By Marie Daghlian
Despite unseasonably cold and rainy weather, more than 800 attendees from 38 states and 25 countries showed up at the Boston Marriott Copley Place for a day of networking, partnering, and workshops at the RESI Global Partnering Conference—Redefining Early Stage Investments—held June 4 during BIO2018 week.
RESI has become an important venue for showcasing early-stage companies and starting conversations to connect healthcare innovators with global investors and potential channel partners. The one-day event focuses on more than 1,200 meeting slots for startups and scientist-entrepreneurs to meet with healthcare global investors, strategic partners, and service providers. Workshops, exhibit tables, and the Innovation Challenge give additional value to all who attend the networking and partnering event.
Partnering is a key resource for startups and scientist-entrepreneurs to accelerate their business, and throughout RESI, the Partnering Forum tables quickly filled and remained full throughout the day. When attendees aren’t engaged in meetings, they can peruse 30 innovative startups competing in the RESI Innovation Challenge. The innovators’ focus covers a wide range of categories from cancer vaccines and novel diagnostics to digital health applications and bioelectronics. At registration, each attendee is given five RESI Bucks ($100,000 each) that they can invest with any of the Innovation Challenge presenters in the Exhibit Hall. During a closing reception for RESI, the top 3 Innovation Challenge finalists, who receive the most RESI Bucks, win complimentary ticket(s) to future RESI Conference Series events.
This time, participants in the Innovation Challenge included several companies from South Korea and Taiwan who are developing antivirals, infectious disease diagnostics for use in resource-poor countries, novel drug delivery technologies, tissue regeneration, bioelectronics therapies, and personalized cancer therapies, among others.
Workshops ranged along four focused tracks. The first two tracks—Biotech Investor Panels, and Device, Diagnostic, and Healthcare IT Investor Panels—were manned by various categories of investors who discussed what they look for, what they can offer, and how to work well with them. Track three was a workshop for new entrepreneurs with topics ranging from deal and product valuations, maximizing the value of assets, and fundraising. The fourth track focused on Asia-North America cross border investing and partnering.
In addition to RESI, there were two sponsored ‘invitation only’ luncheons. KOTRA, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, highlighted biotech in Korea and included startup pitches by eleven companies for their guests. Stetson Family Office gathered incubators, accelerators, and bioclusters to present new ideas to help early stage companies in their fundraising efforts.
In recent years, Big Pharma has formed teams whose main function is to “search and evaluate” transformative science in the academic or early stages of development that may be of strategic interest to them. RESI included a panel on Big Pharma: Pipeline Strategy for Preclinical and Early Clinical Assets. The Big Pharma panelists, heads of teams from AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, discussed their objectives and process for finding the next big ideas that could transform disease outcomes.
Murali Gopalakrishnan, Senior Director, Head of Search and Evaluation in neuroscience at AbbVie, moderated the panel, which included Yvonne Kobayashi from Eli Lilly, Nicola La Monica from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Brian Bronk from Sanofi, and Aaron Schwartz from Novo Nordisk. All the panelists are constantly looking at the next and greatest innovation in life science. If they find something of interest, they pitch it to scientists at their company to see if there is internal interest before moving forward.
“It has to work for both sides,” says Sanofi’s Bronk. “We look for our ability to bring value to a platform, optionality.” He told entrepreneurs in the audience not to focus on deals Sanofi has done in the past, “the deals we did yesterday don’t affect what we’ll do tomorrow.”
Lilly’s Kobayashi says strategic fit is important and Novo’s Schwartz noted that they have to find an internal advocate (of the proposed platform/asset) to move the deal forward. He advised entrepreneurs not to hold back on the information they can provide a potential partner that is not confidential. Supporting data is important and all the panelists said they would reproduce data internally to verify it—trust and verify.
J&J’s La Monica concurred that sharing information is vital. When talking to teams like ours, “Don’t be shy about asking questions and demanding answers,” he said, “and frame your asset against the competitive landscape.”
More from Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series:
Life Science Nation will host the RESI Global Partnering Conference on September 6th at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. Part of this new aspect of RESI is the First Coast Innovator’s Gathering, which will include incubators, accelerators, tech transfer offices, university translation initiatives, hospitals, research labs and their constituents from DC, MD, VA, PA, NJ, NY, RI, CT and MA. These geographic tech hubs will gather for the first time in one location to get on the radar screens of potential global partners. More information