“Having already started and sold another drug-development company prior to going back to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be a life-sciences entrepreneur. The MSSTC program was perfect for my goals. It is action-based learning that guides students through the process of developing a new technology company.”- Doug Baum, MSSTC ’07
Class Project Start-Up
As a class project, Baum and his teammates, Christopher Aniszczyk and Mario Ramirez, learned about a new technology for treating and preventing AMD, age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in people over age 60. The treatment was invented by a noted Texas A&M biology professor, Dr. George Chiou. Baum negotiated patent rights for Chiou’s technology and launched MacuCLEAR in the fall of 2006. “The stars aligned when we found Chiou’s research,” said Baum.
Doug Baum’s 17-year career in the pharmaceutical industry gave him the industry experience he needed to start his own company, but he needed the business skills to succeed. He enrolled in the Master of Science in Science & Technology Commercialization (MSSTC) at The University of Texas at Austin’s IC2 Institute, an executive degree that prepares technical and business professionals for moving viable technologies from concept to market.Using action-based learning with real technologies and innovations, MSSTC students learn to identify and evaluate emerging technologies and potential customers, develop comprehensive business plans and marketing strategies, build a management team, develop business plans to secure funding and manage and protect intellectual property.
Baum’s first course in summer 2006, Technology Assessment, taught the quick-look process. Students interview industry experts and incorporate their perspectives into an assessment of the problem/pain that needs solving, whether the technology treats the problem, the status of the intellectual property and the development of a plan for moving the technology forward. Using the quick-look process, Baum and his classmates discovered Chiou’s technology.
After evaluating Chiou’s technology and negotiating patent rights with Texas A&M, his team continued to refine the business plan in the course Art and Science of Market-Driven Entrepreneurship. By talking to industry experts and making inquiries with large pharmaceuticals, they learned they were too early in the market to be acquired and needed to find a manufacturer who specialized in producing drugs for humans.
In February 2007 MacuCLEAR won the Texas Moot Corp Competition. The credibility from winning Moot Corp attracted angel investors and by April 2007, MacuCLEAR cleared $1.7 million in funding. This funding enabled them to progress through animal studies and find a manufacturer. The FDA granted them “fast track status for testing on humans” in March 2009.
In April 2009 they closed a $1.7 million investment from the State of Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund. MacuCLEAR conducted the Phase 1 human testing in the summer and fall of 2009 and the results showed the drug was safe for humans and produced the anticipated biological effect in the retina.
Baum reports, “We’re developing two parallel tracks for the company going forward. One is a Phase 2 study that will keep the company independent, broaden human testing and require us to raise $6 – $7 million from investors. Our other track is to approach pharmaceutical companies who would buy the company and make the investment to take the technology to the next stage. What we do will be a combination of valuation, market dynamics and company execution; putting into practice all the things I’ve learned in the MSSTC program.”