Where Does the Science Belong in the Life Science Start-Up?

I would like to introduce you all to a favorite colleague of McCormick LifeScience Consultants, LLC: Mr. Andrew Johnson, PhD, Founder and President of UpStart Life Sciences, has twenty years of experience launching instruments, reagent kits, and software products into genomics, proteomics, and cell biology markets. Applying his business leadership and cell and molecular biology expertise, he has a unique perspective on how to bridge the gap between scientifically interesting technology and compelling commercial products.

Ok . . . take your headphones off and please listen . . . its Andy’s turn:

Ever have this happen to you? You meet someone at a party and ask them what they do:

Andy: Hi, I’m Andy.
Mike: Nice to meet you. I’m Mike.
Andy: What do you do?
Mike: Well . . . I do a lot of stuff actually. I’m the founder of the Big Massive Corp, Inc. and on the board of Life Sciences LLC, and RexRx. But I really love my work as a biomechanical surface integrity investigator (more jargon please). Since I was a little boy, I have always loved . . . (blah, blah, blah . . . )

At this point you are desperately trying to extricate yourself. You were only asking what they did to be polite and to see if you might have something in common that you both might enjoy discussing.

When you meet with potential customers and blather on about your science (especially when you first meet), it can be a lot like being in the situation just described. Don’t let this happen to you!

Getting it Right

31One of the best things you can do for your new Life Science Company is to engage with potential customers through your innovative new technology. However, there is a time and place for this. The following simple Do’s and Don’ts will help you to get right what most companies (even some of the big ones) get wrong.

Although science is at the heart of your company, it is the products that you have created that are based on this science that are most meaningful to your customers. Think of it this way, you likely selected your cell phone or car based on what these things can do for you and how they impact your life. This is the same thing that happens when a Life Scientist is looking to purchase new products that will help their research program.

This means that it is vitally important to clearly communicate how your product (not your science) will impact a customer. Once a potential customer is intrigued by your product, some of them (not all) will further be interested in your science and/or technology (often to validate the claims you made earlier).


Start a blog (linked or part of your website) where you discuss your science. Don’t make this an ad, but share applications and ask happy customers to guest blog for you to connect with others in your field. In time, this can help you and your company become considered subject matter experts, which will ultimately drive new prospects to contact you.

Write White Papers:
Pick key applications using your product and share them as white papers. These should be accessible from your website. Consider posting downloadable versions in a PDF format for convenience.

Produce YouTube video:
Creating quick 2-3 minute how-to videos and/or application notes in video format is a good way to take advantage of this medium. When people are searching for solutions on the web, having some videos can help improve your rankings and your chances of showing up high on the first page of the search results.

Create Tradeshow Booth Graphics:
Have compelling graphics that catch the eye and perhaps some copy that emphasizes the impact of your product (e.g., allows you to measure something new for the first time, is higher throughput than the competition, produces data with tighter CV’s, etc.) You will have plenty of time to discuss science should visitors wish.


Explain Your Science or Technology on Your Website Homepage:
This is where you clearly indicate what you are offering. This is what you offer not who you are. (A quick survey by the author of over 500 Life Science company websites showed that nearly 80% of them got this wrong.)

Load Brochures and Other Sales Collateral with Lots of Content about the Science:
Make sure that the number one message here is how your product will positively impact your customer. On longer format pieces like tri-fold brochures, a brief very high level summary of the technology behind the product can be appropriate, but this should clearly take second place to helping prospective customers see how your product or service will affect their research program.

Toto's Tips

  • Put the impact of your product on your customer’s research first in your marketing communications.
  • Back up your claims with the science in a succinct way.
  • Create a separate page on your website where all of the detailed description and other resource material can be easily found.
  • Be sure to ask about your customer’s science. Knowing what your customer is interested in will help you to decide what and how much of your own science story you will share.
  • Some people who come to your tradeshow booth just want the free swag (don’t take it personally). It is better for you to not waste your time trying to engage them in discussion. There are plenty of others who will want to hear your story.
  • Try to avoid jargon when speaking about your science unless you know for sure that your customer is in the same field.