The University of California, Davis, and HM.CLAUSE have partnered to open a business incubator that will help advance regional innovation in the life sciences. To celebrate this unique collaboration, a launch event was held from Thursday, May 7, at the new innovation center in south Davis.

This joint venture builds on a long-standing partnership between the university and HM.CLAUSE, a global leader in the production and sale of vegetable seeds, to provide the facilities and support needed to turn viable ideas in all areas of life science into successful technology businesses. The shared goal of UC Davis and HM.CLAUSE is to create an environment that breeds innovation, fosters creativity and inspires synergy.

"We have successfully collaborated with UC Davis for many years as it pertains to plant breeding, but we recognize that actively facilitating innovation outside of our space will provide us with a diversity of ideas, business models, and operating environments that will broaden and enhance our own ways of thinking," said Mark Stowers, vice president of Global Research & Development at HM.CLAUSE.

The UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center is a 3,100 square-foot, off-campus facility that is administered and owned by HM.CLAUSE. It is equipped with biochemistry, molecular biology and chemistry lab space, and also offers 1,800 square feet of contiguous greenhouse space. The facility is available to entrepreneurs looking to form new companies based on technology developed at the university. Lab space is leased by HM.CLAUSE at an affordable rate, with lease durations ranging from six months up to two years.

Already filling a need

The center has already attracted several startups that would have otherwise found it very difficult to get off the ground due to their highly technical nature. Each is in a different phase of development, and together they represent a broad range of market segments.

  • DtoR Inc. — Offers a proven, platform technology to customize transcription control sequences and optimize gene expression for a variety of biotechnology applications.
  • Bio Mobile Inc. — Is developing a rapid, easy-to-use, field-based testing system for fish species to combat mislabeling of sushi and seafood.
  • Inserogen — Uses tobacco plants as a manufacturing platform for rapid, scalable and cost-effective production of therapeutics targeted at treating rare (orphan) diseases.

Paul Feldstein, founder of DtoR Inc. and an assistant project scientist at UC Davis, has experienced how quickly an idea can lead to the genesis of a company. In October 2014, he came up with an idea for fast and powerful analysis of transcription, or copying DNA into RNA, and established his company by the end of the year.

"I never entertained the idea of starting my own company, but I have to say that it is terribly exciting," Feldstein said. "This might be the most significant thing that I have ever done in my life."

Supported by UC Davis Venture Catalyst

Each year UC Davis research generates new technologies and inventions that are translated into commercial applications, often becoming the foundation of startup companies. In order to facilitate this process, the university’s Office of Research established Venture Catalyst to provide researchers with the resources and support needed to successfully form and grow new ventures.

The UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center is the first off-campus member of the university’s Distributed Research Incubation and Venture Engine (the DRIVE network). The DRIVE network is intended to provide UC Davis startups with access to affordable, mixed-office/lab business incubation spaces in close proximity to the UC Davis campus (in both Davis and Sacramento). Each company accepted into the DRIVE program has full access to the support resources offered by Venture Catalyst, including a suite of services provided through START, a special program designed specifically to help cultivate robust technology startups.

"Effective collaboration is the hallmark of successful entrepreneurship and in building this unique resource for campus entrepreneurs, we have benefited immensely from the commitment of our partner HM.CLAUSE in supporting a vibrant innovation environment in our region," said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Technology Management & Corporate Relations at UC Davis and director of the Venture Catalyst unit.

Venture Catalyst collaborates closely with the Child Family Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management as well as with departmentally focused drivers of translational research including the Engineering Translational Technology Center within the College of Engineering.

Venture Catalyst was established in June 2013, and is part of the Technology Management and Corporate Relations division of the Office of Research. Led by Vice Chancellor for Research Harris Lewin, the Office of Research is a catalyst for advancing the research mission at UC Davis.