Superlatives from the Future Leaders in the Biotech Industry conference

I spent the end of last week stuck in the Bermuda Triangle of traffic between JFK, LaGuardia, and Manhattan up in Times Square for BioCentury’s Future Leaders in the Biotech Industry conference. This was yet another pitch-and-partner conference, but this one had presenting companies running the full gamut–from preclinical companies to public companies with products already on the market. Rather than takeaways, this time I’m opting for yearbook-style superlatives:

Most exciting company: Synlogic, a “synthetic biotics” microbiome company about to enter into the clinic. Their COO gave a great presentation–what she delivered left me feeling simultaneously excited and calm, like the company’s next steps were the natural continuation of an exciting story. I realize you never really know anything about a drug until it’s dosed in a human, but Synlogic’s preclinical work gives me confidence that, if their drug fails, it won’t be for lack of intelligent preparation (giving them a favorable tilt of the microbiome substance-to-potential ratio I mentioned in an earlier blog post).

Everything from their drug design, to their selection of an initial target patient population, to their regulatory strategy (although it doesn’t appear they’ve met with FDA yet, they’ve certainly done their homework on comparable products) was well-reasoned, transparent, and logical. So hey, Synlogic: any chance of a small Kickstarter-style family, friends, and me bridge round before your Series C? 😛

Honorable Mention: RTP’s own Argos Therapeutics. Nothing Northwest about this company from the Southeast: they have an exciting personalized cancer immunotherapy/vaccine technology, the data (and trial planning) to suggest it’ll succeed in its phase 3, and an in-house manufacturing process that reflects a detailed understanding of their commercial market. And, selfishly, they’re one of the next big hopes for a Triangle blockbuster–and they seem set  on growing operations in RTP if they succeed. Could be one of those big, regionally empowering wins that RTP needs (but no pressure!).

Non-biotech company I’m most interested in learning more about: Slingshot Insights. This is why I love waiting for elevators separate from anyone I already know–I’m forced to meet new people. From the (literal) elevator pitches we exchanged I gather that this company connects industry experts/KOLs and investors with the goals of 1) providing investors with expert insight into potential investments and 2) giving industry experts/KOLs insight into what questions investors are asking when looking to invest in a company. It’s an intriguing concept–I’m interested to follow up with the company to see how the reality matches up to what I’m imagining.

Best conference snack: These dried, sugar-encrusted orange things (mango, I believe?). Doesn’t matter what they were–they tasted of sweet, candied addiction, and I probably ate enough to cover my registration cost.

Obligatory social media plug: Not having a designated hashtag for the conference left me feeling lost and alone in the Twitterverse. I was still able to engage with some companies and other conference-goers online, but really, all conferences these days should have a unifying hashtag! #NetworkingWhileNetworking #ImNotIgnoringYourPitchImTweetingAboutIt

Overall a lightning-quick but worthwhile conference. I had some great conversations with CEOs and investors alike, and interestingly, these conversations tend to center on the same general topics: product viability, development strategy, and risk. The more I talk with investors the more convinced I am that our respective fields–operations and investments–are two overlapping, rather than parallel, fields. An operationally sound company makes a good (or at least lower-risk) investment, and conversely, making a good investment is predicated on assessing a company’s operations (among other things). And central to both fields is a requisite multidisciplinary, integrated understanding of the drug development–and consequently, company development–process to truly assess the potential investment/operational value of a company.


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