Taking reagents to market

by Dr Christopher Arnot

Cambridge Enterprise (CE) has been commercialising reagents derived from University research for a decade. The deals range from licensing specialist reagents for companies for their research programmes or for use in commercial kits or services, to licensing to life science reagent companies that produce and sell them to scientists in other labs, and company formation around therapeutic or specialised reagents.

The availability of research reagents is vital for the research community. Many life science reagent companies exist only to meet this demand.

Cambridge Enterprise has worked globally with all major reagent companies and has extensive experience negotiating licensing deals. Working with reagent companies has benefits: they often manage production of the reagent, they handle quality control and global distribution, and there is the convenience of having someone else deal with the day-to-day sales.

We recently partnered with Ximbio (part of Cancer Research Technology) to help University members get their reagents into the market more easily — not only to help other researchers, but to make a financial return.

That said, not all companies can handle production of specialist reagents, which can be difficult to manufacture. CE assists here in one of two ways – either by working with the creators to produce the reagents in-house at the University (we work with individual departments to ensure they are recompensed for the facility and consumables costs) or by working with external partners who have the capability to produce and/or store specialist reagents. They can also manage any resulting deals with companies that wish to use the reagents either internally or offer them for sale.

To that end, Cambridge Enterprise have recently partnered with Ximbio (part of Cancer Research Technology) to help University members get their reagents into the market more easily – not only to help other researchers, but to make a financial return.

Working with Cambridge Enterprise adds value to the reagent as we undertake a due diligence exercise to ensure that both creator and third-party rights are upheld and that funder obligations are met, thereby de-risking the reagent before licensing it to commercial organisations, many of which we have relationships with already.

We also negotiate deal terms and manage royalty reporting and the financial aspects that go hand-in-hand before transferring the creators’ income either to the creator directly or to the University via Gift Aid.

Unlike the many other inventions we support at CE, reagents seldom involve the recovery of patent costs, so most of the income received is pure profit. It’s easy to see why licensing reagents can be an easy way to generate additional revenue and a lot of impact using material that has already been created.