Global Bio-Nano Firms: Exploiting the Confluence of Technologies

Armstrong Murira, Elicia Maine and V. J. Thomas

New research by Prof. Elicia Maine and her co-authors (MIT’s James Utterback, Professor of Management and Innovation, Sloan School of Management and Professor of Engineering Systems; V.J. Thomas, Postdoctoral Fellow, SFU and IIT Delhi; Martin Bliemel, Lecturer at the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales; and Armstrong Murira, Simon Fraser University PhD student, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) highlights the economic ramifications of the confluence of the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors.

In the paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston on 18th February 2013, they show that the confluence of biotechnology and nanotechnology is giving rise to start-up ventures, commercializing science and technology developed in university research labs.  One of the reasons that there are companies forming around the opportunity created by this confluence of technologies is that larger firms have known organizational disincentives to commercializing radical innovation.  So small science-based ventures have a better chance of success when commercializing radical innovation, disruptive technology, and – they argue – in integrating disparate technology streams.   For example, they notice that de novo bio-nano ventures (those formed around the integration of these technology fields) often have founders who have dual competencies themselves in these fields. So when the founders have these capabilities themselves, it is easier for the research teams of start-up bio-nano ventures to integrate diverse knowledge streams.

AAAS 2013 Symposium: Confluence of Streams of Knowledge: Biotechnology and Nanotechnology

“Birth of a new sector”: SFU-MIT study shows technology start-ups driving burgeoning bio-nano industry

Bio + Nano = a whole new sector



Knowledge Diversity in the Emerging Global Bio-Nano Sector

As scientists are able to understand and manipulate ever smaller scales of matter, research in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology has converged to enable such radical innovations as lab-on-a-chip devices, targeted drug delivery, and other forms of minimally invasive therapy and diagnostics. This paper provides a descriptive overview of the emerging bio-nano sector, identifying what types of firms are entering, from what knowledge base, where they are located, and their strategic choices in terms of technological diversity and R&D strategy. The firms engaged in bio-nano research and development span the range from start-up firm to multinational pharmaceutical, biotech, chemical, and electronics firms: two thirds of bio-nano firms are relatively young and relatively small. The United States dominates this sector, with more than half of all bio-nano firms located in the USA. Even within this sector which epitomizes the convergence of technology, there is a broad range of technological diversity, with the most diverse firms overall coming from a base in electronics, the most diverse start-up firms coming from a base in nanomaterials, and the most narrowly focused firms coming from biotechnology/ pharmaceutical base. We find that hybridization has been the dominant knowledge diversity strategy, with 93% of the bio-nano firms with nano-patents holding multiclass patents.

MIT ESD Working Paper 2012-20

MRS Proceedings 2012

What Role Does Scientific Human Capital Play?

In a recent working paper that I have with my collaborators Poornima (National University of Singapore) and Kwang (Melbourne Business School), we study how biotech firms benefit from collaborating formally with their partners, such as universities and other biotech/pharmaceutical firms, while they invest substantially in their scientists, who also collaborate informally with their esteemed peers in the scientific community at large. The findings of our study reveal that not all investments in scientific human capital and R&D collaborations generate returns to the biotech firms (an abstract of our paper is available in the article column).

The premise of our study is that the performance effects of R&D collaborations with different types of partners (firms versus universities) differ depending on whether the scientific human capital (firm scientists) of the firm bridges open and proprietary science. Traditionally, proprietary and open scientific models are quite distinct. However, the production of modern science in industrial firms today is governed by interconnected norms of open and proprietary practices. Contrary to the industry movement that all firm scientists should be trained to conduct commercially driven science, we find that pure scientists who conduct basic research play an even more important role in biotech firms as long as these firms continue to rely on external collaborations for the development and commercialization of academic discoveries.

GBN Welcome Rung Tai Wu

This month, our BioNano collaboration group welcomed RungTai Wu to the research program.  RungTai is a PhD student with the Institute of Technology Management at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan.  Rung Tai holds an MBA from National Chung Chen University and a Bachelor of Industrial Design from Feng Chia University.

RungTai’s research interests include: 

  • Inter-organizational cooperation
  • Strategic alliance
  • Merger & Acquisition
  • Dynamic competition
  • Social network analysis
  • Biotech & Pharmaceutical industry

Select Publications and Conferences:

Hsi-Mei Chung, Rung-Tai Wu, Chia-Cheng Chen, 2006, “The Challenge and Opportunity of Taiwan’s Micro-Fluidic Biochip Industry,” Industry and Management Forum, vol.8, no.2, pp.101-117, (in Chinese)

Bou-wen Lin, Rung-Tai Wu, 2010, “The Effect of Industry Network Structure on Firms’ Merger and Acquisition Behavior”, Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada

Hsi-Mei Chung and Rung-Tai Wu, 2006,”The Challenges of Duplicating the Taiwan’s Semi-conductor Industry Experience in Bio-technological Industry: A Network Theory Viewpoint,” 12th Asia Pacific Management Conference (APMC), Bangkok, Thailand (Oral Presentation)

Gold Leaf Awards Honour Canadian Biotech Innovation

June 28, 2011

Cardiome Pharma Corp, Allon Therapeutics, Sanofi Pasteur, industry leader Yves Rosconi honoured with prestigious awards.

