We mentioned Science Exchange, a website for bidding on and soliciting of scientific services, when they launched in 2011, but haven’t heard much about it since. We ran into some of the Science Exchange staff at TEDMED last week and thought we would ask them some questions about how the market for scientific service providers has matured. Bilal Mahmood heads Customer Development at Science Exchange, guiding marketing, advertising, and strategic initiatives. He was previously a policy analyst at the US Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and a Gates Cambridge Scholar studying biotechnology and business.
Dan Buckland, Medgadget: How many projects have you facilitated since launch and what is the range of services that have been offered and purchased through Science Exchange so far?
Bilal Mahmood: Science Exchange offers over 4700 services from 1000 providers at university institutions and commercial research organizations. We host services ranging from biological to chemical, including next gen sequencing, chemical synthesis, and spectroscopy. We have over a hundred projects going through the platform every month, and have been growing significantly as we expand our market outreach and services offered.
Medgadget: How do you see the market for scientific services growing or changing in the next few years?
Mahmood: We feel that with the research landscape becoming highly specialized, it will be increasingly difficult for investigators to perform all their experiments independently. Especially with the costs of regular services such as sequencing and molecular cloning dropping, it will become much more cost-effective to find expert vendors to perform a service than doing it themselves.
The coming years will also see a shift in research outcomes as more emphasis is placed on quality and reproducibility than novelty. With several reports showing a majority of landmark papers to lack reproducible outcomes, and increasing scrutiny from the public and funding bodies, there will likely be increased utilization of expert service providers to provide quality results and validations of past studies.
Medgadget: What are the major gaps that you see in the types of services provided?
Mahmood: Science Exchange is currently focused on preclinical biological and chemical services, so a majority of our customers are based in those disciplines. We hope to expand to more clinical and engineering services over the coming year.
Medgadget: How would a DIY scientist or engineer bid on the services on your site? Do you need an institutional affiliation to purchase or offer services?
Mahmood: We have many independent and DIY scientists who have used Science Exchange in their research. Individuals have requested HPLC, molecular cloning, and even sequencing through our platform, to save on the up-front capital costs associated with the respective services. While anyone can request or order a service, we currently only allow shared resource facilities, university core facilities, and commercial CROs or small biotechs to bid on projects. This allows us to ensure quality and reproducibility of outcomes, and ensure standard business practices are in place at the respective institution.
Link: Science Exchange…