Support for research institutes and academia
Alacrita works with universities, research institutes, and centers of innovation to help them bridge the gap between academia and industry, position their technologies for funding, and successfully move scientific discoveries from the lab to the clinic. Our extensive industry experience and technical and commercial expertise allow us to assess the feasibility of a project and its chance of success, define its realistic commercial potential, and map out potential go-to-market pathways.
As a consulting firm that provides support to pharmaceutical and biotech companies as well as healthcare investors, we have a clear understanding of what these organizations look for when evaluating potential partnerships and licensing opportunities, and can therefore help researchers and tech transfer officers most effectively prepare and position their projects to gain industry interest.
Typical support we provide:
- Opportunity mapping which involves quantifying the commercial potential of a technology, mapping out go-to-market pathways, and identifying key risks and sensitivities
- Program reality checks and assessment of their technical and commercial feasibility
- Producing or validating development plans, including high-level maps of the required discovery and development steps to attract industry partnerships
- Advising on the data and experiments necessary to best position new discoveries for potential funding
- Market and competitive landscape analyses
- Support with term-sheets and negotiations related to partnerships and licensing agreements
- Providing hands-on support or general guidance, on pitching directly to potential licensees and partners
As well as bringing direct experience working with innovation centers, research institutes and tech transfer offices, our core team leverages a subject-matter consulting network of more than 500 specialists, allowing us to incorporate the exact expertise relevant to every project.
Major areas of support:
- Opportunity Mapping
- New Product Planning
- Research & IP Evaluation
- Preclinical Strategy & Execution
- Due Diligence
- Out-Licensing, Partnering & Deal-making
We have experience working with a range of therapeutic areas and technologies:
The below selection of projects can help illustrate the type of support we typically provide to research institutes and universities:
- Mapping an oncology project opportunity to support fundraising for a leading cancer research institute: The technology transfer function of a leading cancer research institute needed a development plan for a promising small molecule lead series against a novel anti-invasion/anti-metastasis target for solid tumors. The plan was required to support fundraising from venture capital investors with the complication of demonstrating the prospective differentiation of inhibitors for this proprietary target versus recent new entrants.
- Development plan for novel small molecule for cancer: For a university with an early stage novel inhibitor of the JAK2/STAT5 pathway intended to treat hematologic malignancies, Alacrita was asked to validate a development plan to support activities for securing investment.
- Critical assessment of three novel research programs for a tech transfer office: The university tech transfer office required a critical assessment of three novel research programs being developed for the potential treatment of haematological cancers, including chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Following previous triage exercises evaluating multiple assets for the client, Alacrita was once again commissioned to provide an evaluation of the commercial potential and IP position of the three programs in development, each involving chemically derived analogues of a naturally occurring macrocyclic polyketide with known cytotoxic and immunosuppressive activities.
- IP portfolio review for UK-based charity: A UK-based charity with significant revenues from an older patent portfolio was facing a sizable reduction in income from 2017/18 due to patent expiry. With a current research portfolio of 300 active grants, the charity wanted to increase the conversion of its research findings from these investments in to new treatments, products and services for direct patient benefit. The charity wanted to better understand its portfolio, identify investments that could replace the imminently receding revenue stream, and get a better understanding of areas of research that should be supported in future funding rounds.
- Radiopharma R&D strategy for nuclear physics research institute: A major nuclear physics research institute looking to build a capability in nuclear medicine needed support with its R&D plan. Alacrita was engaged to help craft a new R&D strategy.
Opportunity analysis of phage technology for a university tech transfer organization: A university technology transfer organization asked Alacrita to explore the different potential commercialization pathways for a novel platform technology. The overall effect of the system is to ‘convert’ an antibiotic resistant bacterial population into a sensitive population that can be controlled by conventional, inexpensive antibiotics. The unique features of this technology potentially open a differentiated set of opportunities which Alacrita was asked to explore.
- IP portfolio triage of a live biotherapeutic product for a US TTO: A technology transfer office of a leading university required support in evaluating its life science research programs to help direct internal funding towards its most commercially viable projects. Alacrita was commissioned to provide a specialist commercial and technical knowledge base in the pharmaceuticals and life science sector to evaluate a portfolio of patents/IP disclosures from multiple principal investigators. Project included a novel probiotic delivery system for antimicrobial peptides against infectious disease, natural product for Alzheimer's disease and another for an antibody-drug conjugate in oncology.
qPCR diagnostic platform business plans: A research group at a leading research-intensive university had developed a qPCR diagnostic/ prognostic platform for patient stratification in autoimmune diseases which they believed could be the basis of a viable spin-out business. A number of prospective VC investors were interested in the project but needed to understand the detailed business model before committing to any investment. Alacrita was engaged to advise on the most appropriate way to commercialize this technology and, if a spin-out were appropriate, to work up a viable investment-ready business case.
Market landscape exercise for three oncology university-based therapeutics: A leading private US academic institution, recognizing the need to further develop early discoveries from the university in order to facilitate industry partnerships and clinical development of their assets, had created a therapeutics accelerator program. The program had identified its three first projects to move forward, and were prepared to take these assets through IND. These assets were in development for oncology indications, and spanned two modalities: two small molecule therapeutics and a lipoprotein nanoparticle therapeutic.
In order to guide the next steps of development for its assets, the university asked Alacrita to perform a market and competitive landscape analysis for each of the three assets based on the target and proposed initial indication for each asset.
