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A Conversation with Elizabeth Iorns - Advice for Biotech Founders

Y Combinator2018-10-03
YC#Y Combinator#Elizabeth Iorns#Adora Cheung#Startup School#biotech
10K views|5 years ago
💫 Short Summary

Elizabeth Irons founded Science Exchange to simplify access to specialized technologies and collaborations in scientific research, emphasizing ownership of results and IP rights. The platform addresses inefficiencies in traditional research methods, streamlining processes and providing fair access to resources. Science Exchange evolved into a curated B2B marketplace, offering QA and project management services. The platform's success was driven by achieving product-market fit with a large pharmaceutical client. The reproducibility initiative aims to improve research quality, addressing non-reproducibility in scientific results. The biotech industry is experiencing rapid growth, offering new therapeutic modalities and opportunities for innovative solutions to diseases. Successful biotech startups focus on key milestones and clinical trials for drug effectiveness, with challenges in commercial revenue and FDA strategies. Funding has enabled regulatory infrastructure development, while having a business co-founder and essential experiments are vital for startup success in biotech. Personal drive, passion, and mentorship are crucial in navigating scientific endeavors and maintaining high standards in business ventures. Science exchanges play a vital role in enabling scientific breakthroughs and collaboration for impactful discoveries.

✨ Highlights
📊 Transcript
Elizabeth Irons transitions from academia to founding Science Exchange, an online marketplace for outsourcing science experiments.
Irons recognized the inefficiency in accessing specialized technologies and collaborations in scientific research, motivating her to create a platform for finding and evaluating scientific partners.
Ownership of scientific results, intellectual property, and publication rights are emphasized by Irons in biotech and scientific research.
Irons' experience and insights have guided her in advising numerous biotech companies and running a successful marketplace company.
Inefficiencies and fragmentation in research processes are highlighted, with a focus on the disorganized nature of traditional methods.
Personal experiences of challenges accessing necessary resources for experiments are shared, leading to inefficiencies and pricing disparities in the market.
The importance of addressing these issues is emphasized, with the creation of companies like Science Exchange aiming to streamline research processes and provide fair access to resources.
Significant price differences in the market are mentioned due to a lack of information, showcasing the potential for improvement and innovation in the research industry.
Speaker's journey in Miami and concerns about university ownership of ideas.
Evolving startup ecosystem in Miami, including the University of Miami's incubator.
Seeking guidance from tech transfer office and learning about Y Combinator through Wired magazine.
Issue of universities owning research results and advice to join Y Combinator after R&D phase to avoid wasted time and money.
The rise of entrepreneurship as a viable career path for academics.
Infrastructure like Y Combinator, Stripe, and AWS making it easier to start companies.
Initiatives like lab central and lab space QB3 lowering barriers to entry in the science space.
Challenges faced by scientists, particularly PhD and postdoc researchers, in transitioning to entrepreneurship.
Desire for a change in the system to enable scientists to become entrepreneurs without requiring established PIs for legitimacy and funding.
Science Exchange transitioned from a two-sided marketplace to a curated B2B platform focusing on QA and project management.
The company faced challenges in managing demand but found the supply side to be more straightforward.
Science Exchange's evolution reflects a trend of marketplaces shifting towards B2B models.
Iterations and learning were essential in understanding their value proposition and adjusting their software accordingly.
Science Exchange: A platform for instant collaboration in the service industry.
Challenges faced by service providers include selling projects, client contracts, and Quality Assurance.
Having all major players on the platform is essential for effective solutions.
Customer feedback highlights the cost-effectiveness and high-touch service of Science Exchange.
The first customer using the platform independently showcases its excitement and appeal.
Achieving product-market fit through a large pharmaceutical client's adoption of a platform.
Client successfully used platform for discovery research, automation, and business intelligence.
Importance of offering solutions to address manual process inefficiencies.
Challenges in convincing established companies to transition to new software.
Emphasis on reproducibility initiative for ensuring experiment results can be replicated for validation.
The reproducibility initiative aims to improve scientific research by replicating experiments.
The project covers areas such as antibody validation, reanalysis of Epidemiology results, and replicating published results for the pharmaceutical industry.
