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Doing Business in Connecticut 2018

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45 | DOING BUSINESS IN CONNECTICUT | 2018 2018 | DOING BUSINESS IN CONNECTICUT | 45 A Hand Up Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut offers startups early-stage assistance By Steve Lubetkin Providing an encouraging environment for biotech entrepreneurs who need help setting up and running their companies is the primary goal of the state's newest life science startup accelerator, Accelerator for Biosciences in Connecticut, or ABCT. The organization specializes in entrepreneurship training that helps young companies and their founders gain the business knowledge they need to move their startups forward, according to Mary Howard, ABCT executive director. "What we try and do is provide some education to help them to advance their venture," she said. "And then we try and connect them to resources so that they can build their venture, through people who are already in areas that they might be interested in being able to move into." Getting into the program is competitive. The 12 selected startups were chosen through an extensive screening process. Experts rated the applicants based on the strength of the team, the uniqueness of insights into the problems they are solving, and the venture's capacity to revolutionize the life-science industry. Principals in the venture must demonstrate a commitment to entrepreneurship, recent education in science or technology (within the past 10 years), and a technology or science innovation in development. They don't need to have an existing company in order to apply. ABCT provides what it calls a mini-MBA curriculum, along with coaching, networking, mentoring and help in preparing the essential "pitch decks," the presentations used to persuade investors that a business plan is viable enough for them to commit their money. "There are a lot of questions of a technical nature, things like regulatory and pricing, and some pretty complicated testing regimens," Howard said. "All of that needs to get integrated into a plan so that you can concisely convey how long it's going to take you to get through an important milestone, and how much that's going to cost. That's a typical challenge for ventures that we see." "What this program really offers for us is a deeper network to business executives, entrepreneurs and potential advisors, investors that can help us really propel the commercialization of our technology," said Nicole Wagner, president and chief executive officer of Farmington-based LambdaVision Inc. Spun off from the University of Connecticut in 2009, her company is developing a retinal implant to treat degenerative eye diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Macular degeneration is caused by deterioration of the macula, which is responsible for focusing central vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of rare, genetic disorders causing a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina; common symptoms include difficulty seeing at night and a loss of peripheral vision. Wagner describes the ABCT program as a sort of business boot camp. "We met two times a week for three weeks for a total of six days, as we went through basic business model principles, learning Dr. Nicole Wagner prepares a sample of bacteriorhodopsin for spectroscopic evaluation in LambdaVision's Farmington laboratories. (Photo Credit: Peter Morenus/UConn Photo) HEALTH & BIOPHARMA

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