IU's Kelley School to partner with Inproteo to establish markets for life science products
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new company based at the Indiana University Research Park in Bloomington will become a vehicle for second-stage development of new life science products created in Indiana. Graduate students and faculty from IU's Kelley School of Business will staff and provide product development, marketing and other business expertise to the limited liability company, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Inproteo.
Inproteo is a consortium between Eli Lilly and Co., IU and Purdue University which produces innovative technologies that can be licensed or spun off into new companies.
In the past, master's of business administration students in the Kelley School of Business have provided sales, marketing and operational support to life science firms in the Emerging Technologies Center and elsewhere in Indiana. This new initiative places MBA students in more responsible, day-to-day operations to produce and market a high-tech device used in proteomic and pharmaceutical research.
"This clearly engages the university beyond just the scientific and medical side, in the establishment of commercially viable life sciences products that will help create opportunities for growth in the state's economy and opportunities for job growth as well," said John W. Hill, associate dean of the Kelley School and the faculty member directing the project.
"Inproteo is very pleased to be working with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and is already reaping benefits from the relationship," said Dr. John G. R. Hurrell, president of Inproteo. "The students have jumped right in to provide the resources to commercialize our first target project. Their fresh ideas and enthusiasm are impressive. Inproteo's business model relies on leveraging the resources of our partners, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have access to the Kelley School's wealth of business resources."
Eli Lilly gave Inproteo the intellectual property rights to a device used in laboratories that reduces sample contamination and increases research efficiency. Shot Inc., an applied engineering research and technology company based in Greenville, Ind., will develop a prototype of the company's first product, which is expected to be on the market later this year. Lilly will help to test the prototype.
The automated sample loader is intended for use by proteomics researchers wanting to increase the efficiency of drug discovery and development. The cost of bringing new drugs to the market continues to increase as drug discovery research has shifted from genomics to proteomics. The complexity and magnitude of proteomics has created gaps in analytical tools and methods. Success in drug discovery depends on research tools that are fast and cost-efficient.
"This effort strengthens the life science presence in Bloomington and establishes a business presence in Bloomington that is going to be a long-term one," said Mark Long, president and chief executive officer of the IU Research and Technology Corp. "With the participation of Bloomington business students, it encourages them that there will be future employment possibilities in the life sciences in Bloomington and in Indiana."
Long said plans call for other life science products from Inproteo to be managed by Kelley MBA students through this program. He said many new companies value the business expertise and assistance they will receive in planning and strategic direction.
"Many of them aren't really sure when they come up with an idea or a product if they have a market for it," he said. "That takes a lot of groundwork that these qualified students can provide, which would otherwise cost a tremendous amount of money that these small companies do not have. We provide a tremendous value-added service for many of these small companies."
Four second-year students and a first-year student who have prior experience at medical device and genomic research companies already are developing the business plan for the product. In March, another 10 MBA students will be selected and will work for the company for the next year. Summer internships for four of the 10 students have been underwritten by part of a $100,000 grant to the IURTC from the Lumina Foundation.
The students will be overseen by a board of directors consisting of Hill, Long and Hurrell, along with Cynthia Helphingstine, vice president of business development of Inproteo; Dr. Gary Anderson, senior adviser of Philadelphia-based TL Ventures; Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Yassir Karam, partner in charge of the valuation and forensic services group of Clifton Gunderson LLP in Indianapolis; and Robert Stohler, former executive vice president of the Scotts Co. and director of Bloomington Brands LLC. The executive committee will consist of Hill, Long and Helphingstine.
Daniel Smith, interim dean of the Kelley School of Business, said the initiative will bolster the state's life science industry while providing his students with valuable, real-world experience that will supplement the knowledge they receive in the classroom.
"This type of experimental training removes you from the comfort of the classroom where business cases often are accompanied with most of the information one needs to analyze a business issue," said Kevin Cammack, a second-year MBA student from Indianapolis. "At the end of the day, the impact of your decisions will not simply impact your GPA but rather will impact the viability of a young organization and the previous work of talented scientists and entrepreneurs prior to our involvement on the project. It is difficult to replicate this level of accountability in the classroom."
The initiative also will help the school's MBA graduates find employment at smaller biotechnology and life science firms, which typically do not actively recruit at Kelley or other top business schools like larger industry leaders.
"Our students are increasingly interested in biotechnology firms. These tend to be smaller firms," Hill said. "We're very large-firm oriented in our placements, because firms like Eli Lilly and Pfizer come in and hire people in fairly significant numbers. In a biotech firm, they might have a need for a person every three years and don't typically interview. By giving students explicit experience in doing this, we think we have the potential to make them more attractive to firms that do not have established management development and training tracks.
"A biotech might need somebody who could be an assistant controller. They're looking for someone who's experienced in the life sciences area who understands the products. They may not go to an MBA program to recruit that person and may get someone who is already working out there," he added. "By doing this, we're saying that we do have people who will have experience running a life science company."
The Kelley School has a strong track record for integrating experiential learning into the curriculum, which is increasingly valued by employers. Bloomington Brands is a successful marketing unit that enables MBA students to immerse themselves in every aspect of marketing a real, $12 million brand for the Scotts Co. Other students manage the Reese Fund, a $400,000 stock portfolio that frequently has outperformed many of the primary stock indexes.
"In the classroom, we always have to distill something down to a case level -- something that can be done economically in a fairly short period of time. This gives them a rolling, complex case that is somewhat unbounded to have to deal with. We are getting to a higher level of cognitive skill here," Hill said. "You don't get any higher level of cognitive skill in business than what is going to be done with these students."