I spent the first 15 years of my career at a great company that has over 100 years of legacy in delivering life-changing and life-saving pharmaceuticals to patients – Eli Lilly. For most of my career there, I honestly had no idea that there was a rich ecosystem of startups in Indiana.
Lilly, like many of the other large life science companies in our state, has an abundance of resources to develop and commercialize therapeutics and diagnostics. I am respectful and thankful for their role as the anchor of the Indiana life science ecosystem. When I began to explore and attend industry events towards the end of my career at Lilly, I discovered that there was a network of industry associations, academic institutions, startup accelerators, economic development teams, and investors that were focused on birthing and supporting early-stage startups.
That was almost 15 years ago, and the state’s startup ecosystem has continued to grow and flourish. For example, we have more mature startup programs at all of our major academic institutions, several independent accelerators and incubators, a life science entrepreneur mentoring program called AXIS, and a growing number of investors, including Elevate Ventures that not only provide early-stage capital but are focused on building sustainable entrepreneurship culture for the state.
My in-vitro diagnostic startup, Amplified Sciences, has benefitted from many of these entrepreneurship-focused efforts and organizations. The Purdue Foundry was instrumental in supporting my co-founder, Jo Davisson, Ph.D., in launching the company in its earliest days, and created the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program that made it possible for me to meet Jo. We recently announced the close of our $1.8 million seed round. Raising money is never easy. Our journey was long and particularly challenging, as we raised funds during a pandemic. Although we had to venture way beyond Indiana to close the round, I am truly appreciative of the support of our Indiana investors: IU Ventures, Purdue Ventures, Elevate Ventures, Gravity Ventures and many angel investors including the IU Angels. Without their early belief in us, we would have had a much harder time closing the round coast to coast.
I believe that the entrepreneurial spirit found in startups is at the heart of a healthy life science ecosystem. Without new business models, truly game-changing novel technology, and the risk takers willing to start something out of nothing, our industry would stagnate and take too long to deliver solutions to patients. Innovation is at the heart of all we do in life sciences, and startups are critical fuel for that innovation. I encourage all of us involved in life sciences to do more to support startups. It is a long and risky journey, but well worth the ride. Take some time to learn about and maybe even advise, mentor and invest in the startups of Indiana who are at the heart of our vibrant life science ecosystem.
Diana Caldwell is Co-Founder and CEO of Amplified Sciences, an in-vitro diagnostics start up focused on earlier detection of devastating disease.