Babson Professor William Bygrave, Case Director

Carl Hedberg, Case Writer

Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship

© Babson College, 2007.


Although David and his partner, Dave Arslanian, 29, had been incorporated for less than 18 months, their plan to revolutionize the field of medical diagnostics had been taking shape for years. Based in Woburn, Massachusetts, the partners are working to commercialize a device that produces laboratory research slides for testing proteins. What makes these Inanovate ‘biochips’ different are the minuscule gold clusters that cover the top of the glass slide. Each cluster is between 3 and 10 nanometers wide (by way of perspective , 100,000 nanometers would fit across the diameter of a human hair). This unique technology both controls the size of those gold clusters and spreads them to a particular density. This design makes the process of protein research more efficient and dramatically cuts the time it takes medical researchers—at pharmaceutical companies and oncology research centers, for example—to detect diseases and discover drugs. The Mass Filter, as it was called, was developed at the University of Birmingham, UK, where David Ure had graduated with an M.S. in Nuclear Physics, and a B.S. in Astrophysics. The case looks at the many avenues open to the founders—including selling the device outright to major pharmaceutical labs, and manufacturing customized biochips themselves. In addition to the usual start-up challenges like raising money, achieving positive cash flow, and scaling their production capabilities, they were keen to develop a best-fit growth and harvest plan; a strategy that might involve some of the most aggressive and well-capitalized medical device and supply businesses in the world.

Teaching Objective: To present an example of a high-technology new venture that begins with the licensing of a machine, and then seeks to identify the best path for commercializing and maximizing the value of that complex laboratory device.

Keywords: Bootstrapping, Entrepreneurial science, Growth and harvest scenarios, Licensing/Commercializing advanced technologies, Medical testing and diagnostics, Nano technology, Opportunity recognition, Patents, Pharmaceuticals, Research & Development, Sales management, Strategic partnerships


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