2011 BIO International Convention

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–BIOTECanada will formally present the 2011 winners of the prestigious Gold Leaf Awards, tomorrow afternoon, during the BIO International Convention in Washington. Nominated and judged by biotechnology industry leaders, the awards honour companies and individuals in Canada’s biotech industry whose demonstrated innovation and financial success in 2010 best reflect the vital contribution biotech is making to the growing global bio-economy.

“These two companies have demonstrated an inherent entrepreneurial spirit to seek out made in Canada solutions”

Vancouver’s Cardiome Pharma Corp, took top honours as company of the year for its succession developing proprietary drugs to treat or prevent cardiovascular and other diseases.

The early stage company award in the health category went to Allon Therapeutics, recognizing the company’s clinical trial successes and progress toward commercializing products in devastating degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and several types of frontotemporal dementia. EnWave Corporation was awarded company award for early stage industrial biotechnology, for their development of commercial applications for Radiant Energy Vacuum dehydration technology.

“These two companies have demonstrated an inherent entrepreneurial spirit to seek out made in Canada solutions,” commented Brad Thompson, Ph.D. Chairman of BIOTECanada. “Together we are building a world-leading bio-economy and establishing the foundations for a safer, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future.”

The association also awarded a national industry leadership award to Mr. Yves Rosconi. A highly accomplished leader, Mr. Rosconi has more than 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry in Canada and internationally. During his years at Theratechnologies, Mr. Rosconi made it his mission to complete the various stages of the clinical trials for tesamoreline, as well as the regulatory process in the United States for acceptance. He also played an important role in the conclusion of a partnership for the exclusive rights for the commercialization of tesamoreline in the U.S.

New this year is an award to recognize corporate contribution to Canadian communities. The 2011 recipient, Sanofi-Pasteur, was chosen for going beyond producing quality vaccines to promoting and creating healthy communities. Sanofi Pasteur activities span a variety of initiatives such as inspiring students through our Bio Talent Challenge, and supporting employees in causes near to them.

For more details about the award winners visit:

ABOUT BIOTECanada BIOTECanada is dedicated to the sustainable commercial development of biotechnology innovation in Canada. It is the national industry-funded association with over 250 member companies representing the broad spectrum of biotech constituents including emerging and established firms in the health, industrial, and agricultural sectors, as well as academic and research institutions and other related organizations.

Canadian Biotechnology Company of the Year: Cardiome
CEO Doug Janzen sees Cardiome making great strides in the next five years. “2010 was a momentous year for Cardiome with the European marketing approval of vernakalant IV (Brinavess). Over the next five years, we look forward to seeing Vernakalant IV approved in many additional territories beyond Europe. Cardiome also expects to leverage its expertise to build a diversified portfolio with projects at various stages of development. The focus for internal R&D efforts is, and will continue to be on targets for diseases with a high unmet need,” he said.

Early Stage Company of the Year (Health): Allon Therapeutics
Gordon McCauley, Allon’s President and CEO commented. “Being chosen as Canada’s leading pre-commercial healthcare biotech company is a great honour and an enormous compliment to the dedication, innovation, and excellence demonstrated by our team every day,” said McCauley. “It is also important recognition of the investigators, patients, and caregivers we partner with to find solutions to these awful diseases.”

Early Stage Company of the Year (Industrial): Enwave Corp.
Dennis Fotinos, President and CEO hopes this award will help bring attention to EnWave from the larger pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who want to produce shelf-stable biopharmaceutical products in vials, but want a faster, cheaper process than lyophilization.

Industry Leadership: Yves Rosconi
” It is a great honour to have been chosen for this award by my peers. Leadership is a cornerstone competency necessary for the success of the biotechnology industry in Canada. I look forward to applying this leadership on boards of biotechnology companies and contribute further to the success of the industry in Canada and abroad,” commented Yves Rosconi.

Contribution to Canadian Communities: Sanofi Pasteur Ltd.
“Sanofi Pasteur is honoured to receive this recognition. Our company was built on one man’s determination to make a difference. Today, we have over 1100 employees in Canada continuing the legacy of protecting public health, supporting science education and enhancing the lives of people in the community,” said Mark Lievonen, President, Sanofi Pasteur Limited.

Nadine Lunt