Photo: Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider
How do you start a biotech company when you have no money?Do it yourself like Caleb Bell.
Bell got his Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry from Stanford last year. After sinking more than $20,000 of his own money to start Bell Biosystems, Bell is eating with food stamps, crashing in his friend’s basement, and hauling lab equipment around the country to work out of free lab space.
He explained what gets him out of bed: he believes he’s cracked the code of life by figuring out how literally how to control cells. Cell-based therapies, although riddled with many stumbling blocks now, may one day cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.
In just six months, Bell says, he showed that magnetized cells could be traced within the body. His eventual goal is to give researchers the tools they need to control cells after they’re injected into humans.
“Tons of people told us what we are trying to do is impossible, but we proved them wrong. You just find a way. If you see the science and you have the passion — you find a way,” Bell told us after his presentation at StartX‘s demo day in Palo Alto.
Normally, it costs $2 million to build out a lab. But Bell had trouble convincing investors that his idea was worth funding. That was frustrating, so he cut out the step of getting funding and tried out his idea in the lab first.
“When we first came out and tried to raise money, and submit grants — everyone said what we were trying to do was crazy. They didn’t have the vision. True innovation comes in the face of conventional wisdom,” Bell said. “The biotech century is coming up.”
That said, Bell and his team are looking to raise $1.5 million. But until then, Bell will continue to live a scrappy lifestyle to keep the company alive.