Q&A  | 

David Pastorino: the success of technology transfer

Tags: 'Future of work' 'Inteligencia artificial' 'Tecnología'


Reading Time: 4 minutes

David Pastorino has a PhD in Biomaterials, Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, is co-founder of Mimetis Biomaterials, and current CEO of Zygoma ZAGA Centers.

With a career linked to technology transfer, Pastorino tells The Collider about the latest health-related innovations and trends. He also reveals that fear management is key in successful entrepreneurship, which is something he learned during his career as a professional cyclist.

What is your job as CEO of Zygoma ZAGA Centers?

My job involves managing a global network of famous dentists and clinics to offer a solution to any patient without teeth. We also work with all kinds of dental implant to offer fixed teeth to any patient in less than 24 hours.  

What encouraged you to create Mimetis Biomaterials and now head ZAGA Centers?

At Mimetis Biomaterials , the initial motivation came about by chance: I was investigating a biomaterial project on bone regeneration when a surgeon visited the lab, saw what we were doing and said that he wanted it. Despite our profound lack of business knowledge, we accepted the challenge: to create the company, manage the regulatory part, the clinical trials, etc., all with the ongoing support of the technology transfer team at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. The enthusiasm of Óscar Carbó and of co-founding professors Maria Pau Ginebra and Xavier Gil was crucial.   

When Mimetis started to grow, I decided to remain on the board of directors and use the services of an external CEO, and we established  ZAGA Centers with one of the initial investors. Like all projects, it was initially scarcely defined but we have progressed over one year to discover what clinics and patients are really looking for. And the project is now defined.



What steps did Mimetis follow until its takeover and why did you decide to sell the startup?

Mimetis took the typical path of a biomedical startup: the researchers established the company, we received support from several governments and private investors, we conducted clinical trials, and we signed agreements with major distributors to expand the technology. However, as a result of the pandemic, the Swiss company we were working with decided not to launch the product. They suggested the idea of the takeover during negotiations. We didn’t want to sell so early on, but it was the best alternative. 

What factors do you believe to be key in developing a successful biotech startup?

The skills of the team: each individual must know what to do and be good at what they do. Motivation starts at home.  

It is also essential to have a varied board of directors formed by entrepreneurs for whom this is not their first company, to avoid mistakes already made, and by experienced industry professionals who are extremely familiar with the business world and give completely different opinions.  

Is technology transfer deep rooted in Barcelona, Spain and Europe?

Yes. The existing gap between research and business creation is covered. Technology transfer has improved so much that – and I say this with the greatest respect – I don’t think some entrepreneurs should have started a business, either because it isn’t what they wanted to do or because it doesn’t motivate them enough, which isn’t good for projects.  

Technological transfer in itself works, but the limitations arise once the company has been created. The current metrics, such as the number of companies or the time a company exists, are not necessarily the right ones. A fundamental metric is the time that a company needs to become viable.  

What are the barriers for scientific enterprise and how are they overcome?

The main barrier is a fear of becoming an entrepreneur. You have to have a lot of faith or a very favourable environment to set up a company after finishing your PhD or master’s degree.

What is the state of research in biomaterials, biomechanics and tissue engineering and what business opportunities are there in these areas?

There are many lines of research. The innovation nearest the market at present is a plasma-based treatment, which is already patented and is called APACHE. This allows for cancer cells, particularly dormant stem cells, to be targeted to prevent the cancer from reappearing. I think this treatment has the potential to become a spin off or a startup 

Which technologies or trends do you think will have the greatest impact on the field of health?

Targeting, focusing solutions that exclusively treat the painful area and not the entire body to avoid side effects. If we focus on the molecule, the cell or the problematic bacteria, we can treat the problem and not trigger others.  

Targeting is in line with preventing overmedication, an interesting trend already incorporated by several companies. Another significant trend is linked to dermatology and microbiome, and there are now companies that have been able to treat what were previously untreatable skin problems, such as herpes.  

Why are initiatives such as The Collider and PUZZLE X important?

To cover the gap I mentioned before: the one generated once the company has been created. The keyword to define The Collider and PUZZLE X is connectors. They connect all stakeholders, not just technology and scientists.  

What advice would you give to a scientist wanting to start a business?

First, ask yourself very seriously whether setting up a business is what you really want to do. This is a decision that will greatly affect your life.  

Secondly, learn to manage the fear of failure and the fear of success, both of which are closely linked to entrepreneurship. I was afraid of success for six years during my professional cycling career. Something always happened whenever I was winning. I discussed this with an expert, and finally won the championship during my last year. You can only get rid of fear once you realise that you are afraid and how it affects you.