Start List

“We plan to house about 15 start-ups in 12–18 months time,” Dr Guhan Jayaraman, Head of the bioincubator facility at the IIT Madras Research Park



Dr Guhan Jayaraman, who is a professor in the Department of Biotechnology, IIT Madras and also the Head of the bioincubator facility at the IIT Madras Research Park, in an interview to enABLE, outlines the developments at IIT-M Bioincubator. 

The Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises' website and newsletter, enABLE, will henceforth share information on the Startups, Incubators, and Investors regularly every week. The inaugural story under the section STARTUP CORNER is on IIT-Madras Bioincubator. enABLE speaks to Prof. Jayaraman.
   
Prof. Jayaraman is a chemical engineer {B Tech - IIT-BHU (1985), M Tech - IIT Delhi (1987), PhD - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1993)}, who has been extensively involved in teaching, research and industrial consultancy in the areas of chemical engineering and bioprocess technology over the last three decades.  Prof. Jayaraman was the first Head of the Department of Biotechnology, IIT- Madras, and was extensively associated with the initial establishment of this Department in 2004 and a novel undergraduate program in Biological Engineering at IIT Madras. Prof. Jayaraman’s primary research interests are in the areas of Metabolic Engineering and Bioprocess Engineering for production and purification of recombinant proteins and biopolymers. 

The interview was done by ABLE’s external content contributor, Anusha Ashwin, in Chennai under the guidance of Senior Editorial Consultant to ABLE, Srinivas Rao Chandan. Excerpts of the interview ...
   

Could you describe the salient features of IIT Madras Bioincubator?
Prof. Jayaraman: The IIT Madras Bioincubator (IIT-M Bioincubator) was established in December 2014 to promote entrepreneurship and incubation of start-up companies in biotechnology. IIT-M Bioincubator is currently funded by BIRAC and is located in the IIT Madras Research Park. 
IIT-M Bioincubator provides a comprehensive wet-lab facility consisting of equipment for microbial/cell culture, bioprocess engineering, molecular biology and analytics. It also provides technical services through a highly qualified scientific staff.  IIT-M Bioincubator is a part of the IIT Madras Incubation Cell, which provides the incubated companies with legal, accounting and other non-technical services.  
It also connects the incubated companies with a mentor network consisting of academics, biotech entrepreneurs, industry experts and venture capitalists.  In addition, IIT-M Bioincubator also provides linkages with other institutions and incubation centers for using specialized facilities which are not available at the IIT-M Bioincubator. Being incubated in an academically-linked ecosystem also provides the start-up companies with a rich resource of faculty mentors and students who can be hired for internships and employment.
IITM Bioincubator has the unique advantage of being located in the IIT Madras Research Park which is a rich ecosystem consisting of a diverse array of technology companies, many of them being start-ups. Since different types of technology companies are being incubated at the Research Park, it provides an atmosphere for cross-fertilization of ideas, examples of diverse business models and opportunities for networking with entrepreneurs in different fields.

What are the equipment and technologies provided for research? 
Prof. Jayaraman: IIT-M Bioincubator provides a comprehensive wet-lab facility consisting equipment for undertaking microbial/cell culture, bioprocess engineering, downstream processing, molecular biology and analytics.  More sophisticated facilities can be accessed at IIT Madras, the TICEL Biopark located nearby as well as other bioincubators in Chennai.  In short, there is no dearth of facilities for carrying out research and technology development related to biosciences.

How many startups and entrepreneurs can this incubator house? 
Prof. Jayaraman: The current facility (Phase I) can house five-six start-up companies.  The Phase II facility (expected to be ready by December 2016) can house about 9–10 companies.  Thus, at full operational strength, IIT-M Bioincubator can house about 15 companies.

On what basis are the applicants short listed for incubating at your center? 
Prof. Jayaraman: Start-ups who are interested in being incubated have to apply through the website (www.bioincubator-iitm.in) with a brief proposal.  They will be called for a presentation before the Bioincubator Screening Committee consisting of academics, entrepreneurs, professionals from industry and medical institutions.  
The Committee selects them based on six criteria:  Technical merit of the proposal, commercial viability, business strategy, team expertise, availability of seed-funding or venture capital and compatibility with the infrastructure and space available in the Bioincubator.

What are some of the areas of R&D that the incubator encourages? 
Prof. Jayaraman: The primary focus of the incubator is to encourage start-up companies in industrial biotechnology, healthcare biotechnology, agro-biotech and food biotechnology.  However, we also encourage companies in other areas of biotechnology who fulfill the selection criteria mentioned above.

What is the current status of this Bioincubator? Can the incubator house more startups?
Prof. Jayaraman: Currently there are four start-up companies operating in Phase I of IIT-M Bioincubator.  We plan to house about 15 start-ups in 12–18 months time.

What are some of terms of agreement between the incubator and incubatees?
Prof. Jayaraman: The selected companies are allowed to incubate for an initial period of two years which is extendable, depending on progress and financial sustainability of the incubated company and other assessment criteria. They are required to execute mutually-binding NDAs with IIT-M Bioincubator and other incubated companies.  

Could you outline the overall terms and conditions to be inducted? 
Prof. Jayaraman: There are no ‘terms and conditions’ other than those outlined above and the desire to primarily incubate technology companies with innovative ideas, good business models, clean and ethical practices fostered by a strong spirit of entrepreneurship.

Is financial assistance provided to the incubatees? 
Prof. Jayaraman: IIT-M Bioincubator itself does not provide seed funding.  However, most incubated companies come with their own seed funding, such as the Biotech Ignition Grant provided by BIRAC.  If there are external financial investors interested in providing venture capital to any of the IIT-M Bioincubator incubatees, the incubator will facilitate this process.

Do the alumni of the institute support the incubatees? 
Prof. Jayaraman: There is plenty of support from the alumni of the institute.  Some of them have provided pre-incubation seed funding. Many of them are involved in mentoring start-up companies.  Other alumni have helped in networking the start-up companies with key stakeholders such as industries, venture capitalists etc.


IIT-M Bioincubatees
The following are the four start up companies currently incubated in IIT-M Bioincubator

Purius Nanosystems Pvt Ltd
Fibsol Life Technologies Pvt Ltd
Vital Bioscientific Solutions Pvt Ltd
Yaathum Biotech Pvt Ltd