Guidance, Infrastructure for Scientific EntrepreneursBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 11/10/2020 - 09:19
Q: What motivated the creation of inMateriis?
A: inMateriis was born as an incubator center for scientific entrepreneurs to develop their projects. Research projects require specific equipment or support from certain research centers. Moreover, these initiatives in Mexico have to make an enormous effort to scale their developments due to the lack of stimulus or resources to do so.
One of the first projects we worked on was related to 3D printing to mimic the structure of bones using the resolution of 3D printing machines. inMateriis began developing a biomaterial that serves as a bone substitute. Governmental funding was key during this phase and we mainly had financial support from CONACYT and the Ministry of Economy. This was also the beginning of our incubator idea. inMateriis became economically independent from government resources in 2018.
Today, the company has two divisions: services and projects. The service division lends our infrastructure to other research centers, universities, entrepreneurs or companies in need of studies for synthesis and material characterization involving material durability, use, antibacterial qualities and pharmaceutical use, among others. The project division is in charge of supporting the entrepreneur behind the development to scale up its project through financing, development, marketing, IP or any other need.
Q: How has the company positioned itself in the healthcare sector?
A: We grew our position due to the government’s efforts to market Jalisco as a Latin American Silicon Valley. Those efforts have greatly contributed to building an entrepreneurial environment willing to scale up projects. To grow in healthcare, we started to become known by our niche projects. In 2017, we won the High Impact National Entrepreneurship Award. Additionally, our local impact has been influenced by our media appearances as we have many projects with a social impact. Our most successful venture focused on healthcare and 3D printing for medical devices.
Q: As a scientific innovation center, what are the challenges to turn an initiative into a full-scale company?
A: There are two main problems that we have struggled with. The first is the indispensable need for financial support. The national funding environment is ignorant of the investment needed for innovation in healthcare. Returns are slow and it has been hard to find investors who have an understanding of how slow financial processes in the healthcare sector are.
The second struggle has been regulations. COFEPRIS is one of the government’s greatest barriers as it has around 60,000 applications on hold and around 20,00 of those are lost. An urgent delivery to COFEPRIS takes around a year and a half to get a response, which is a great barrier for innovation. Moreover, the commission lacks proper knowledge about medical devices and it follows foreign guidelines, leaving aside the local understanding of a process. Many entrepreneurs also have little knowledge of the requirements from sanitary authorities and this can mean redoing a whole process to get applications right. We have a service called inMateriis training to educate entrepreneurs on regulatory requirements, from medical device development to building a dossier for an application.
Q: What alliances or partnerships have been essential for inMateriis’ success?
A: We have a strategic alliance with the UDG and together we work on projects, research papers, scientific publications and joint thesis projects. We have two medical devices undergoing clinical trials at Hospital Civil de Guadalajara. inMateriis supports other entrepreneurs because we know the environment and we like to share our experience. Another company, Pragmatec, has been with us along this journey and working with them has also helped us grow.
Commercially speaking, inMateriis is still looking for a commercial partner interested in distributing what we develop. Our market growth has been driven mostly by word of mouth.
Q: What is the company doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Taking advantage of our 3D printing equipment, we began manufacturing protection masks. We are also working on developing supplies for COVID-19 PCR tests, like swabs and parts for the diagnostic machine. For these PCR tests, we are allied with one large hospital in Guadalajara.
Q: How does the company promote breast cancer awareness?
A: One of the projects we are working on is called Cali. This project is being developed by a student who saw the struggle of breast cancer patients when his mom suffered from the disease. He recognized that not all patients want to undergo reconstructive surgery. However, self-esteem and confidence are greatly affected by this ailment, so he developed an external prosthesis with an aesthetic function that also helps to balance the weight of the breast.
inMateriis is a scientific innovation center dedicated to the development of new technologies in materials sciences with a focus on additive manufacturing processes. The company provides consulting services and materials development