The cancer biology reproducibility project and the prostate cancer foundation project are two highly followed projects.
Publishing replication studies is controversial due to the cultural norm of not publishing them.
Fear of non-reproducible results negatively impacting careers should not hinder scientific progress.
Lack of reproducibility in scientific research results.
Validation processes in pharmaceutical companies involve extensive documentation and validation, while academia may have less rigorous validation.
Understanding the factors leading to non-reproducibility in research results is crucial to address the issue effectively.
Challenges faced as a CEO of a marketplace company like Science Exchange are discussed.
Growth of Biotech Startups in the Global Industry.
Access to capital and advancements in therapeutic modalities are driving a surge in startups in the biotech industry globally.
Evolution includes gene therapies, cell-based therapies, and biologics, marking a significant turning point for the sector.
Increase in available treatments signifies a shift from traditional small molecule inhibitors to innovative biologics like antibodies and proteins.
Approval of marketable products showcases the industry's growth and potential for further development.
Opportunities in the biotech industry for disease treatment.
Individuals with pharmaceutical backgrounds are starting biotech companies and embracing risks.
Collaboration between individuals from different fields like software and biotech is leading to innovative solutions.
While software and biotech startups share similarities in people and funding, the outcomes differ due to the scientific nature of biotech.
Biotech emphasizes key milestones and clinical trials to prove drug effectiveness, unlike software which often pivots in product development.
Challenges in the biotech industry with commercial revenue until an approved product is sold on the market.
Biotechs often partner with large companies for funding, leading to acquisitions or partnerships.
Some companies are now commercializing their own products, building sales forces and distribution channels.
Companies focusing on rare diseases work with key opinion leaders for efficient sales.
Access to capital, FDA strategies for rare diseases, and patient advocacy networks are key factors enabling companies to bring products to market without being acquired.
Importance of funding for FDA regulatory infrastructure and accessibility for startups.
Companies like Enzyme offer productized solutions for regulatory processes.
Common mistakes made by biotech founders include not conducting essential experiments early on.
Biotech founders take risks transitioning from academia or established careers, providing valuable learning experiences.
Importance of a complementary business co-founder and hiring a CFO to improve company growth and perception.
Emphasize on finding people who share the same passion for problem-solving and enjoyable work dynamics.
Discussion on transitioning into biotech field and potential paths, including personalized biology.
Prediction of a strong user pay component in the future of biotech products.
Importance of Patient Willingness to Pay for Medications
Patients are more willing to pay for medications for debilitating diseases like migraines.
Patients struggle to adhere to medication for diseases where they don't feel sick.
Success of biotech companies founded by non-scientific founders highlights self-taught individuals excelling in the sector.
Reproducibility initiative initially seen as a distraction but led to valuable pharmaceutical partnerships.
Future of science exchanges and evolution of scientific research.
Importance of purpose-driven science exchanges for scientific breakthroughs.
Continuous existence and persistence of the scientific method.
Balance between correlations and causality in research, emphasizing the value of experiments.
Optimism for the role of science exchanges in facilitating collaboration for scientific advancements.
Importance of credentials and knowledge in the biotech space.
Having credentials provides a significant advantage in starting a company.
Credibility and in-depth knowledge can also lead to success without formal credentials.
Successful individuals highlighted for their thorough research and understanding of the industry.
Building credibility through knowledge and expertise essential for success in biotech field.
Importance of personal drive and motivation in pursuing scientific endeavors.
Emphasis on the role of passion in overcoming challenges.
Highlighting support received from a mentor for opportunities and encouragement.
Contrasting positive mentorship experiences with negative experiences in academia.
Success of Science Exchange startup and significance of quality control in a two-sided marketplace.
Supplier Qualification and Monitoring Process in Platform.
Rigorous supplier qualification process and continuous monitoring ensure performance.
Structured outline of deliverables and clear expectations lead to improved supplier performance and higher Net Promoter Scores.
Transparency and accountability in the platform drive suppliers to deliver as agreed upon, benefiting all users.
Strong incentive for suppliers to perform well and uphold commitments results in better overall outcomes.