Tag: Innovation

Profiles in Innovation: Hx Innovations

Profiles in Innovation – An Ongoing Series Highlighting Delaware Innovators

Hx Innovations got off to a quick start by proving that a compelling idea that addresses a real problem – in this case, letting coaches and trainers track and manage performance and improve return-to-play plans for optimal player health and safety – can gain widespread traction.

In the last few years, Hx Innovations, the Wilmington-based biotech company has been selected as Technical.ly Delaware’s 2021 Startup Business of the Year and as a member of the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation’s Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (E3). It’s also received funding from the National Science Foundation, $50,000 in Delaware Technology Innovation Program bridge funding and $60,000 from the Startup302 pitch competition.

Chief executive officer Nicole Homer, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps in logistics and holds an MBA from Liberty University, co-founded Hx with her husband, Dr. Von Homer, who developed The Homer Technique, which pinpoints the exact muscles that are susceptible to injury. The couple’s roots run deep in Delaware. Both graduated from William Penn High School in New Castle, Nicole earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in Newark, and Von earned his doctorate and is an assistant professor at Delaware State University in Dover.

Hx’s neuromuscular technology lets coaches and trainers measure human movement analytics using artificial intelligence within a portable wireless camera, giving trainers and coaches the information they need to keep players safe and protect against sprains, strains, and joint injuries.

Hx Innovation CEO talks about Innovation in Delaware

Nicole, who was named 2022 Young Woman Professional of the Year by the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, recently shared her thoughts on innovation:

Why is Delaware a great state for innovation?

You need the support of the community to grow and develop, right? Delaware was perfect for us to scale and have the collaborations and the partnerships needed to do that. Within a hundred-mile radius of Wilmington, there are more than 1 million athletes, so our target audience is right here. There are many athletic teams, colleges and professional sporting teams within a two-hour radius that could benefit from our technology.

Delaware is just small enough to make a really big impact and has great networks here that we’ve taken advantage of. Being embedded in the community, having connections with the community already and having so much reach and access to our target customer is why we decided to be here as opposed to other places we could have chosen.

What qualities should a successful innovator have?

You need to see beyond the weeds and get out of the lab. A lot of scientists really want to perfect the science. They want to perfect the product, but you can’t cross that plane of commercialization until you put it out there in the world. We found we were using too much jargon to explain “neuroergonomics” and used our first $15,000 grant to focus on getting the marketing messaging together.

You need more than one type of marketing messaging. You need a long pitch where you can have a whole conversation about what you do and dive into those details, but then have a short and snippy, boom. Our short one is “We test your movement” while our longer one is “We use computer vision technology to collect movement and our propriety software to measure neuromotor activity to help coaches and trainers evaluate player performance and injury risk.” That’s a mouthful, but there are some people who want all that.

You have to be able to go granular or broad. You also need to be able to see where you are and who you are and then find the resources that set you apart as a business innovator as well.

What advice would you give new innovators?

Take the time to brainstorm a business plan that includes sales strategy, pricing strategy and market analytics. You can have your business plan, but then you must test that hypothesis. We didn’t take into account how long that process would take. I would encourage new innovators to take the time to really do a lot of market research and then allocate time during the pre-launch stage to test your assumptions. Also, I’d advise innovators to be extremely patient and allow yourself the grace that you’ll need to grow into whatever role you’re going to ultimately become.

Around the company, I’m known as the guardian. I’m the “no” person. I say, “Let’s look at the liability and the risk and make a plan. Let’s assess the whole thing. And my co-founder is more of a “let’s just put it out and see what happens” person. I think you need both types of people to be successful.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading

Profiles in Innovation: Dr. Eric Kmiec

Profiles in Innovation: Dr. Eric Kmiec of ChristianaCare

Profiles in Innovation – An Ongoing Series Highlighting Delaware Innovators

Dr. Eric Kmiec believes innovators don’t decide whether an idea is worth pursuing. The data decides.

