By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
SAN DIEGO — University of Oklahoma Venture Fellow Blake Hopiavuori reflected upon the end of a long day combing the massive BIO 2017 biotechnology show here as he sat in the OKBio pavilion late Tuesday afternoon.
“We had a great day today,” Hopiavuori said. “We found a completely new market today that we hadn’t even thought about, not even a little bit.”
Hopiavuori and two other Venture Fellows in OU’s Office of Technology development — Cortes Williams and Dustin Masser — are working to commercialize technologies they developed while earning their Ph.D.’s at OU.
The OU trio was back on the floor of the show Wednesday morning, meeting fellow researchers, checking out potential competitors to their technologies and making presentations in the Oklahoma Bioscience Association’s pavilion.
Williams co-founded a company called NextGen Medical to commercialize technology he developed that facilitates assessment of effectiveness of cancer therapeutics by health care professionals.
Hopiavuori and Masser are working together to develop a natural skin molecule that can promote wound healing and other potential skin benefits.
As he walked the BIO show floor at the San Diego Convention Center, Williams checked out the competition and sought to learn what fits the market he is targeting.
“I want to see the competitors, see their product offerings and see what their products can and can’t do,” he said. “Hopefully, that aligns with customer interviews I have previously done.”
With almost 20,000 people here showcasing science from virtually every country in the world, there is plenty of opportunity for competitive analysis, said Gina McMillen, director of OU’s Office of Technology Development.
It’s a perfect learning environment for three OU Venture Fellows, she said.
“They are learning about customer discovery, market fit for their product — ‘who is my customer and do I have a valid market for this?'” McMillen said. “Here at BIO they are engaging, asking questions, meeting people in their space and getting feedback on their technology.”
As the trio of Venture Fellows prepared to continue their BIO fact-finding mission Wednesday morning, Masser was asked to assess the scope of the show. He contrasted the BIO show with other science-based gatherings he has attended.
For starters, there are more people hoping to sell something — perhaps a new therapeutic or device — at the BIO show and fewer scientists ready to argue over the merits of a scientific study.
“It’s eye opening,” Masser said. “It’s a little tough learning curve, but there are a lot of people here and a lot of opportunity.”