How life science companies can find – and exploit – the needs of the marketplace
Amplyx Pharmaceuticals works to develop small molecule drugs with enhanced efficacy and lower toxicity, creating new therapeutics that improve both outcomes and compliance. The company’s initial development areas focus on oncology and infectious diseases. Amplyx was recently accepted into Janssen Labs, a Johnson & Johnson accelerator program.
Dinu Sen, the Amplyx CEO, has worked with Abbott Laboratories and Amgen and helped bring another company public. He offered tips on finding need in the sector, hiring, and determining whether working with an accelerator is right for your company.
Find the need and exploit it – While many life science researchers pursue companies based on their own line of work, Sen said, it’s important to marry that with market need. Amplyx started with a platform and narrowed down its possible uses to about 20, he said. “It’s like a funnel,” Sen said. “You start off with the world at large.” Then, the team spoke with experts in each area, asking: ‘Can we apply this technology to your field? Is there a need for this?’ After those discussions, the team decided to focus on fungal infections because the field had been quiet for about a decade, Sen said, and patients were facing drug resistance and mortality. By honing in on an area with medical need where not much work was being done, he said, Amplyx stood out to the National Institutes of Health, which has offered the company several grants.
Focus, focus, focus – “When you’re a small company, you’ve got to focus,” Sen said. “You can’t be everything to everyone.” If you’re good at chemistry, he added, then it might be the right choice to subcontract out your biology work. “I’ve seen too many companies with five or six opportunities they’re chasing,” Sen said, “and 10 years later they’re not any closer to a solution that improves patient outcome.”
Be aware of hiring opportunities – Most people hired at Amplyx have come through other contacts, Sen said. While many companies have been letting go their early-stage discovery employees, he said, Amplyx has been hiring them up. “We’ve been very deliberate and thorough in our recruitment,” Sen said. Once the team identifies potential candidates, those prospective employees are asked to the company’s San Diego headquarters to meet with the staff.
Determine if an accelerator is right for you – If your company is in the discovery stage and your team needs access to well-stocked labs and high-tech equipment, Sen said, working with an accelerator could help. Joining Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Labs has allowed Amplyx to focus on the important aspects of the business, he said, and delegate duties like coffee stations and waste disposal. The opportunity also gives the Amplyx team a chance to network with peers and mentors, Sen said. “We feel we’re in an environment where exciting work is taking place,” he said.
Photo: Dinu Sen