“I’ve seen many people promote their data where they wanted it to work so badly, it consumes them, drives them into sloppy science and they end up stumbling scientifically,” says the executive director and chief scientific officer of the ChristianaCare Gene Therapy Institute and CEO of CorriXR Therapeutics, the biotech spinout whose initial focus is oncology.

“Their enthusiasm cloaks the truth; they design experiments solely to make their innovation look better, rather than doing the tougher controls to evaluate their hypothesis and try to disprove it. That’s the essence of science. I was once told by the president of the National Academy of Sciences: ‘The truth always comes out in science. Better to be early to that game than to be late.’”

Dr. Kmiec is known throughout the scientific community for his pioneering work in the fields of molecular medicine and gene editing, which is a group of technologies that enable scientists to change an organism’s DNA. He has researched and developed CRISPR-based genetic therapies for sickle cell disease and non-small cell lung cancer. He holds faculty appointments at the University of Delaware and the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and has been a National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation-supported principal investigator for 34 years.

He recently shared his views on innovation in Delaware and the path forward for innovators.

Why is Delaware a great state to be an innovator?

One of the great advantages of a state the size of Delaware is, frankly, the size of Delaware. There are a lot of collateral and productive interactions occurring daily that provide access to government officials, CEOs and state and county committees that can help guide your thoughts surrounding innovation. There are certainly advantages baked into coming from an ecosystem where there are hundreds of startups, but in those situations, you almost must be a distinct yet mature program to receive the appropriate attention to develop your innovative ideas. By contrast, here in Delaware, you can get in to see people who can evaluate the probability of success and even give you some advice on the return on investment. The state has also dedicated itself to expanding the availability of lab space for not only startups but for mezzanine-level companies and encouraging new real estate projects throughout the state for those of us who seek to expand our operations.

What qualities should a successful innovator have?

Relentlessness and a long-term belief in your ideas. I experienced a great deal of pushback in the early years of gene editing where many people believed it was just a fantasy and would never happen. I was also told that in vivo (in living cells) delivery would never occur and the whole idea of introducing biotherapeutics into the body was a dead end. Now, they are the biggest fans of the Gene Editing Institute.

What advice would you give innovators just starting?

Take your time and understand that excellent scientific ideas are often incremental advances that often do not translate into the world of application. In fact, if you are trained properly in science, you are taught to develop incremental advances, and once you or your colleagues cobble together a number of those incremental advances, you will have something that could be a significant step forward. But it takes time, and we are by design impatient, so one of the greatest flaws is that we want to push things forward because we “know” it’s right. That’s a deadly mistake. Be resolute in your belief, but also look to solve a fundamental but rather simple problem first.

I learned a hard lesson in the early days of gene editing. Good ideas need time to mature, and good things await those who are patient. As frustrating and painful and methodical as it might be, researchers must establish a foundational base for their idea. If that idea survives the constant multi-dimensional probing, then that idea will be the one worth pursuing. In addition, you need to understand that negative feedback is far more important than positive feedback.

I had to learn to be patient through the years and pioneered a lot of gene editing concepts early on. I’m still here to watch the field emerge and do great things. It’s a rewarding space for me now. Looking back, CRISPR was actually identified and studied intently in the mid-1980s, and some could argue today that those early scientists who understood the microbiology of milk fermentation actually helped in the discovery of CRISPR and they should have been part of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded in 2020. It was their work that enabled Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier to translate its use into human cells and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve also found that new innovators immediately want to start a company thinking that raising money is easy and that once they mature it for a while, they’ll become wealthy. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading

Profiles in Innovation: Launch Point Labs

Profiles in Innovation – An Ongoing Series Highlighting Delaware Innovators

Eric Smith has known since he was 15 that he wanted to support entrepreneurs and business owners like his dad. Now 31, he’s doing just that through Wilmington-based Launch Point Labs – one of Delaware’s first startup studios that is also building an early-stage venture fund. Smith started Launch Point Labs in 2021 after stepping down as vice president at Carvertise, the Wilmington-based advertising company he helped build into a multi-million-dollar company.

