Should anyone doubt that we are living through a unique moment in New York’s economic development, take a look at the proliferation of exciting young companies transforming formerly underused warehouse and office spaces into thriving startup incubators and research centers.
A firm called Sapience, based in Scarsdale, has developed a novel chemical compound that could eradicate a type of brain cancer with a three-year mortality rate of 97%, a disease once again in the news because of Sen. John McCain’s diagnosis. Another company named Schrodinger, located in midtown Manhattan, has developed software for developing candidates for testing next-generation, lifesaving drug therapies prior to human trials, with the goal of delivering cures to patients more quickly and less expensively.
And a Brooklyn-based startup, Epibone (slogan: “grow your own bone”), uses a patient’s own stem cells and advanced scan technology to create superior bone grafts that avoid rejection, accelerate bone regeneration and shorten recovery times. This pioneering technology, relevant to 900,000 people who undergo bone-related surgeries annually, emerged from Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, one of the world’s foremost biomedical engineers who years ago emigrated from Serbia.
In these and many other cases, the basic science giving rise to the invention was federally funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation or another agency. And the underlying scientific breakthroughs behind Sapience, Schrodinger and Epibone occurred in a Columbia University research lab. (Columbia has license agreements in place with the three companies, which include equity in the company and payments based on the development and sale of the products.) These successes are emblematic of the tried-and-true benefits to society that come from the partnership of great research universities, a thriving regional entrepreneurship ecosystem and a federal government supportive of science-based, commercial innovation.