Going it alone may seem appealing, but it isn't always possible. Take BioPolymers, a Farmington, Conn., start-up that employs 18 scientists. Its three founders, marine biologist J. Herbert Waite, microbiologist Christine V. Benedict, and businessman Thomas M. Benedict, had an idea that venture capitalists couldn’t resist: to synthesize the potent protein that mussels use to cling to rocks. The sticky substance, would be invaluable for medical applications such as eye surgery where sutures don’t serve. Four years and $3.2 million later, the research looks very promising. But with clinical trials 12 to 18 months away, the firm realizes it’s in danger of becoming unglued. The first hurdle is obtaining Food and Drug Administration approval; the second involves marketing the new product. A partnership with an established company could make life easier, so BioPolymers is looking for a powerful one that will keep the start-up afloat, not swallow it.

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