Ivar Giaever

How to Start a Scientific Business?

Tuesday, 26 June 2001
14:10 - 14:40 hrs CEST


The main reason to start a business is probably to try to get rich, but my motivations were different (not that I mind making money). For a long time I have worked in the area of biophysics. Unfortunately it is difficult to get funding for interdisciplinary research in USA, despite claims to the contrary from funding agencies. Then I became aware of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, applied for a grant and was successful. What I am trying to do is to automate the study of cells in tissue culture. The standard way to study these cells is to simply look at the cells with an optical microscope and describe what you see. I together with my co-workers have developed a very different method to study cell behavior in tissue culture by using computer-controlled electrical measurements that we refer to as Electrical Cell-surface Impedance Sensing or ECIS for short. Progress in science and engineering very often depends on new instrumentation that can measure processes more accurately or measure processes that one never could quantify before. The ECIS instrument represents such a break-through, and now we only hope more people will agree with us and buy the system. In the process I have a more significant impact on science by supplying the right scientific instruments than by just writing papers. The paper briefly recounts my experiences as I tried to enter into the commercial sphere.

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