Date: Jun 14, 2011 Source: (
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After almost 15 years of researching cell lines, scientists at 490 BioTech are working hard on the next step - bringing the research to the business world.
Last Tuesday, their efforts got a major boost when the life sciences company won the 2011 Startup Business Plan Competition hosted by the Fairview Technology Center. For winning, 490 BioTech received a prize package valued at $23,000 that includes free rent for one year at the Fairview business incubator and a list of complimentary consulting services from local companies.
"We're developing human and animal cells that are capable of continuously producing light. They can light up and allow people to look at this with extremely sensitive cameras," said Dan Close, a genome scientist, microbiologist, and the chief scientific officer for 490 BioTech.
The technology allows for the observation of the cell's location and growth without interfering with the cell's processes. It will accelerate the testing process and reduce the cost of developing drugs, the company says.
The company plans to sell the lines to pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and university and government research labs.
Scientific research is one thing, creating a viable commercial business is something altogether different, Close said.
"None of us are schooled in the business aspects to take this technology and get it to people who want to use it," Close said.
Other members of the company's management team are Gary Sayler, founder and CEO; Steve Ripp, chief operating officer, and Stacey Patterson, chief technology officer. All of the management team are University of Tennessee scientists.
Fortunately for the 490 BioTech team, part of the business plan competition involved the semifinalists attending four classes, meeting with companies who have maintained successful businesses, and presenting a formal business proposal to a panel of judges.
"All too often, as scientists, you do research you think is very important and the total production is publishing a paper," Close said, "It is a rare opportunity that you discover or create something that can really help a lot of people."
The next step for the fledgling company is finding more full-time help for the business aspect of BioTech, said Patterson, a microbiologist, UT Director of Research Partnership and Chief Technical Officer for 490 BioTech.
According to Close, Patterson is "one of the scientists that helped with the actual creation" of the base research for the business.
"The work is largely based on work that I completed during my dissertation. Dr. Close has followed up on and taken it to the final stages," Patterson said.
Second place in this year's competition went to MYU Daily, a news and entertainment website for university communities. Other finalists were GoGrabLunch.com, a business contact management website, PajamaGardener.com, an online garden supplies website, and SytLogic, a business services software company.
Laura Vela may be reached at 865-342-6336.