Dr. Andrew Pecora spent years developing the stem cell storage and processing technology behind his company, Progenitor Cell Therapy. That was the easy part.
“Getting it to market was harder,” he says. “For people like me, who are inventors, that’s natural. The other stuff isn’t. It’s a big learning curve.” Inventors like Pecora who want to bring medical ideas into the marketplace have to find the money somehow to do it, which is easier said than done in today’s economy.
Pecora managed to get his company partnered with NeoStem in 2009, following a long odyssey that involved more rejection than a writer trying to get published for the first time. “Two years ago, it was almost impossible,” he says. “Private investing had dried up.”
Pecora will explain how he did it Monday, June 17, when he appears at a meeting of the BioNJ trade group. The annual BioPartnering conference will be held at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village. BioNJ members, $350. Non-members, $500. www.bionj.org.
Pecora has actually gone through the marketing process twice, once with PCT and again with another company, Amorcyte, which he formed to develop stem cell therapies for heart disease. Both began with his academic research, both found private funding, and both were purchased by private companies.
Because Pecora successfully found funding for those ideas, his stem cell therapies may some day help patients. But there are many good ideas out there that have languished because their inventors never found the partners they needed to bring their ideas into reality.
“You have to be very persistent,” Pecora says. “You have to accept that you’re going to be turned down a lot. You can’t let that distract you.” Pecora said he was shot down 20 or more times before he finally heard, “yes.”
Pecora grew up in Nutley, the son of a homemaker and a father who owned a legal business. Maybe he inherited some of his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, and resilience that allowed him to persist despite rejection.
“Plenty of times, I was frustrated,” he says. “But giving up is not in my nature and that’s probably emblematic of the people who end up making it. That’s not to say there aren’t people who were forced to give up. There are, and I know them.”
Persistence isn’t enough if you don’t know what you’re doing. Pecora said many inventions have fallen by the wayside because their creators didn’t understand the market, and didn’t understand the regulatory path to get to market. So how can inventors learn about these things? They shouldn’t.
“You have to find people who have done it before,” he says. “No one person has the skill set to do it all. You need a team to be successful.”
And that is what the BioPartnering Conference is all about: helping biotech developers find partners to help bring their ideas into the marketplace. It will also help out with Pecora’s third piece of advice, which is to network like crazy. He eventually found his partners through third-degree connections he made while networking.
Lastly, seeing other people going through the same process can also be a morale booster, he says. “When you’re alone in the dark and everyone is trying to eat you, at least you’re around a few other crazy people trying to get through. It makes it a little easier.”