Maine’s growing bioscience industry will get some additional support with the formation of a new “bioscience cluster” initiative.
Launched yesterday by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs in Portland, the initiative will aim to support bioscience innovators, entrepreneurs and startup companies involved in human and animal biology, pharmaceutical, marine and agricultural science, and healthcare innovations, according to a news release.
The cluster is made up of business incubators, accelerators and research partners committed to advancing the commercialization and scale-up of bioscience and health related businesses in Maine.
The Maine Bioscience Cluster is designed as a “continuum of care,” from the initial idea to the startup phase, including funding and talent development.
“To serve clients through these stages, the initiative must be highly collaborative, leveraging the resources, talent and assets of all of our public and private partner organizations,” said Tom Rainey, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.
The initiative is made up of three programs:
- BioInnovate provides technical services to foster commercialization of ongoing research at partner institutions
- BioStartup provides focused technical support to businesses at the three partner incubators with training, mentoring and market intelligence
- Maine Life Science Venture Summit is an annual event that highlights business and research assets and business and technology success stories specific to Maine
The mission is to strengthen links within the life sciences corridor that stretches from Boston through Portsmouth, N.H., to Portland. MCE hopes to facilitate collaboration, remove institutional and geographic barriers and increase access to capital for bioscience early-stage businesses.
Over $1 million has been committed over three years to kickstart the new programs through grants and sponsorships received by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, or MCE. Last October, MCE received a $512,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration and a $300,000 matching grant from the Maine Technology Institute. Financial and logistical support has also been committed by a number of founding public and private sponsors, including Maine Health, Focus Maine, Verrill, Norway Savings Bank and the Bioscience Association of Maine.
MCE has signed collaboration agreements with the Union River Center for Innovation in Ellsworth, TechPlace in Brunswick, the MaineHealth Innovation Center in Portland and the University of Maine’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development in Orono. MCE intends to expand the initiative to serve other partners after completing the first pilot program year.
“This is an important and much needed initiative to bolster a promising growth area in Maine’s economy,” said Susan Ahern, MaineHealth’s vice president of innovation.
BioInnovate will serve as a shared resource, providing hands-on education and training to promote effective licensing and tech transfer policies, provide forums on startup issues such as funding and regulations, support the development of a translational research culture, and facilitate introductions to mentors and subject matter experts to achieve a higher level of technology transfer.
BioInnovate will join with the Maine Innovation, Research and Technology Accelerator, a program designed specifically to develop UMaine research innovations into marketable products and services. MIRTA offers intensive 2-day workshops and a 16-week program has trained 13 teams in three cohorts, leading to five startup businesses and six patents filed or issues. It builds on earlier programs developed by MCE, the University of Maine and MaineHealth to build educate bioscience researchers and entrepreneurs on best practices related to intellectual property protection, funding and technology commercialization. MCE will include additional partners to investigate the commercial value of research ongoing at research institutions and colleges/universities and help researchers initiate commercialization of emerging technologies.
BioStartupwill provide venues for life science entrepreneurs to connect and network statewide, breaking down institutional and geographic barriers for mutually beneficial collaboration and information exchange. Working in close collaboration with partner incubators, MCE is providing life sciences startups with the strategies and resources required for successful business launch, including access to highly specialized business and industry experts, potential investors and introductions to other funding sources. MCE is developing a bioscience-specific curriculum to be presented annually to Maine’s most promising companies.