A Guide to Decentralized Biotech

Friday, April 22, 2022

Source: Bio & Science

American biotech has traditionally been a centralized industry, with most companies clustered in a handful of cities and operating with teams of in-house scientists.

When biotech first gained its footing in the 1980s, there were good reasons for its centralized structure, including geographic proximity to the universities supplying talent and intellectual property. But recent changes — related to funding trends, an increasingly globalized workforce, the real estate market, and the popularity of decentralized models in other industries — have underscored the limits of centralization as the dominant approach. These changes, which began to surface in the last five years, were further amplified and necessitated by the pandemic.

Now, decentralization is emerging across biotech in various ways: Startups are launching outside the major hubs, sharing lab space, hiring across borders, and collaborating on research projects. We’re even seeing new types of organizations beyond traditional companies, such as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), enter the drug-development game — with funding to boot.

Decentralized models are still experimental. But they lower the barrier to entry for smaller companies and harness the talents of a more diverse pool of scientists, potentially hastening the development of new drugs and, hopefully, effective cures. 

So, how are biotech companies leveraging decentralization to get off the ground? And how can new founders use it to their advantage going forward? Drawing on my own experience working at biotech startups and DAOs, as well as conversations with biotech leaders exploring decentralized models (some of which have helped identify new cures), I’ve put together a guide to decentralization in biotech that covers what’s happening in the field today and where it could go in the coming years.

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