Adam Zlotnick's research is showcased leading into the next-level of innovation by the Indianapolis Business Journal. The IBJ acknowledged Zlotnick as an "influential serial entrepreneur”. The researchers interviewed for this article varied from Indiana higher education institutions, expertise, but all with the common ground of highlighting the importance of continuous research. The IBJ article identifies the connection between science and entrepreneurial advancement.
Indianapolis Business Journal
"University researchers make discoveries count as entrepreneurs"- John Russell
For years, Zlotnick found himself driven to understand how viruses spontaneously assemble and infect people. As he studied the physics of virus assembly, he came to see they used many copies of the same protein to build an elegant structure. He compares it to throwing a deck of cards into the air and having them form into a miniature Taj Mahal 99 times out of 100.
Zlotnick has focused on one particular virus, hepatitis B, which currently afflicts 257 million people worldwide and kills about 1 million annually. In his work, he searched for molecules that would start interfering with the assembly process.
In 2012, he formed a company, Assembly Pharmaceuticals, with entrepreneur Derek Small. (Other early collaborators were IU chemistry professor Richard DiMarchi and Uri Lopatin, a former research executive at Gilead Sciences.)
Two years later, the company merged with Ventrus Biosciences, a publicly traded biotech in New York, turning Assembly into a public company. It later changed its name to Assembly Biosciences, and Small became CEO in 2015.
In the meantime, Zlotnick, 58, recently formed another startup, Door Pharmaceuticals LLC, which also deals with viruses and assembly issues.
How long have you had the entrepreneurial bug?
"If I would pick a date, maybe 15 years ago when we first started realizing we could actually stop hepatitis B."
What does the term “serial entrepreneur” mean to you?
"In science, an entrepreneur is someone who wants to take basic research and make it practically applicable. A real serial entrepreneur is someone who has many companies to their name. I’m likely to become one, but right now I can only take credit for one company."
Your proudest accomplishment?
"I was a graduate student at Purdue and I thought my thesis project wasn’t going to work, so I built my own computational model back in 1994 of what I thought virus assembly should look like. That remains one of the standards in the field."
Your biggest frustration?
"There is a continuous battle—if you aren’t working closely with industry, then you have to go for government funding, and that is extraordinarily competitive. There have been times when I’ve had inadequate funding. So finding money and keeping the machine rolling is the biggest single setback I have had."
What can Indiana do to encourage more entrepreneurship at universities?
"What Indiana should do is make the paths toward corporate development better established and easier for a novice to follow. If you’re in a place with a long history of commercialization, all the rules are established and there’s essentially a recipe book that can be followed. But in Indiana, we don’t have that yet."
To read the entire article "University researchers make discoveries count as entrepreneurs", visit the Indianapolis Business Journal: