Building a Vibrant Biotech Startup Scene in New Hampshire

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NH embraces tech, biotech and biomanufacturing startups

This article first appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader

This past fall, the New Hampshire (NH) biotechnology and biomanufacturing scene had an influx of federal government funding to help revamp the Manchester Millyard into a Biofabrication center, leading to new jobs and opportunities for biotechnology startups. During an interactive session at the NH Tech Alliance Innovation Summit, many technology and biotechnology entrepreneurs discussed how ‘friendly’ NH is to startups in our space.

That discussion highlighted the lack of consensus among entrepreneurs. They thought funding sources were either abundant or non-existent, and resources were either readily available or inaccessible. I have witnessed startups in our NH research institutions leave to open shop a short distance into Massachusetts’ (MA) tech corridor. After years of helping small biotech companies grow, I understand the appeal of Cambridge. However, it’s unfortunate to lose those companies when NH has much to offer but little visibility into those offerings.

It’s known that Cambridge is a thriving tech and biotech startup scene. The state of MA, the venture capital firms, and the powerhouse anchor biotech and pharma companies have invested heavily in creating a welcoming ecosystem for small companies. It’s costly to start a biotech company. Many people don’t realize how specialized the equipment and laboratory space must be to ensure quality experimental data.

Clean rooms with sterile tissue culture hoods, animal facilities that comply with state and federal regulations, microscopes that can be exorbitant to purchase, etc. If a company wants to be competitive, churning out high-quality data that will keep them marching toward a market-ready drug/device/therapy at a pace that will keep investors happy and satisfy the FDA, they cannot use antiquated technology or facilities. Cambridge offers small companies shared lab space at facilities like Lab Central or within the incubator space of their patron Venture Capital firm, saving millions on lab buildout. They can rent a single cage of mice for a critical animal experiment without the expense of building and maintaining a rodent facility and the necessary staff salaries.

Companies can also collaborate with academic institutions boasting the most cutting-edge equipment for specialized experiments like single-cell imaging studies. Overall, while everything costs more in MA, it’s perceived that the cost will be lower because there are abundant resources surrounding and nurturing these baby biotechs.

NH also has many of these resources, but they are less visible to our fledgling companies. The good news is that Cambridge was much the same 25 years ago. C.A. Webb, former Executive Director of the New England Venture Capital Association and former President of the Kendall Square Association, gave a fantastic keynote address at the NH Tech Alliance Innovation Summit. Pardon my paraphrasing, but her crucial point was that Cambridge had some great foundational ingredients to become a biotech hub (walkability, density of colleges and universities, a few large biopharma anchor companies), but the actual impetus for growth was a well-planned grassroots movement.

The state and the federal government participated in funding and building infrastructure, but a large part of the effort was creating a friendly ecosystem with highly-visible resources and peer groups that collaborate and provide support. Ultimately, the architects of Cambridge’s ascension to the biotech hub it is today combined an excellent marketing campaign with associated networking and interest groups.

How can we create a vibrant startup scene in NH? Groups like the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) and the NH Tech Alliance are on target. These groups, among others, are connecting small companies, sharing expertise, building lists of resources, and advocating for federal and state funding. We are close enough to MA to share some of the technological resources we might not yet have, but we have hidden resources that need more visibility. This year, I will develop a list of resources for biotechnology startups, including lab spaces, co-working sites, advisory resources, and companies that offer specialized scientific services. I am proud to live in NH and own an NH-based company. With some good planning and collaboration, we have a bright future for technology, biotechnology, and biomanufacturing in the state.

Carina Clingman is passionate about helping small companies in the life sciences space grow. She is the founder and CEO of Recruitomics Consulting, which provides strategic and operational services for Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. Additionally, Recruitomics partners with colleges and universities to provide career development and education to students interested in entering the life sciences and biomanufacturing industries. Carina holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from the University of Massachusetts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Recruitomics Consulting is based in New Hampshire, with clients and educational partners nationwide.