Launch Point Labs provides small businesses and nonprofits access to a team of sales professionals, content creators, brand strategists, and project managers. The goal is to help entrepreneurs gain traction in their businesses while also providing financial help through a $5 million fund the company is building to invest directly in promising companies.

Launch Point Labs, which has been working to launch multiple Delaware companies in 2022, helps startups for free out of the gate. Once the startup is profitable, it can become a paying client with access to LPL resources through either a monthly fee or equity.

Here are Smith’s views on innovation in Delaware and his advice to hungry innovators.

Why is Delaware a great state to be an innovator?

Delaware is a fantastic place to start a business and is becoming a hotbed of entrepreneurship. The First State has a favorable business climate, a long history of assisting businesses and an excellent track record for supporting entrepreneurs.

The state provides a great environment for small businesses, which have provided the majority of jobs in the state (and are vital for economic growth). The state also has a strong background in science and technology, which has led to a vibrant economy and a strong environment for entrepreneurs.

What advice would you give innovators just starting?

The biggest thing I would tell any entrepreneur is to keep his or her eyes on the long-term goal. Every day, you must do something that will advance your business, but it’s important to understand that it’s a journey, not a destination. You must keep moving forward and take small steps that add up over time. Be patient. The process of building a company is long, difficult and often frustrating. It takes a lot of hard work, and the payoff is often years in the future. Focus on building a strong foundation and keep plugging away.

In your view, what qualities should a successful innovator have?

The most successful innovators are those who are passionate about their ideas, constantly learning new skills and seeking new ways to improve their businesses. They are also ones who are patient, keep moving forward and are flexible enough to change course when needed.

It takes a lot of drive and determination to keep pushing forward when the going gets tough. It also takes a strong work ethic and the ability to turn criticism into fuel to keep moving forward.

You must be creative, determined and strategic. The best innovators know that the journey is a long-term one, not a get-rich-quick scheme, so you must be comfortable being patient while you build your business.

As a leader, it’s critical to have a process for deciding which new ideas to pursue and which to set aside. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to separate the good ideas that should be expanded from the bad ones that should be cut. This can lead to a lot of wasted time and energy, and result in the same old status quo instead of the innovation the company needs. Receiving feedback and customer validation is key to determining if an idea is worth pursuing. Before you start turning your idea into a product/service, make sure you ask potential users/customers if they’re willing to use (and pay for) your idea. If yes, then what they say will reinforce your beliefs and direct you on what to do next. If no, then you must be ready to back out and try something else.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading

Profiles in Innovation: Incyte

Profiles in Innovation: Incyte

Profiles in Innovation – Meet Global Biopharma Leader Incyte

In this series, Delaware leaders noted for innovation share insights on innovation. Incyte, the Delaware-based global biopharma leader, has experienced significant growth and expansion over the last two decades in its work to discover, develop and deliver breakthrough medicines for cancer, inflammatory, and autoimmunity diseases. President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chair of the Board Hervé Hoppenot shares what makes Delaware the ideal place for innovation. He also reflects on the importance of resilience, tenacity, and collaboration, especially when it comes to creating a dynamic environment that breeds innovations.

1. Why is Delaware a great state to be an innovator?

HH: At Incyte, we are happy to call Delaware home. Our roots go back to 2002 when we were founded by a small group of scientists who believed Delaware was the right place for drug discovery and development. Over the last two decades, we have received significant support from local leaders, which has helped facilitate our continued growth and expansion in the region, including a new state-of-the-art research facility that was opened this year. As the community in Delaware meaningfully embraces our work, we continue to innovate and are discovering and developing new medicines for patients right here in Wilmington. We are also driven to give back to this community that has given so much to us, and we are proud to have recently announced a five-year extension of the Incyte Cancer Care Assistance Fund for Delaware, which has provided financial assistance for Delaware cancer patients, their caregivers and family members since its inception in 2018.

