For life science entrepreneurs, success comes in many forms: seed funding, achieving proof of concept, getting to clinical trials, or whatever that next major milestone may be. For one JLABS company, Adhesys Medical, success came this past April in the form of acquisition.
Adhesys Medical, a startup collocated in the US and Germany, develops polyurethane-based medical adhesives for use on the skin and inside the body. Derived from a technology that was originally developed in 2007, the Adhesys technology/science was founded in 2013 in Aachen, Germany with the intent of bringing the sealants to market.
“Once we were established and raised the capital to buy the patents, we knew we had to put ourselves out there to get the funding to commercialize our technology,” said Alexander Schueller, president of Adhesys. “Looking at the current industry landscape, it was clear the best path to widespread recognition and funding is through competitions, so we began entering startup challenges all over the world.”
While at a competition in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Schueller and his team learned about the Rice University Business Plan Competition in Houston, Texas. With a large amount of prize money at stake, and a budding life sciences community in Texas, Adhesys came to Houston in 2014 to enter and ultimately win Rice University’s prestigious Business Plan competition. After taking home the top prize and more than $500,000, Adhesys attracted the attention of local investors who ultimately convinced the team to relocate and set up operations in the Lone Star State.
The timing was perfect. In 2015, the Texas Medical Center Innovation Institute was ramping up its operations, and had just opened applications for the inaugural TMCx accelerator program. The goal of the program was to provide startup companies with shared workspace, a curriculum tailored to the needs of healthcare entrepreneurs, along with guidance from over 120 advisors on the front lines of the industry.
Adhesys applied and was one of only 20 companies accepted. Through a carefully curated curriculum, Adhesys further developed its strategy by taking full advantage of all the TMCx had to offer: workshops, hands-on events, and access to experts in every facet of running a health-related business.
The most crucial piece for Schueller and his team, were the connections they were making in Houston, and throughout the Texas Medical Center. It was during this time that Johnson & Johnson Innovation chose Houston as its next location for JLABS, and as luck would have it, was being built right next door to TMCx.
Curious about JLABS and what Johnson & Johnson Innovation could offer, Adhesys applied for the JLABS @ TMC QuickFire Challenge, with the prize being one year of residency at JLABS. Thanks to the strong financial backing from the Rice Business Plan win, and the maturity the company went through at TMCx, Adhesys was one of four winners in the QuickFire Challenge and moved into JLABS on opening day, March 1, 2016.
“When you’re trying to raise money, all investors want to know what the major players think of your solution,” explained Schueller. “Being in JLABS proved that we were being taken seriously by the largest player in the market.”
Additionally, Alex and his team were introduced to Ibraheem Badejo, Sr. Director for New Ventures at the Boston Innovation Center. “Ibraheem was a great partner to us.,” said Schueller. “To this day, I still consider him a mentor, and he remains a key supporter of Adhesys.”
On April 7, 2017, it was announced that Adhesys had been acquired by the Grunenthal Group for an undisclosed sum. As they continue to work towards commercialization, Adhesys will maintain its office space at JLABS @ TMC.
This meteoric rise and fast acquisition seems textbook in the startup world, but Schueller acknowledges that things don’t always work this way. He attributes their immediate success to three factors:
- The technology: He knew they had something special, and the consistent validation and recommendations they received from industry players helped propel the company forward.
- The right team: Schueller and his cofounders all believed in what they were doing, and their unwavering commitment convinced a slew of industry veterans to believe in them too.
- Awareness: Winning the Rice Business Plan Competition gave Adhesys exposure in a budding Houston ecosystem, which gave the company the chance to quickly rise to the top of the radar. Being in Houston gave them much-needed exposure to the right hospitals, the right investors, and the right industry partners.
When asked what advice he would give to budding entrepreneurs, Schueller quotes Seneca the Younger “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Not only being prepared for when an opportunity presents itself, but creating your own opportunities as well.
From all of us at JLABS, congratulations to Adhesys Medical!