Vermont Biosciences Alliance Fall Newsletter

Fall Newsletter 
VBSA was created to foster recognition of medicine and bioscience as a leading industry in the Vermont region and promote economic and human well-being by strengthening sector attention, research resources, and venture growth. To the businesses and organizations who are currently members, thank you for supporting the bioscience industry in Vermont.

Join Vermont Biosciences Alliance and Vermont Technology Alliance on December 6 from 
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm at Queen City Brewery on Pine Street in Burlington, VT.  Enjoy a craft beer and pizza while networking.  There is no charge for this event.  To register to attend click here.
This 3-day immersive course covering the Innovation Engineering fundamentals that "make innovation possible, practical, and easy" will be held October 25, November 1, and November 8 at Norwich University. 
Industry News
The NIH is encouraging innovation in the arena of 3D microphysiological tissue modeling by supporting the development of new "tissue chips" through 13 two-year awards. Tissue chips are tiny platforms supporting live tissues intended to model human physiology on the micro scale more accurately than conventional animal or cell models. In the second phase of the program, the NIH is encouraging researchers to partner with bioscience companies to use the newly developed chips for disease therapy testing.  
As part of BioTek's on-going growth, the company announced the opening of an office in Dubai U.A.E. The new office is intended to grow BioTek's customer base in the Middle East and North Africa by providing increased access to product trainings and technical support. 
Education News
Three faculty researchers from local universities - UVM, Norwich, and Dartmouth - won funding in the recent round of EPSCoR awards aimed at supporting individual researchers in building career-long collaborations. These fellowship awards support non-tenure track researchers in building relationships with laboratories and research centers, establishing research partnerships, and gaining access to new equipment and learning new techniques, among other benefits. 
Beginning this academic year, UVM and ACPHS will offer a dual Bachelor's and Pharm.D. degree program to eligible students, allowing them to complete both degrees in seven years instead of the traditional eight years. Both schools look forward to collaboratively providing this program to students, as the field of pharmacy has historically offered solid career opportunities and the role of pharmacists in today's healthcare system is anticipated to expand and diversify. 
BioTek has donated to support UVM's under-construction STEM complex, envisioned as a state-of-the-art interconnected complex of laboratories, classrooms, and research facilities that will be the foundation of UVM's future STEM education and research. UVM considers the new STEM complex to be its highest construction priority, as the project will modernize facilities for key science and math departments, including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Statistics, and Computer Science. 
VTC and the Vermont Small Business Development Center hosted the Fresh Tracks Road Pitch competition this summer, where bikers who are business leaders and investors take a 5-day motorcycle trip around Vermont, stopping at participating locations to listen to emerging entrepreneurs and provide advice. Both VTC and the VtSBDC actively promote entrepreneurship and business development in Vermont through educational opportunities.

Member Profile
Kerry Swift and the Office of Technology Commercialization

It usually isn't good news when your researchers tell you, "We totally messed up this experiment, but..." yet for Kerry Swift, Technology Licensing Officer for UVM's Office of Technology Commercialization, that's exactly the story she wants to hear. Swift explained to me recently that the best inventions always seem to come out of botched experiments giving surprising results. She's in a position to know: she's helped hundreds of researchers over the last 19 years with identifying discoveries that have commercialization potential and then sending those projects off on their technology transfer journey.

As a Technology Licensing Officer, Swift's role starts at the very beginning. Her goal is to help researchers over hurdles on the long road to making a new technology a reality. Just what that help looks like can be very different case-by-case. She could provide resources and advice to assist with researching and securing patents, early prototyping, building a new company around the new discovery, finding an industry collaboration, or licensing the discovery to an existing company. As I understood it, she doesn't so much help start-ups, as help start-ups get started.