2. In your view, what qualities should a successful innovator have?

HH: We believe the most powerful innovation comes from resiliency, tenacity and collaboration around a shared purpose. At Incyte, we exist to find meaningful, new solutions for patients around the world living with serious unmet medical needs. Everyone here – the Executive Team, scientists and administrators – all play a role in advancing our ability to find new solutions that can positively affect these patients’ lives. Beyond this, we believe successful innovation requires the sharing of ideas. Innovation happens when people mix. Our exceptional team of biologists and chemists work side-by-side in our labs each day and are just steps away from colleagues who help ensure our medicines get to patients who need them. This dynamic environment allows our employees to listen to and engage with one another, which helps us all breed innovation.

3. What advice would you give innovators just starting?

HH: Innovators must realize that challenges will come – there will be bad days and setbacks. However, breakthroughs take time and require patience. It is important to always keep the end goal in mind – approaching each day with resiliency and tenacity while seeking to make the world a better place. Additionally, innovators must surround themselves with inspiration and whatever tools are needed to achieve their goals. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. At Incyte, we try to provide the environment innovators need to succeed. Oftentimes, it requires working cohesively with others toward a common goal.

Hervé Hoppenot, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hervé Hoppenot joined Incyte in 2014 as President and Chief Executive Officer and was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2015.

During Mr. Hoppenot’s tenure, the company has tripled the number of clinical candidates in its portfolio, expanding beyond Oncology to include research and development in Inflammation & Autoimmunity. Under his leadership, revenue has increased by nearly 600%. With a goal to deliver medicines to patients worldwide, Incyte has expanded geographically and has operations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Prior to joining the global biopharma leader Incyte, Mr. Hoppenot was the President of Novartis Oncology. Before joining Novartis in 2003, Mr. Hoppenot started his career in 1983 with Rhone Poulenc, later known as Aventis, where he served in several senior roles of increasing responsibility, including Vice President of Oncology and Head of the U.S. Oncology business unit. Mr. Hoppenot holds a diploma from ESSEC Business School.

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading

BioCurie Finds Delaware Ideal for Innovation

Biocurie Aims to Help Biopharmaceutical Companies Get Ingredient Combinations ‘Right The First Time’

Software Startup Finds Delaware Ideal Location for Innovative Business to Thrive

Each year, prior to March Madness or the Super Bowl, data-analytics companies run thousands of simulations and predict which team is most likely to win. Imagine facing a complex business decision where the wrong choice could cost you millions and being able to do something similar with thousands if not millions of data simulations and identify the best option based on that data.

BioCurie, a Wilmington, Delaware-based software startup, is offering biopharmaceutical companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars and several years developing each cell and gene therapy the ability to “get it right the first time.”

“There are so many variables between ingredients, the order you put them in and the equipment settings. If you tried every permutation, it would be a total crapshoot,” says BioCurie co-founder Irene Rombel, Ph.D., MBA. “You’d never be able to do all the experiments needed to get the optimal solution.”

Rombel says BioCurie’s software “can predict the best process for manufacturing a cell and gene therapy, the ideal recipe for making high-quality product most efficiently and most cost-effectively every time. The bottom of the ‘knowledge pyramid’ is all trial-and-error machine learning where you put in data and it crunches. But when you try to apply that approach to biological problems, inevitably those models underperform because the biology is so nuanced and complex.”

BioCurie was founded in May 2021 by Rombel, a life science industry veteran whose experience spans academia, investing, consulting and the biopharma industry. Co-founder Richard Braatz, Ph.D., a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a world leader in AI, data analytics and modeling for process development and biomanufacturing. They were joined by an impressive advisory board that includes CompassRed founder Patrick Callahan.

Rombel and Braatz had a chance meeting at a National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing (NIIMBL) conference in July 2021. After a visit to MIT to investigate further, Rombel called Callahan to tell him Braatz was the perfect person to help transform the paradigm of development and manufacturing from an inefficient, labor-intensive and unpredictable state to a data-driven, intelligent and robust state that will enable faster, less costly delivery of safe and effective gene and cell therapies.

