Former Executive Director, CEBIP
It makes sense that Anil Dhundale’s influence on the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) would extend back before there was a CEBIP, since his experience with biotechnology predates biotechnology itself.
Now retired (and loving it), the former CEBIP director – who earned his PhD in molecular biology from Stony Brook University in 1987 – was drawing and testing blood samples before biotechnology was even recognized as its own field.
And he was there forming proposals and pulling strings when CEBIP was born, based largely on Dr. Dhundale’s decades of experience at OSI Pharmaceuticals, SBU’s Center for Biotechnology and the Long Island High Technology Incubator.
While working through the early 1970s with a chemistry degree from Queens College and toward a master’s degree in medical technology from LIU Post, young Dhundale was employed as a med-tech at North Shore Hospital, a small community hospital in Manhasset yet to evolve into the North Shore-LIJ (now Northwell) Health System.
Hospital administrators encouraged the med-tech to continue schooling. As he pursued that PhD through the 1980s, biotechnology developed as a field, and while his studies had little to do with cancer or drug discovery, his PhD advisor encouraged the bright grad student to take an interview with a relatively new, rapidly growing biotech company, then in Mineola, called Oncogene Science Inc.
Company executives offered him a job on the spot. Surprised and thrilled, he talked over the opportunity with his wife and quickly accepted the position, “starting in a new field, the business of biotechnology, at an early-stage company with real promise.”
It wasn’t the last time the scientist would pivot so nimbly. His path from company laboratories to the CEBIP director’s office is replete with sharp turns and forward leaps, a study in adaptability. And each new experience would influence the steady hand he’d bring to CEBIP’s wheel.
Over 10 years at Oncogene Science, which would become OSI Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Dhundale was immersed in diagnostics and drug discovery, with an additional education on the realities of cancer. It was also a crash course in business management: OSI switched its business model often, starting as two divisions developing cancer-focused pharmaceuticals and diagnostics and later exploring many potential verticals, including a research products division, the bottling and selling of antibodies and DNA probes to third party researchers, and the development of one FDA approved diagnostic “a DNA translocation probe kit” to detect a rare leukemia.
Dr. Dhundale was responsible for the group that developed “DNA probes” and the FDA approved diagnostic kit. “I’d never been exposed to sales or product development like that,” he notes. “But we would pick, make, package and ship the products, make up product sheets, troubleshoot customer experiments using our kits … it was nice exposure for me, and it was a lot of fun.”
When OSI was ready to commercialize its leukemia-sensing translocation kit, Dr. Dhundale helped secure FDA approval and created a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-approved laboratory specifically to manufacture, package and sell the product, another education unto itself. “Making and selling a research product is relatively easy,” he notes. “Designing and managing a GMP-approved diagnostic laboratory includes a lot of regulation. It was tough, but with a hard-working and focused group we passed FDA inspections with flying colors.”
Now OSI was knee-deep in the biotech industry’s three primary verticals: developing research technologies, developing diagnostic products and developing pharmaceuticals. And when OSI ultimately sold off its research and diagnostics businesses and expanded its therapeutic operations beyond cancer, Dr. Dhundale found himself learning another new role, this time focused on drug discovery.
Many successful SBIR grant proposals set the new OSI on the trail of groundbreaking therapeutics for cardiovascular conditions, infectious diseases and other diseases, attracting multiple large pharma companies to partner with OSI.
The company designed and built high-throughput screening robotics and hired research-support techs to support these collaborations; even Dr. Dhundale’s early experience in managing an automated med-tech laboratory factored in, helping OSI develop better quality-control procedures for its robotic operations. He also did participate, with many others, in discovery of what later became Tarceva, OSI’s biggest pharmaceutical success. “It was an honor to be invited to celebrate this success.”
By the time Dr. Dhundale crossed paths with Diane Fabel – both were volunteer judges at a regional high school science fair – virtually every laboratory-science experience short of human clinical trials was stapled to his curriculum vitae.
He was happy at OSI, but Fabel – director of operations at SBU’s Center for Biotechnology – encouraged Dr. Dhundale to meet entrepreneurial SBU faculty and center staff. As impressed with them as they were with him, the scientist “took the leap” and became the center’s scientific director, helping entrepreneurial faculty secure grants and move their technologies toward patents at SBU and then commercialization, some were licensed, and some were a basis for new incubator companies.
A full decade of that work prepared Dr. Dhundale for his biggest leaps yet: first taking the reins of the Long Island High Technology Incubator, then becoming the first executive director of the ambitious Clean Energy Business Incubator Program.
Both positions brought yet another new industry – clean energy – under Dr. Dhundale’s purview. And while he had the requisite startup-mentoring experience, clean energy was not yet his forte.
Enter Dave Hamilton, a clean-energy engineer and industry veteran with a successful business track record and the precise knowhow necessary to complement Dr. Dhundale and mentor entrepreneurs in the field.
NYSERDA funding and establishment of the CEBIP program; “we were funded the second time around and it wouldn’t have happened without the complementary nature of our relationship,” according to Dr. Dhundale. “And the truth is, I still had my day job at LIHTI. It was Dave’s full-time job to run CEBIP and he was such a great fit.”
It would officially become Hamilton’s program after Dr. Dhundale retired in 2015. CEBIP has thrived in the years since, but the program will be hard-pressed to find another leader as diversified as its first, a true biotech trailblazer who’s still blazing, even in retirement.
In addition to sitting on the CEBIP Advisory Board, Dr. Dhundale mentors for the Center for Biotechnology in their BioStrategy Program and is also a member of the Long Island BioMentor Initiative, a heavy-hitting assemblage of experienced regional industry executives shepherding the next generation of entrepreneurs in commercialization.
“The pipeline is full,” Dr. Dhundale says. “You expect failures, but many of the companies we’re working with are doing well.”
“I feel good because I’m contributing; entrepreneurs are such an innovative group of people.” he adds. “I also learn much from the other mentors. And in between, I visit with my grandkids and wrench on my collector cars.”