Successfully transitioning from academia to a biotech start up.

August 13, 2020

At Radyus Research, we understand how difficult it may be to transition from academia to a biotech startup. There are both similarities and differences between working for an academic lab, and working for a biotech startup. Those who have worked in academia will have a deep understanding of moving a project forward despite low budgets, and convincing others of the importance of your work.

Both roles involve a higher level of risk and uncertainty. However, those looking to make this transition should be aware some differences between the roles: the rapid pace of a business environment, along with a new focus on areas like intellectual property capital-raising strategies. Below, we discuss some strategies for success when making this transition.


Oftentimes, the biggest roadblock for those transitioning from academia to biotech is finding sufficient funding. There are numerous paths to funding, including angel investors, venture capital, loans, and grants. Exploring all possible options for raising capital is crucial. Seeking grants from funding bodies like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) fund is a great way to find financial support. Those moving into the biotech startup industry will be well-positioned to find success if they diligently seek out all available sources of funding.

Gaining the necessary funding for a biotech startup involves an understanding what investors are looking for. You need to be able to communicate a strategy for how your novel science will be the best solution for the unmet need you are addressing. Having a strong story backed by compelling data is essential in getting investors on board. It is important to not let any potential opportunity go to waste. Building relationships with potential future investors is a great way to gain an understanding of what they are looking for when making the decision to invest.


While many people in academia can find success individually, a move into the biotech industry requires a well-rounded team. Developing the right team depends on the startup’s objectives and its ability to find people with complementary skills. For example, if your background is in clinical science, and your objective is to develop a small molecule, an medicinal chemist could be a great option for a team member. This broadens the team’s overall skillset and helps increase investor confidence.

For teams largely composed of former academics, it is imperative to find someone with industry experience who knows how to navigate startup challenges and can effectively drive fundraising. To incentivize former industry people to join your startup in the early stages, offering equity in the company is a great way to motivate your people to deliver high-quality work and increase the value of the shares. Overall, building a team that can adapt to rapid change and work as a cohesive unit is essential in this environment.


A crucial aspect in shifting from academia to industry is understanding the legal factors at play. Often, biotech founders need support in understanding corporate law and the rules for intellectual property. In biotech, your intellectual property is your most important asset. When filing your own patent, it is important that patent claims do more than just describe the method; instead, there needs to be a claim to products composition of matter and usecases enabled by data. You will also want to structure the claims in a way that ensures the technology is protected as much as possible. When licensing intellectual property, you should seek legal advice on whether the license terms will be acceptable for you.

However, strong patent protection is only one aspect of your product’s differentiation. Clear competitive positioning of your new product will create a well-defined business model for successful commercialization.


One of the biggest changes in transitioning from academia to biotech is becoming a for-profit organization, requiring an effective business model. This involves gaining a clear understanding of your target patients, your partners and buyers, your product’s value proposition, and how your product will effectively compete. One important decision you will need to make is whether to sell your innovation to a large company, or if you would rather have your company commercialize the product. Maybe, you hope for your startup to be bought out or create a co-development deal. Having an end goal in mind will help you build the right business model to achieve your objectives.

Business models in biotech are changing, shifting from fully integrated companies owning the entire drug-development life cycle to more virtual, partner-driven models.

If you’re a virtual, lean biotech company, engaging with a contract research organization (CRO) such as Radyus Research is one way to partner with an organization with experience and subject matter expertise. Working with a CRO allows you to expand your team and accelerate your drug development on a reasonable budget.  

Working with a CRO can increase your chance of success when transitioning from academia to biotech.                                                                                

So contact us, we’d love to hear your story and work with you!