There won’t be any seductive music or candlelight. No swiping right, as friendly folks do on the app Tinder.
Yet, the endgame of this new matchmaking initiative is about hooking up — in a professional, geeky way. It is a partnership between a Chester County technology incubator/commercialization center and a consortium of seven Pennsylvania universities and research institutions to get technical devices to market faster.
But in explaining the purpose behind the venture between Malvern-based AmpTech and the consortium, BioStrategy Partners Inc., the principals sounded more like hopeless romantics determined to make love connections — only the parties they want to bring together are inventors and companies in need of new technological devices.
“It’s a big world. They’re looking for each other,” said Simon Kassas, executive vice president of AmpTech.
A facilitator early on “until they get engaged” is how Stephen Nappi, president of BioStrategy Partners, sees the role of the cooperative effort, known as the AmpTech Germinator Program.
Like so many attempts at relationship building, this one involves chocolate.
Advanced Chocolate Technologies originated about a year and a half ago as a pilot project between Temple University and AmpTech to address a gap in the tech world between ideas from academia and market adoption.
J. Todd Abrams is quite informed about all that as senior director of new ventures and business development at Temple.
Inventions often “are not advanced enough to gain an investor to come in and put up money to move it forward,” he said. “Nor can they develop a full business plan because they don’t have a strategic partner, a corporation who’s interested in the technology to help guide them to where they want it to go.”
He was introduced to AmpTech, a spin-off of Advanced Plasma Solutions, which itself came out of Drexel University. AmpTech came into fruition about two years ago to use the infrastructure it had created as a contract research and development company — scientists, engineers, a fabrication shop, and 3-D printing, along with marketing, business-development, and legal services — to support new technology beyond plasma and create new products.
The group’s biggest calling card is how it merges the technical and business side to help “an innovative idea move along toward commercialization,” Kassas said in an interview at AmpTech’s 20,000-square-foot facility just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Route 29 slip ramp.
The priority is to “make sure what we’re bringing to market is … what the end user wants,” thus helping “derisk” the project, a boon to investors, Kassas said.
At Temple, Abrams thought one project in particular seemed ideal for such attention: applying a technology used in many industries, including oil, to the business of making chocolate.
The theory was that if you expose a solution with particulates to an electrical field, it will align those particles in a way to allow freer flow through a pipeline, Abrams said.
Pumping chocolate is “like pumping peanut butter,” he said. “It’s a tremendous amount of energy, it takes a lot of heat. If you could reduce those costs, it could be a big deal.”
AmpTech put academic theories into practice, Abrams said. What Temple brought to AmpTech was some plastic “that allowed electric to pass through chocolate in a little grid,” he said.
What exists now, Abrams said, “is fully engineered metal that can take the kind of pressures that would be needed by the commercial partner.”
To get to that stage, Kassas said, AmpTech consulted a chocolate manufacturer he would not identify, who provided some equipment, developmental guidance, and a couple hundred pounds of chocolate for testing. With proof of concept fulfilled, field testing is next.
The experience led to the partnership announced in March between AmpTech and nonprofit BioStrategy Partners. Formed 11 years ago when many drug development programs were shuttered in the pharmaceutical industry, the consortium set out to encourage new companies from the substantial intellectual property and expertise that was left unfulfilled by those shutdowns. With the AmpTech Germinator Program, BioStrategy Partners has broadened its mission beyond formulations and drug products.
Its members are Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University/Jefferson Health, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University and Wistar Institute. Affiliate members are University of the Sciences and the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research. Their collective research activity exceeded $1.6 billion last year and generated more than 400 discoveries, said a spokeswoman for the collaborative.
Each member institution contributes $10,000 a year, affiliate members $5,000, to help support BioStrategy’s operating expenses. BioStrategy Partners collects a coordination fee — 25 percent of a project’s cost — from each technology admitted into the AmpTech Germinator Program. Project periods last six months.
About a half-dozen projects have applied for entry. Decisions on which are accepted in the first group are expected within weeks.
As a co-investor, AmpTech will have an exclusive option to develop any new technologies that come from its partnership with BioStrategy Partners.
“We’re very, very excited for this opportunity,” said Kassas from AmpTech. “The relationship between BioStrategy Partners and AmpTech is a match made in heaven.”