Novophage – Mike Koeris
After winning the 2009 ITEC Business Plan Competition and operating for a while under the name Novophage, it was time for the start-up to change its name: Sample6 Technologies. “It is a little bit more open, not as techy and a little easier to say,” quips co-founder Mike Koeris. But the realities that set in for the company once it began to market itself was no laughing matter.
“We informally had spoken with Venture Capitalists we met during the ITEC competition and they all had great visions about the potential of Sample6,” he recalls. “But, we soon realized that the real world is much different than business plan competitions.”
With a technology that uses phages—natural predators of bacteria that can act as an curative antibiotic—Koeris and his team were surprised by the lukewarm response they received from the pharmaceutical community. They quickly came to realize the unfortunate truth that curative medicine is not in the best interest of the business models of pharmaceutical companies. Instead their emphasis is on symptom management.
As a result, Koeris and his team pivoted their focus. First they looked into remediating the bacterial films on oil and gas pipelines. Given the costs associated with shutting down pipelines as a result of corrosion, their phages could save the industry a wealth of both time and money. The promise of this business enabled Sample6 to its Series A funding, and begin taking on various investors. But despite an influx of capital, the timeline associated with the pipeline industry did not match with their capital structure. With strict regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), their initial plan inflated into a 48+ month endeavor, which was not sustainable for the company.
“We decided to take a step back. We knew we had a great biological engineering platform with extremely broad applicability and high potential,” adds Koeris. “We looked into other industries and ultimately found that we could provide an integrated, microbial diagnostic solution for food safety.” This near-time test could revolutionize the food safety market and make the national and global food supply chains substantially safer.
They will soon be launching pilot programs across the country and, if successful, the Sample6 technology has the capability to reduce the turnaround time necessary to test food for bacteria from days to hours.
For more information, visit http://www.sample6tech.com/.