Accelerated process

The Supernova program develops ideas and mature projects within the confines of the university before they hit the market

Daniel BuenoA new facility for individuals wishing to experiment and advance ideas or projects for potential new drugs or diagnoses in the fields of biomedicine and biotechnology that are developed in laboratories at the University of São Paulo (USP) is available to professors, researchers and students.
The Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) at USP is home to a program that accelerates the formatting of ideas and projects for new products and renders them more mature, from the scientific and technological standpoint, before they venture into the market. Known as the Supernova Program, the initiative is based entirely on the experience of SPARK, a platform established at California’s Stanford University by Professor Daria Mochly-Rosen, a chemist at the Stanford School of Medicine.

“Supernova is a project accelerator within the university that adds value to potential short and medium-term applications,” says Professor Julio Cesar Batista Ferreira of the ICB and founder of Supernova. For two years, while doing graduate work at Stanford, Ferreira observed SPARK, which focuses primarily on discovering new drugs and diagnoses. Founded in 2007, this US program has already accelerated 51 projects. Of that number, only eight were rejected because their results were unsatisfactory. Licenses were granted to 23 projects, and seven others were licensed but not tested. Now 13 are ready for parties interested in licensing them. Only the university and the researchers receive royalties; SPARK does not.

Another difference in this type of organization is that even before a company is founded, faculty members, researchers and students who have a molecule or substance with the potential to become a drug, for example, have the opportunity to consult with a board that consists of academics from institutions in São Paulo State and abroad and industry consultants. “A report on the events is submitted to the board every three months,” Ferreira says. One of the first steps for advancing the idea or project is to prepare a business plan that describes the market and possibilities for the future product.

Four projects have now been selected for Supernova. “It takes two years for an idea or project to be licensed or for a company to be founded.” For drug candidates in particular, setting up a company makes it easier to raise funds for clinical testing, as this testing requires significant investments.

Close monitoring by specialists is obviously advantageous. “In the area of drug discovery, according to SPARK experience, the cost of each project is 10 times lower than when the initial process occurs in industry,” Ferreira says. Besides the ICB, Supernova also operates in the fields of biotechnology at the Polytechnic School (Poli/USP) and the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine at USP. Consultants include volunteers and professionals from the Butantan Institute, the companies Dow, Roche, Startup Design, Axonal, Recepta Biopharma, Cemsa and Pluricell, the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (Fiesp) and the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology (Cietec). More information on the web site.