The BIO Investor Forum 2023, hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), is right around the corner. Returning to San Francisco on October 17-18, BIF is one of the only independent partnering events dedicated to showcasing drug development programs ready for partnering or venture funding. It is also focused on accelerating the progress of new therapeutic technologies into commercialization and treating patients.
In addition to candid panel discussions on policy, business, financing, and R&D, along with company presentations, the BIO Investor Forum hosts BIO’s One-on-One Partnering™ meetings, where companies and investors can connect and work to drive forward the exciting innovation happening in the industry today.
But what, exactly, is the impact of partnering meetings? Bio.News spoke to two former and current participants to learn more: Mary Schaheen, an accomplished executive with deep experience in integration and product commercialization spanning 25 years in business, 15 as a senior executive, and Hernan Bazan, a practicing vascular and endovascular surgeon working on the forefront of safe and effective pain management. They discuss the event and their experiences with BIO’s One-on-One Partnering™ meetings.
The investor’s perspective
Bio.News: Can you briefly tell us about your background as an investor in biotech?
My background as an investor is somewhat unique. I’m not from the life sciences industry originally, though I’ve been working in it for over 20 years now. I was originally from the technology industry.
The fund I work with is a strategic evergreen fund and what makes that unique is that it’s never between funds, our money is always available under this structure of an evergreen fund model. It’s very efficient because everything the fund returns goes back into the fund and goes back out, and we’ve had a lot of success. We’ve had eight IPOs and up-listings come out of our portfolio and over $10 billion in cash upfront licensing deals. It’s been a great run for us in biotech.
A lot of investors are nervous about biotech because it can be binary, but we’re very bold in our thinking and approach to investing in biotech.
Bio.News: Do you think the BIO Investor Forum can benefit investors in this space? How?
I think investors benefit from the Forum because it’s convenient. In the past, we had to travel to the companies we were considering investing in, but with the forum, we are all in one place and we can get a lot done quickly. It’s very comfortable and we’re really supported as investors.
I don’t know too many other investor conferences like BIO Investor Forum. I attend all the big bank-hosted investor conferences, but I don’t know of too many forums that work as hard as the BIO association to connect investors with companies.
Bio.News: Do you attend company presentations? Do they help inform your partnering requests and acceptances?
I attend the presentations as much as I can. The challenge for us is that sometimes the one-on-one meetings schedule can take me out of the loop for the presentations, so I will sometimes take an associate to attend the presentations I can’t make it to and collect notes. But there’s also an opportunity to review the presentations afterward, and we do that as well.
When I look back in the record all the way to the beginning of our participation in the BIO conferences and conventions, I find that we’ve met quite a few of our partners at BIO conferences. That’s been really helpful to me. Our managing director is always working to make sure that we put BIO conferences on our schedule and attend them.
Bio.News: What advice do you have for start-ups who secure a meeting with you at BIF?
Do not be so attached to getting through a long set of slides. If we have a meeting, let’s just have a conversation, more or less, because in a conversation you can really get a feel for their passion.
It’s a wonderful forum because we’re all so supportive there. It’s convenient for everybody and it is an opportunity to talk face-to-face, which is so hard to do nowadays. Everything’s so much on Zoom and it’s become somewhat impersonal. It’s easy to just look at the information a company sends and decide not to do a Zoom call, but when we meet face-to-face, we have a chance to notice something we might have missed otherwise.
The company’s perspective
Bio.News: Can you tell us a bit about your company?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of South Rampart Pharma, a clinical-stage life science company working to advance the safer treatment of pain. We are in the advanced stages of developing a first-in-class, non-opioid small molecule designed to safely alleviate both acute and chronic pain. Currently, we are progressing through late-phase 1 clinical trials.
Our molecule stands on a robust scientific foundation, showcasing a profound understanding of its workings in the brain to reduce pain effectively. A pivotal aspect of our development is ensuring its safety profile, demonstrated through its non-toxicity to the liver, distinguishing it from acetaminophen/paracetamol. Furthermore, as a non-opioid, it lacks abuse potential, and avoids kidney toxicity, a common issue with NSAIDs like Advil or Ibuprofen. We are excited about the journey ahead.
Bio.News: Have you participated in BIO’s one-on-one partnering?
Yes, I have actively engaged in BIO’s one-on-one partnering events. The first one was BIO 2022 in San Diego. Following that, I was on a panel at the BIO CEO Investor conference in February 2023 in NYC and participated in the partnering portal then.
As we approach the BIO Investor Forum in San Francisco, our anticipation builds. We are dedicating substantial time to research the partnering system and understand the profiles of potential partners to foster meaningful collaborations. Each of the BIO events have been a well-structured, focused, and immensely beneficial experience, facilitated by the event’s organized nature.
Bio.News: Has your partnering led to anything noteworthy you can share with us?
Indeed, our engagement in the one-on-one partnering sessions has been a catalyst for fostering substantial connections. Most notably, following our participation in the session organized during the JPM 2023 in San Francisco, we initiated deep and ongoing dialogues with a prominent strategic partner in the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, we caught the attention of several venture capitalists who have delved deeply into our electronic data, showcasing a keen interest in our technological advancements. And, we learn from these interactions as well.
Bio.News: Why do you think this event is important for early-stage biotech companies?
I feel these events hold paramount importance for early-stage biotech companies, serving as a nexus of quality and robust discussions facilitated by the well-curated BIO program. The panels are distinctly designed to cover a wide spectrum of focus areas vital to the life science and biotech industries, including financing, tech transfer, technology development, and regulatory issues. These discussions offer a rich platform to delve deep into topics that are at the heart of biotech advancements.
Moreover, these events foster a collaborative ecosystem, bringing together like-minded professionals united by a shared vision of nurturing and advancing innovative technologies. It is a fertile ground for networking and forging connections with groups that harbor the same forward-looking vision, enhancing the potential for collaborative growth and innovation that I know will be palpable in the upcoming BIO Investor Forum 2023.