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Ancora Pharmaceuticals Triumphs in $50K Contest

By Jonathan T. Wang


Ancora Pharmaceuticals, a biotechnology company which intends to develop complex carbohydrates for use as drugs, won the 2002 MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.

“[Ancora Pharmaceuticals’] goal [is] to build the world’s premier carbohydrate-based pharmaceutical company,” said team leader Jeremy Bender G. The firm holds a total of thirteen patents and pending patents.

Ancora Pharmaceuticals’ role in the development of carbohydrate drugs is centered around the synthesis of novel carbohydrates. The company’s automated technology is able to markedly speed synthesis of these molecules. A structure that might take a top academic lab four months to make, Bender said, could be synthesized in two days by his company’s technology; a structure that would take a year to synthesize using current methods could be made in three days.

The first runner-up was FishLogic, a company that designs semiconductors utilizing Media Lab technology to build improved digital signal processors using analog circuits. The second runner-up was Greenfuel, a company with technology to use algae to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxides in electric power generation.

Ancora Pharmaceuticals was selected from seven finalists and was awarded $30,000; FishLogic and Greenfuel were awarded $10,000 each.

McGovern delivers keynote

Patrick J. McGovern ’59, chairman of the board of International Data Group, delivered the keynote address for the event. McGovern urged the audience to always remain focused on serving its customers, saying that “customer contact is like oxygen.” He warned against planning too far ahead and “working the plan instead of working the market.”

McGovern inspected the role of competition in a successful business. Rather than focusing on the competition presented by other firms in the marketplace, McGovern suggested that competition be used as a tool to increase productivity.

Advice for entrepreneurs offered

He encouraged entrepreneurs to decentralize their companies to assign individuals substantial independence so that workers in the company will be passionate about their jobs. Competition within the company as a result of this individual passion, McGovern explained, would be an effective motivator to increase productivity.

McGovern encouraged entrepreneurs to start by building a customer base. Establishing a customer base early, McGovern said, allows the firm to significantly reduce risk. Customers committed to a firm’s future products have their interests intimately tied to the entrepreneur’s interests; thus, the firm can turn to its customers for advice in developing its products and for funding to carry products to completion. McGovern warned against seeing investors as a customer base, as seen in the recent economic bubble of quick create-and-sell companies. Rather, McGovern turned the question on its head, saying that entrepreneurs should “look to [their] customer base as a way of raising money.”