“I was involved early on with Irene and think the problem she is focused on is spot-on, transformable and has real potential to change the trajectory of the manufacturing of cell and gene therapies,” says Callahan. “Using the advances in AI on this problem is largely ignored and believe it has huge potential.”

According to Rombel, companies often must wait two or more years to get a slot at a manufacturer.

“Which is ridiculous because patients and shareholders are waiting,” she says. “And every time you have a batch failure or you miss, it’s millions of dollars and several months down the drain. Literally. Our software helps companies de-risk both from a regulatory standpoint and an execution standpoint.”

BioCurie, Rombel says, has created a “scalable model factory” that will use the cloud (SaaS) to send out its optimum “recipes” to client sites all over the world so they can faithfully reproduce the process from Site A to Site B. This will allow BioCurie to provide continuous innovation.

“You want to be able to figure out how to make these life-saving safely, swiftly and at an acceptable cost of goods,” Rombel says. “Figuring out the recipe for a cell and gene therapy is called ‘development.’ Once you have that recipe figured out, actually producing it is called ‘biomanufacturing.’ Our software addresses both parts of that value chain. The status quo today is empirical brute force – basically hit or miss with a lot of misses. And we’re the only company focused on the development and manufacturing part of the equation.”

Rombel said she founded BioCurie in Delaware because Delaware’s business-friendly environment and proximity to biopharma companies make it an ideal place for innovative businesses to thrive.

“We have NIIMBL here,” she says. “North of us in Philadelphia, we have ‘Cellicon Valley’ and the Greater Philadelphia region with all the cell and gene therapy companies. We’ve got all the big pharma just north in New Jersey. The contract manufacturers in cell and gene therapy are in Maryland. We also collaborate with the University of Delaware through one of its grant programs.”

Rombel is a Delaware resident with 20-plus years of relevant experience spanning big pharma (Janssen Pharmaceuticals, J&J), biotech (Spark Therapeutics, a gene therapy leader), consulting (founded Biomedical Intelligence, a life science consulting company), investing (public and private equities) and academia (focused on gene regulation). She’s a first-generation New Zealander, the daughter of Polish immigrants. When Poland was invaded in 1939, her father’s family was shipped off in a cattle car to a Siberian prison camp before they were taken in as refugees by New Zealand.

Evidence of the importance her parents placed on education can be found on two bookshelves of encyclopedias in her home office. Her parents bought them for her when she was 12, even though they were a working-class family and did not even own a car. Around the same time, she was inspired by the Polish Nobel laureate, Marie Curie, to pursue her passion for science.

Since then, she has earned a doctorate in biochemistry and completed stints as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC Davis. She also earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University while serving as a faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Innovative Biopharma Companies Excel in Delaware

BioCurie has four customer targets for its “new product category”: biopharma companies, contract development and manufacturing, hospitals and academic institutions. Rombel believes “validation through partnerships” will help BioCurie acquire venture capital funding.

“We’ve also applied for an EDGE grant from the State,” she says. “That would be a great win because it would show that Delaware values us and our presence here.”

CompassRed’s Callahan says having a woman-led science and technology success that could grow this industry from the ground would be transformative for Delaware’s innovation community.

“As someone who’s been an entrepreneur in Delaware for most of my life, I would love to see her succeed here as I have,” Callahan says. “With NIIMBL here, there could be a great story that develops that reminds me of the very beginning days of DuPont, Gore and all the other leaders that believed and succeeded.”

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading

Resilience & Innovation: Year in Review 2021

Resilience & Innovation: Year in Review 2021

April 8, 2022 – 

Resilience & Innovation: Year in Review 2021 is DPP’s third annual report. For a snapshot of the DPP team’s accomplishments, please click on the image to view a flipbook. Comments or questions? We want to hear from you — please email scoulby@choosedelaware.com

To download a PDF copy of the Report, please click this link: Resilience & Innovation: Year in Review 2021 (PDF).

Newsletter Sign Up

Stay Up To Date With Delaware

Continue reading