- Crohn's Disease research project plan: A university research group had manipulated autologous regulatory T cells (Tregs) to give them gut-homing properties, making them suitable for influencing the course of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The commercial potential for this novel treatment was thought to be substantial if the logistic aspects of harvesting and delivering the autologous cellular therapeutic product could be addressed. Alacrita was asked to produce a commercial development plan to map out the opportunity and value the research program.
Oncology clinical expert input and asset valuation for university spin-out: A clinical stage immuno-oncology biotech company spun out from a leading university had completed a Phase I clinical trial in ovarian cancer patients with its lead antibody. In response to a request from a potential pharma licensor, the biotech needed to build a model of projected sales for the antibody. Rather than just a revenue forecast, a full valuation model was needed to provide a firmer underpinning for the licensing discussions.
Research Institutes & Academia: Case Studies
I. Conducting a reality check on an ongoing cardiology project
Challenge: A university research team had worked for a number of years on the development of a novel interventional cardiology device. Recent progress had been made with preclinical testing on pigs, as well as a collaboration with a leading medical device company. This recent activity had led the university to seek clarification on the status of the project from a third party with specialist expertise. The team needed a reality check on the status of the project, including current activities and a top-level sanity check on its technical feasibility.Solution: We conducted the following to meet the objectives of the assignment:
- technical expert review of the history of the project, its current status, the principles and technologies behind the product concept(s), and the clinical implications of the proposed innovation
- desk research, drawing upon public domain information and our databases
- interviews with interventional cardiologists to gain their views on the deficiencies of existing devices and the need for improvements in performance
- a top-level review of the technical feasibility of the proposed concept(s) to highlight any potential red flags on performance or manufacturing.
II. qPCR diagnostic platform business plan
Challenge: A research group at a leading research-intensive university had developed a qPCR diagnostic/ prognostic platform for patient stratification in autoimmune diseases which they believed could be the basis of a viable spin-out business. A number of prospective VC investors were interested in the project but needed to understand the detailed business model before committing to any investment. Alacrita was engaged to advise on the most appropriate way to commercialize this technology and, if a spin-out were appropriate, to work up a viable investment-ready business case..
Solution: Alacrita first confirmed the value proposition and determine the scale of the commercial opportunity for a prognostic biomarker for relapse risk in prospective autoimmune indications, and evaluated the competitive landscape and existing competing technologies, both marketed and developmental. We then developed and evaluated options for the commercialization strategy and business model and confirmed that a spin-out option, as a contract lab, was indeed viable. We then developed a written investment-ready business case for a spin-out to exploit the technology platform, describing the opportunity, business model, development strategy and plans, costings and timelines, based on our experience and appropriate industry-standard metrics, and outline financial projections. We also introduced the academic team to a prospective diagnostic lab partner, enabling a rapid start to the business..
III. Assessing an ophthalmic market opportunity
Challenge: A leading research institute developing novel approaches for the production of ophthalmic treatments wanted to conduct a market and competitive assessment of the current supplier base and prospective novel technological approaches.
Solution: Our consultants conducted the project in two parts:
1. Assessing the market size, the structure and segmentation of related products (e.g. by application and geography) and demand growth rates. This was followed by structure characterization of the supply chains and identification of the current and developmental competing production technologies, or other technologies that could be applied to the production of relevant products. The findings from this part of the exercise allowed us to review the competitive positioning of the client’s technology.
2. Assessing the competitive environment, applying Michael Porter’s Five Forces framework (modified to incorporate the impact of regulation which was an important factor in this particular industry) to illustrate the competitive landscape.
Both parts of the project involved primary data collection, predominantly through selected telephone interviews, to supplement secondary data sources.
IV. Opportunity assessment for functional RNA & protein arrays
Challenge: A UK university had developed a technology that permits the creation of surface-immobilized functional RNAs in a microarray format. The technology has the potential to impact both industrial and academic research and contribute significantly to the unravelling of the complex interactions currently hidden within the transcriptome. Previous work on commercialization planning had established interest in the technology among both prospective academic and industrial users. However, feedback from interested parties highlighted that the university needed to better demonstrate utility of the RNA arrays in a practical application. Alacrita was therefore asked to provide further business planning and development support to the project.
Solution: We first developed a commercialization roadmap characterizing the identified commercial opportunities, including transcription profiling, monitoring of transcription and monitoring translation, including for market opportunity, competitive environment, technology ‘fit’, routes to market and project readiness for each route.
We then provided business development support including identification of prospective partners/collaborators, development of materials to support discussions, introduction of the technology to prospective partners and where required, support for negotiations with prospective partners. Patenting strategy support was also provided, particularly in relation to ongoing prosecution of US and EPO patent filings.
V. Pre-seed plan development support for university spin-out
Challenge: A university research group had discovered a new pathway for regulation of T cell trafficking in the inflammatory response. The group had also identified an anti-inflammatory peptide and its cognate receptor which could form the basis of a novel therapeutic strategy for treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. After demonstrating efficacy in several animal models, patents were filed and the commercial opportunity was somewhat explored. The university believed the discovery represented a potential technology platform suitable for a spin-out company, and therefore had already identified an ex-industry executive and entrepreneur interested in leading such a spin-out, and had also interested VCs already. Alacrita was asked to conduct a technical and commercial review of the opportunity, as well as provide support for the development of an operations plan and an investment slide deck to support fundraising activities.Solution: Our findings confirmed the attractiveness of the opportunity and the viability of the provisional translational research plan. Our consultants reviewed and commented on the evolving operations plan and underlying assumptions to refine the investment slide deck, ensuring that it conveyed the key messages for prospective investors in the planned pre-seed round. Subsequently we drafted a successful application for a translational research grant which provided cornerstone funding for a pre-seed investment round enabling a spin-out company to be formed..