Getting By, Getting Ahead: Start-Up Entrepreneur Brings High-Tech Talent To Rural N.H.

New Hampshire Public Radio

July 10, 2012

By Amanda Loder

Deep inside a nondescript business park in Lebanon, a blocky, industrial building is getting a facelift.  The inside has already been revamped, with big, glass-walled hallways and bright orange accent walls. Every so often, the staccato of hammers, whirring of drills and hiss of nail guns disrupt the quiet.

But those are just the sounds you want to hear when you’re running a young business you want to grow.

And that’s just what’s happening at the drug discovery company Adimab in Lebanon.

“We haven’t seen any slowdown tied to the current recession,” says co-founder and CEO Tillman Gerngross.

In some ways, Gerngross is the father of the Upper Valley’s biotech community. Originally from Austria, Gerngross came here in the late 1990s to be a professor of bioengineering at Dartmouth College. Adimab is the second venture he’s spun out from his Dartmouth research. The pharmaceutical giant Merck bought his first company for $400 million.

“What’s remarkable for me is to look back,” says Gengross, who is 48. “When I came here in ’98, there was no biotech industry here in the Upper Valley. Now, over the years, there are over 100 people — just the companies I started.  So all of a sudden, there is this organic growth triggered by a few entrepreneurial people that have started to build a small little fledgling industry here.”

And Gerngross says most of the credit for that belongs to one place, “Without Dartmouth, this would all not exist.”

Over the past decade or so, the intellectual capital at the college has been generating dividends.  At any given time, 30 to 50 start-ups are working to make it big in the Upper Valley. For every start-up that makes it as Gerngross’ companies have, many more fail.  That’s just the nature of high-risk ventures.

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