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Start-up company benefits from incubator space on campus

by David Bauman - May 5, 2008

Because the cost of developing new medicines is so high, pharmaceutical companies have started outsourcing research and development to countries such as China and India. Yadagiri Pendri has a different idea: Do such work in a start-up company based at UConn.

“The pharmaceutical outsourcing industry is still very much in its infancy,” says Pendri, founder and CEO of Escientia Life Sciences, the newest client in UConn’s Technology Incubation Program.

“The reason companies like Escientia can exist,” he explains, “is because the cost of research of pharmaceutical companies doing research in-house is just too high.”

He founded Escientia in October 2007, with a vision for teh company to partner with biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies in drug discovery, development, and manufacturing.

Faced with regulatory changes, complex patent laws, global clinical trials, and an urgent need to minimize the development time of new drugs and medicines, many major drug companies are turning to outsourcing, or shifting work to contractors.

It’s no longer viable for these companies to carry out in-house the various processes that extend from drug discovery all the way to drug manufacture and commercialization.

Pendri sees an opportunity there.

“Escientia will seek long-term collaborations with research-based drug makers,” he says, “and provide cost-effective resources by leveraging its capabilities in discovery, process development, analytical chemistry, and project management.”

For 20 years, Pendri led process teams developing drugs at Bristol-Myers Squibb’s research labs in Princeton and New Brunswick, N.J.

He reolcated in1999 to the pharmaceutical company’s Wallingfor site to establish a process research and development department.

In 2005, he co-founded Expicor Inc., a pharmaceutical research company based in New York and India that specialized in developing new chemical synthetic routes of targeted compounds and worked with more than 10 companies.

Pendri also led a team that was responsible for the development of the forumlation and manufacturing of entecavir, a drug to treat Hepatitis B that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005.

Yadagiri Pendri heads a new start-up, one of the companies in the University’s Technology Incubator Program.
Yadagiri Pendri heads a new start-up, one of the companies in the University’s Technology Incubator Program.
Photo by Peter Morenus

He holds a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune, India; has published 35 articles in chemical and biological journals; and is co-inventor on 12 U.S. patents.

He said Escientia will help collaborators identify biologically active compounds and provide research to move them into clinical trials.

The company is also developing new proprietary medicines on its own to treat diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Such drugs tend to have small profit margins, and hence are not widely explored by big pharmaceutical companies.

“Our goal,” he says, “is to develop chemical processes and technologies that are cost-effective, safe, environmentally friendly, and practical for manufacturing drugs of high quality.”

Escientia, which has moved into laboratory space at the Storrs campus, is the 16th company in the University’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP), says Rita Zangari, the program’s executive director.

TIP allows new companies that have a technology linkage or synergistic relationship with the University to be located on campus and have access to the unique resources available in an academic setting that would otherwise be unattainable for a fledgling company, she says.

The presence of such companies is also beneficial to faculty and students.

“A key reason Pendri’s company was allowed TIP space,” says Zangari, “is that his services and expertise could provide support to faculty interested in drug discovery, with the potential for valuable collaboration.”

Pendri notes that with Escientia on campus, more chemistry students may become interested in drug discovery and development and understand the full range of research experience required to take a molecule from the laboratory to market.

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