Swift didn't set out to work in technology transfer. She was in a Molecular and Microbiology PhD program at Tufts University, but was frustrated with the narrow focus of academic research. Along the way she met a clinician who was also a researcher conducting experiments using bacillus spores for vaccine delivery. Swift was drawn to the practical applications of that research and ultimately learned about the technology transfer field.
Swift may work on technology transfer now, but a foundation in biology has been invaluable to all the biotechnology transfers she handles. About 60% of UVM's research funding is tied to biomedical fields. Unsurprisingly, the Office of Technology Commercialization is equally focused on bioscience technologies. And a big bonus for Swift? She can have a broad focus: researchers come to her with projects across many biology- and medicine-related fields.
One of the biggest questions on Swift's mind these days is, "How can we grow Vermont bioscience companies?" She's seen a lot of new companies or collaborations start out of state, but she'd like to see more of these budding bioscience technologies stay closer to home. She cites therapeutic and pre-clinical discoveries as especially difficult to establish in Vermont. Part of the difficulty is money: therapeutic and pre-clinical technologies are often long-term, expensive investments and most investors with enough capital are located in Boston or California. Another challenge facing new Vermont bioscience companies is finding the right people. People with pre-clinical drug development experience have a unique skill set and also tend to congregate around the money.

While the Office of Technology Commercialization, the State of Vermont, and the VBSA are still working to understand all of the challenges that face future Vermont bioscience start-ups, Swift is confident the VBSA will be a key partner in growing a thriving bioscience ecosystem. She was part of the early conversations that shaped the vision of the VBSA as connecting what would otherwise be isolated companies, and in the years since she's seen the VBSA do "a great job of networking our small but vibrant community."

Looking to the future, Swift plans to continue supporting the bioscience ecosystem in Vermont by building and growing bioscience companies "in a Vermont way". She hopes she'll have opportunities to work with VBSA member companies that are interested in collaborating with UVM researchers. She adds, "anyone who's looking for a new technology to build a company around, we've got that!"

For an illustrated look at the tech transfer process click here


VT EPSCoR SBIR/STTR Phase (0) provides Vermont based businesses the opportunity to compete for up to $15,000
  • The main goal of the Vermont ESPCoR Phase (0) solicitation is to identify proposals that show promise for success in federal SBIR competitions.
  • One award will also be made in areas of interest to NASA using NASA EPSCoR funds, contingent upon the availability of FY19 funds.
  • Funding period is May 1, 2018 - April 30, 2019.
  • Due date for proposals is February 7, 2018 by 4:00 p.m.
Please read the full RFP for more details and submission instructions. RFP, online application and additional information can be found at the  SBIR/STTR Phase (0) Page.
VT EPSCoR Pilot Awards for Faculty - Small Business Partnerships provides the opportunity to compete for up to $10,000
  • Projects must be complementary to VT EPSCoR Basin Resilience to Extreme Events in the Lake Champlain Basin (BREE) research.
  • Awards are for innovation; and to move research forward.
  • Collaborators from higher education institutions and small businesses (under 500 employees) registered in Vermont are eligible to apply. All Pilot Award proposals must be submitted by a higher education small business partnership.
  • Funding period is May 1, 2018 - April 30, 2019.
  • Due date for proposals is February 21, 2018 by 4:00 p.m.
Please read the full RFP for more details and submission instructions. RFP, online application and additional information can be found at the  Pilot Awards Page.
Have questions, or need help with your proposal?
Please email  or call (802) 656-7931

News: If your business has announcements, milestones, or projects they would like to share with the VBSA community, please get in touch with us! You can email your news and information to Susan Fayette.
Membership: If you are interested in bioscience entrepreneurship in Vermont, join the VBSA! Expand your professional network and keep current on news and opportunities in bioscience right here in Vermont. Joining the VBSA sends a message of support for Vermont bioscience companies and organizations.   Click here   for more on the benefits of joining the VBSA and to sign up.
Twitter:  Connect with VBSA on Twitter at
Member Benefit
Cost Savings Program for Shipping Services with UPS

BIO Business Solutions uses the buying power of the entire industry to deliver to every member - as a FREE benefit through your membership with VBSA your business qualifies for this discount - exclusive deep savings and premier services from UPS.  

Click here for more information and to enroll