Omnigen as a member of the Mansfield Bio-Incubator in Boston
In the beginning of February, Omnigen went on a mission to Boston for the SLAS2022 International Conference and Exhibition, organised and financed by DIGI-B-CUBE. During this mission, Omnigen and Mansfield Bio-Incubator crossed paths, and it turned out to be a great match. In this interview, one of the co-founders of Mansfield Bio-Incubator, Alexander Margulis, tells us why that is the case.
Hi Alexander, nice to meet you! Can you tell us more about your educational background?
“Hi! So, my name is Alexander Margulis, and I have a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Stony Brook University in New York. My PhD project focused on the role of cell cohesion on cancer progression using three-dimensional models. After receiving my doctorate, I continued to work with similar models as a postdoctoral researcher at what is now Pfizer. What followed was a position at Genzyme, where I focussed on cell-based assays. It was not until later in my scientific career that I contributed to other life science companies with my knowledge. After my time at Genzyme, I set up laboratories for a biotech start-up called Bioarray Genetics, who were developing a test to stratify breast cancer patients in terms of response to chemotherapy.”
You have quite some impressive experiences under your belt. How did you end up co-founding the Mansfield Bio-incubator?
“Well, it began with some of the feedback I received from one of my supervisors back in the day. She felt that, with the personality I have and the skills I possess, you would be great at building something from scratch. So, at the age of forty, I decided to take this feedback and jump into a new opportunity to build a life science ecosystem in this region. In 2017, Mansfield Bio-Incubator opened the initial lab space, thanks to a generosity of private donors, and then secured money from Massachusetts Life Science Center to facilitate the expansion, right before the pandemic in 2020. Despite some delays due to the pandemic, we are now finally operational as of the end of February. We are filling up, and are, of course, always trying to attract new exciting companies from anywhere in the world. For this reason, I was really glad that the Netherlands mission in Boston brought exciting life science companies into our space, including Omnigen.”
“It becomes more paramount to connect companies like Omnigen to the Massachusetts network”
You have certainly come a long way since 2017. Can you tell us more about the mission that the incubator holds?
“Basically, our mission is to provide assistance to companies that make ground-breaking diagnostic therapeutics and other life science products. Besides that, we want to grow the entrepreneurial economy of this part of Massachusetts. The way our economy is currently developing is, also partly due to our geography, not sustainable. Obviously, Boston Cambridge is at the centre of the world in terms of biotech. But what people fail to understand is that the prices and real estate are exorbitant, and the commute is a nightmare. So, it becomes more paramount to connect companies like Omnigen to the Massachusetts network, and to provide them with options outside of Boston Cambridge. And that is what we are about.”
Why do you think a company such as Omnigen is suitable to connect to the Massachusetts network your incubator has?
“In my opinion, Omnigen is a great fit, because like our other incubator companies, Omnigen works in a variety of disciplines, from cancer diagnostic therapeutics to DNA-tests for horses. I am very impressed given the fact that Omnigen has a relatively small team with a big portfolio of products. I sincerely hope that we can help Omnigen in any way we can.”
“It is about what the company really needs. The opportunities are plentiful.”
Talking about offering help, what are the precise services and support you can offer life science companies such as Omnigen?
“Firstly, we will ask any company who becomes a member at our incubator to fill out a questionnaire, and then connect them to the advisory board. The advisory board will give the companies tailored advice based on the questionnaire and will involve the right people from the network to get the companies what they need. This can vary from funding opportunities to networking events, from accelerator programs to mentors, and from seminars to intern recruitment. In other words, it is about what the company really needs. The opportunities are plentiful.”
Plentiful indeed! So how do you think the incubator can add value specifically to European life sciences companies entering the United States market?
“We have a range of memberships, starting with the virtual basic business membership that Omnigen has. This membership includes basic analysis, connections to mentors for appropriate guidance and providing any connections necessary to expand into the United States market. When enough money is raised, Omnigen can rent a bench in our shared space. When that is the case, regional officials can add more capacity to let Omnigen grow right in this region of Massachusetts. In this way, we have a virtuous cycle. By providing an additional, affordable option to get your life science venture started, we keep Massachusetts as the number one biotech economy in the world, while European companies such as Omnigen can add more value to this economy and to the well-being of our country by providing products such as their Pancreatic Insightful Treatment Analysis platform.”
To end on a different note, would you recommend anyone to visit Boston?
“Absolutely, I cannot imagine living anywhere else at this point. There is no amount of money that can lure me to live in another place. We have a variety of spectacular nature within two hours of the city, including beaches and mountains. Boston has lots of great cultural events, and the city has a very passionate sports fan base. And I am not even talking about American football, but regular football. Also, I would argue that, for people from Europe, Boston would be the least of a culture shock. It is one of the most compact American cities, although probably not as compact as the Netherlands.”
Do you want to know more about the Mansfield Bio-Incubator? Visit their website here.