A medical campus leader

A medical campus leader

A medical campus leader

Vic Nole had spent the past decade trying to help medical companies commercialize products and technologies when, in 2014, he was hired to do a similar job on behalf of an entire region.

Nole is director of business development for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., a process that involves getting personally involved with companies on the medical campus and building broader strategies to support their growth.

BNMC Inc. owns several facilities that house high-tech companies and also exists to serve other major commercialization actors on the campus, including the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Nole holds an important job on the campus, where the combined public and private investment of the last 10 years has been more than $1 billion, partly to improve health care in Buffalo but also to help generate a new economy.

How would you describe your job? Part of it is working with small teams to help them build business models to commercialize a product or technology. BNMC Inc. doesn’t have a huge staff or depth of knowledge in that area, so we rely on our network to facilitate introductions and access to resources. Another area is working with our member institutions on the medical campus, helping them map out assets and open doors so we can market a broader capability outside of Buffalo in the hopes of attracting new companies.

What kind of environment are you trying to build for startups? We’re trying to provide workspace, education, access to business resources and then networking opportunities, and to put in place infrastructure and amenities in those four areas. Then any company that is part of the campus community can plug into any of those things. They can come to me and say, “Hey, do you know an expert in regulatory affairs?” Or “Can you help me sell my product in China?” There is still a lot of work to do. Lab facilities are quickly filling up across campus. Our mentor network still needs to grow. We recently launched our i4 Studio (in collaboration with SUNY Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity), a creativity lab that’s part of our evolving education program.

The campus is a widely used symbol of Buffalo’s economic resurgence. Is there real momentum here? The reason the campus has been so successful is that everyone is working together. Three years ago, we had 35 to 40 companies on the campus; now there are more than 120, and nearly 50 of them are in life sciences. Ten years ago, most intellectual property generated at the University at Buffalo or Roswell Park Cancer Institute got licensed and went outside of Buffalo. We’re finally at a point where we have enough infrastructure, processes and systems in place, and enough collaboration between our members, that we can design and launch our own life sciences companies. The growth is good but we still need critical mass. When I am out in Boston talking to investors, you need a certain amount of companies to get them on a plane. If you tell them you have 200 companies, it’s going to catch their attention.

What do you think the future of the campus holds? I’m bullish. Some of these companies are going to start to emerge and catch the attention of people outside the area. The image of the campus has grown, which is helping us attract more talent and more money. And as you start to bring in more assets, it just accelerates your programs. So I would think that if we’re sitting here today at 120 companies, we could double that in five years.

Dan Miner covers startups, education, manufacturing and public companies.