on new and innovative therapeutics.
Teri Willey, executive director of IU Ventures and fund manager of the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, said bringing academic research to the market requires partnership and cooperation.
“It requires collaboration among business, research, finance and academic leaders. When successful, patients and the public benefit,” she said. “When there are financial returns, they are reinvested in academic and industry research, which furthers new ventures and the innovation economy. And what is learned by the team is also reinvested in the community through expertise and leadership in support of further science-based economic impact.”
MBX’s Series A round included an investment from the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund. The round allows the company to sustain itself as new drugs are developed and move through preclinical stages of testing and iteration. DiMarchi and Hawryluk have successfully exited two previous drug-development startups: Marcadia Biotech and MB2. Those companies, both ultimately acquired, also focus on treatments for unmet medical need around conditions like diabetes and obesity.
“MBX is another example of how experts collaborating across IU groups — including the Department of Chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, the IU Innovation and Commercialization Office, and IU Ventures — can benefit patients around the world,” Willey said.