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BioCurious: Bio-hacker space cofounder on funding and regulatory issues

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

BioCurious is a Silicon Valley bio-hacker space with a dual mission: community education and work with entrepreneurs. Cofounder Raymond McCauley, who is also chair of biotechnology at Singularity University, said BioCurious provides lab space, equipment and a community for entrepreneurs.

“In Silicon Valley, the myth is a couple of guys with a laptop in a garage start the next big company,” McCauley said. “We want to be able to do that in biotech without somebody having to do it out of a university lab or raising a couple million dollars before they can even get started.” Below are his tips for life science and digital health entrepreneurs.

Consider crowd funding – As competition for fundraising grows increasingly fierce, McCauley suggested entrepreneurs seek out alternatives to angel investment and venture capital. “I think the hope on the horizon is crowd funding,” he said. Although the caps on crowd funding are about $1 million, McCauley said, that’s still enough capital to help smaller companies get started and validate their business models.

Partner wisely – McCauley said he’s seen several successful partnerships between a biotech expert and a digital expert. A team that covers both the biotech and digital aspects of a project can be more appealing to potential investors, he said.

Think outside the box – Some entrepreneurs start out in human interventions, McCauley said, but instead found success by working for a time in veterinary or synthetic interventions. Those fields have fewer regulatory requirements, he said, and entrepreneurs can use their work there to fund proof of concept studies. “There are still successes,” McCauley said, “even in this pretty harsh environment.”

Talk to patients – Instead of trying to figure out what patients want, McCauley said, go directly to them and ask: What do you struggle with? What do we need to work on? Look over patients’ shoulders as they use old tools to inspire new ideas, he said. “There’s a lot that can be done there that doesn’t cross regulatory lines,” McCauley added.

Approach regulators – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has become more progressive in its regulatory mission, McCauley said. “The government really is here to help,” he said. McCauley suggested entrepreneurs not be afraid to ask questions and express concerns of regulatory agencies. “You’re not going to cause a problem,” he said. “You’re probably going to cause a solution.”

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