Science Spinoff

Brena Thompson
Brena Thompson, a Washington State University graduate student in chemistry, performs work in a WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences lab on the health sciences campus in Spokane. WSU’s new Spokane incubator offers foundational resources for the next generation of cutting-edge companies and researchers like Thompson.

WSU incubator and life-sciences hub Spinout Space, or sp³nw, launches in Spokane

written by Kevin Max
Photos by WSU Health Sciences Spokane

“Right after this call, I will be starting another company with a former student,” Washington State University Professor Glenn Prestwich said as casually as telling a friend he was starting to read a new book.

This startup, called Maana Discoveries, targets treatments for middle ear infections and develops medical devices and recently received a $7.5 million grant from the Office of Naval Research. Maana Discoveries also marks the tenth company Prestwich has co-founded. Some past companies include Echelon Biosciences, BioTime, Sentrx Animal Care, GlycoMira Therapeutics, Metallosensors and Deuteria Agrochemicals.

Scenes like this will become increasingly common at Washington State University’s new incubator, Spinout Space in Spokane, or sp³nw, a university hub led by Prestwich to launch life sciences companies, primarily from student and faculty work.

The concept began more than a year ago, when Prestwich and WSU Health Sciences Vice President and Chancellor Daryll DeWald seized an opportunity. “In this case, there was a building that the university wanted to use for an incubator but didn’t know how to do it,” said Prestwich. “I convinced [DeWald] that a health science-focused incubator may be a good use for it.”

Glenn Prestwich is an expert in university tech transfer—how to commercialize university ideas and research.

Prestwich, a professor of medical chemistry and accomplished musician, is no stranger to the niche of university tech transfer. At the University of Utah, he created and directed the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars program, a vehicle for faculty to commercialize their ideas and research. In the early ’90s, Prestwich helped launch the Long Island High Tech Incubator and sits on the advisory board of the Center for Biotechnology at Stony Brook University in New York.

The newly launched Spokane incubator brings together students, faculty and outside expertise in the former Ignite Northwest building on the edge of the WSU campus. Within its walls are the foundational pieces for the next generation of cutting-edge companies.

Over the past year and while the program was being built, sp³nw has been involved with starting twelve companies, recruiting two to three existing companies and partnering with thirty mentors across disciplines and sectors and as many affiliates.

“I agonized about who to include as an affiliate,” Prestwich said. “I wanted entities that offered a valuable service and cared about their community.” These include executive coaches, people who understand intellectual property and regulatory issues, product designers, prototypers, CFOs and comptrollers.

Though the new space in Spokane may be its headquarters, sp³nw is already expanding to other WSU campuses around the state, including Everett, Pullman, Vancouver and Tri-Cities as well as into Idaho, through partnerships with other universities.

While Prestwich keeps an allegro tempo in expanding networks and resources for startups, his respite is his 1924 Baldwin piano, an incubator for his original compositions.   

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