Those Poor Zebra Muscles: Our Behind The Scenes Hidden Role In Making A Difference
There are many reasons for why a technology succeeds to be commercialized. On one end, you need the passionate, dogged inventor with the vision and a great invention that solves a real problem – Dan Malloy. On the other end, you need the entrepreneurial company and management who will provide the business acumen to mold a solution from the attributes and features of the early stage lab technology – Marrone Biosciences. In the middle, you need individuals and groups like MindForce, IP and transaction attorneys and usually investors to help make it happen.
Without tooting our own horn too much, when I saw the following headline, “EPA Approves Zequanox(R) for Invasive Mussel Control in Open Water” on July 8, 2014, I had one of those self-satisfying moments where the behind-the-scene role I played was critical and, literally, without my efforts, the likelihood of this outcome might never have occurred.
Back in 2007, I had volunteered to work with the entrepreneur (and company that was going to license the technology) to guide, review and help structure their Phase II commercialization plan for a $500,000 National Science Foundation SBIR grant. I made a measurable impact and they received the grant.
About two years later I was asked by the entrepreneur to assist him in getting the 3rd party license negotiated and agreed to between his organization and the 3rd party, Marrone Bio Innovations (now a public company, but then a private company). First, we brought in a law firm that separately contracted with the entrepreneur’s organization to prepare, negotiate and finalize a license agreement. Second, I worked with the law firm to negotiate the deal, often playing the middle man between us and the licensee to get certain aspects of the deal agreed to.
Fittingly upon a signed license agreement, I received a very nice thank you bottle of champagne with zebra muscles attached (see picture). Even more fittingly 4+ years later, about two weeks ago, I read about the technology’s EPA approval.
It’s a great feeling to make a difference. I will forever be armed with the knowledge of the role I played –in a very small way — has contributed to eradicating the zebra muscles problem in our clean water lakes and rivers in our country and world. As Dan told me after I congratulated him by email two weeks ago, “Rob, you were the right person in the right place to get it done.” It’s great to be that guy!