Daedalus Innovations

Ron Peterson had just two weeks left to get a proposal in to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when he realized he needed some serious help. “The deadline came at us quickly,” Peterson said. “There was a lot that needed to be done to get everything together in time.”

Besides, Peterson’s company, Daedalus Innovations LLC, was placing other demands on his time. The technology company is still in early stages of developing high tech devices to enhance the capabilities of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Daedalus was formed by three members: Dr. Ron Peterson, Professor Josh Wand of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Brian Lefebvre, an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. When the opportunity to apply for a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant arose, Peterson moved on the chance to fund research that would build his company.

Peterson, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, could easily speak to the merits of the technology he and his partners were proposing. NMR spectroscopy is a powerful technique that provides detailed information on the structure and dynamic properties of molecules.

It is extremely valuable to those needing to identify even the slightest distinctions between interactions among atoms within a molecule or collection of molecules. The diagnostic technology Daedalus Innovations proposes would offer the $200 billion dollar drug industry data on these interactions, such as those involving the important class encompassing membrane proteins that remains largely inaccessible using current structural determination methods.

Well-versed in the field of study, Peterson and his partners completed the bulk of the grant components, describing the proposed research and development and extolling the general merits of the technology. But the federal government increasingly requires that small businesses also demonstrate the commercial potential of the technology being researched, especially for Phase II awards.

“The preliminary data and our research background, that stuff we’re good at pulling together,” Peterson reported. “We were thinking that Phase II would be an extended version of our research plan, but it’s actually quite different. We needed to redefine where we were going, and without a business background, we were out of our element.”

With the clock ticking, Peterson called upon the Wharton Small Business Development Center (SBDC), who had previously helped him through a Strategic Business Planning workshop. The Wharton SBDC referred him to the resident expert on technology commercialization for the Temple, Wharton, and Widener SBDCs: Margie Beard.

“They recognized our predicament and were nice enough to take us in with such a short time frame,” he laughed.

Beard immediately recognized the potential in Daedalus Innovations and her client. “Ron knows his business inside-out,” she confirmed. “He has a strong technology background and years of research experience. And the amount of detailed knowledge Ron has about the company’s target markets and industry is incredible.”

What Peterson needed, however, were details relating to the commercialization side of his fledgling company. Beard, with 30 years of experience in advising entrepreneurs, helped Peterson articulate the opportunities for the technology’s target markets, expand the fine points surrounding its commercial potential and develop his commercialization plan. Beard offered feedback on each draft, also providing direction in addressing intellectual property and financing questions.

“It took as much time to develop the commercialization piece as it did to compile and describe the research plan,” Peterson described. “I had it all in there, Margie just had to drag it out of me and guide us in pulling it together. They make sure you really, really want that money.”

Which, of course, they did. That December, Daedalus submitted the completed Phase II SBIR proposal and continued working with Beard to pursue licensing negotiations with the university that owned the core technology for their inventions. Six months later, they received notice: Daedalus Innovations was approved for an award in the amount of $750,000 – usually the maximum amount awarded for a Phase II grant.

Peterson and his partners later resumed licensing discussions, continuing to consult with Beard regarding proposed term sheets and solutions for related licensing issues.

“Margie was so helpful in getting us on track and formulating long-term plans for future company growth,” he affirmed. “The meetings were all very instructive.”

The partners have since successfully completed negotiations, and Beard has continued to advise them in developing a collective vision, mission and strategy as well as refine their business plan.

“It’s always gratifying to hear about a client winning an award like this,” Beard said. “We know what it can mean for a small business, and it’s nice to know that we contributed, even if in a small way.”