Tag Archives: biotech startups

“Alternatives to VC” panel video (actually very much about VC, especially in Europe) – BioEurope Spring, March 2013

This is not a traditional post but rather a link to a video of a fun panel that I moderated at BioEurope Spring in Barcelona in March, 2013. The discussion touched on several hot issues in funding innovation in life sciences, especially translational research.

Here’s the link: http://www.partnering360.com/insight/showroom/id/0_p9ec32p3

To help you find points of interest, I’m listing some approximate time stamps below.

PANEL DATE: March 11, 2013


With the shortage of classical VC investing and the ongoing boom in early opportunities and strong entrepreneurs, traditional VC is beginning to share the spotlight with alternative models. For therapeutics companies that have already raised some capital or especially those that have products in the clinic, there are some new alternatives to choose from, including option deals, one-product financings from VCs, and pre-IPO royalty-based financing.

Steve Dickman – CEO, CBT Advisors


  • Sinclair Dunlop – Managing Partner, Rock Spring Ventures
  • Joël Jean-Mairet – General Partner, Ysios Capital
  • Kevin Johnson – Partner, Index Ventures
  • Melissa Stevens – Deputy Executive Director, FasterCures


  • 0:00 Panel intro (Steve Dickman)
  • 3:19 FasterCures (Melissa Stevens), channeling non-dilutive foundation cash into therapy development
  • 4:29 Index Ventures (Kevin Johnson) intro and description of pharma-backed fund
  • 4:50 Rock Spring (Sinclair Dunlop) intro – UK VC
  • 5:20 Ysios (Joel Jean-Mairet) intro – Spanish-European VC
  • 7:25 What are the mechanics of asset-based financings? We’ve done 27 of them… (Johnson)
  • 12:15 Ysios (Jean-Mairet) view on asset-based financing “experiment” in molecular diagnostics
  • 14:00 Why Index would love to invest in diagnostics but can’t do it (Johnson)
  • 18:30 How things are better in lean, asset-based companies (Johnson) “Working in a tinpot biotech is more fun” than in an old-fashioned fully integrated company.
  • 19:55 How Rock Spring (Dunlop) does early-stage platforms & products
  • 21:15 Refinancing risk has grown (Jean-Mairet)
  • 22:45 How times have changed in LS VC (Jean-Mairet)
  • 24:15 The key to avoiding “zombie” companies – suicide (Johnson)
  • 25:40 More (interesting!) details on FasterCures and how foundations are changing the investing game (Stevens)
  • 28:48 National MS Society’s “Fast Forward” venture-like group (Stevens)
  • 30:55 CF Foundation and its Vertex and now Pfizer relationships (Stevens)
  • 32:55 American Heart Association (AHA) learning more about venture philanthropy (Stevens)
  • 36:15 Venture philanthropy in Europe (Dunlop)
  • 46:15 Tech transfer report card (Dickman, panel)
  • 57:00 How European & Israeli seed funds are trying to bridge the venture gap (panel)
  • 1:04:00 How to ensure succession in biotech (Johnson, panel)
  • 1:08:00 Why there are not more young entrepreneurs in life sciences (Johnson)
  • 1:15:00 The Andrew Lo “Megafund”: will it fly (Stevens, panel)
  • 1:18:00 Other debt models for supporting translational work (Jean-Mairet)
  • 1:22:00 Cross-border seed-stage investing (Dickman)

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We are our bugs – hot Boston startup mines the gut

by Steven Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors

Seeing the human being as a “superorganism” composed primarily of freeloading or symbiotic bacteria and other parasites and designing products accordingly – that is the basis for a new startup with the alluring name of Libra Biosciences being incubated by PureTech Ventures in Boston.

Daphne Zohar, PureTech Ventures

Daphne Zohar, top Boston innovator

News of Libra began to come out in a piece in yesterday’s (Oct. 4, 2010) Boston Globe citing PureTech managing partner Daphne Zohar as one of Boston’s top 15 innovators. Little else is publicly available about the startup except a one-page web site stating that the company will be active in diagnostics and consumer products as well as therapeutics. Disease areas will include developmental, immunological and epithelial disorders.

The idea of humans and other eukaryotes as walking sacs of bacteria is not new. It was raised elegantly by Lewis Thomas in his seminal and delightful 1978 book Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher.

Libra Biosciences logo
Nor would this be the first time someone tried to apply this concept to predictive disease modeling – witness this paper from Nicholson et al. in Nature Biotech in 2004 exploring applications of “omics” to human-residing bacteria. But this appears to be the first time that commercial activity has coalesced around this interesting field of science, likely driven by advances in high-speed genetic sequencing. (The latest presentation we’ve seen from BGI – formerly Beijing Genomics Institute – reports that BGI alone will have increased to 5 TB of genome sequenced per day – that’s 1500 human genomes – by the end of 2010, up from 100 GB a day at the end of 2009.) There have been some interesting publications pointing to links between the nature of gut bacteria in individuals and their weight. According to these studies, as reported in the Los Angeles Times in June of this year, the more efficient the gut bacteria are at processing food, the more overweight the hosts are. We prefer the inefficient ones!

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Except for the brief mention in the Globe today, Libra is not talking to the media just yet. But this interesting piece of startup news confirms PureTech’s role – alongside Third Rock Ventures and just a handful of other Boston-based firms – as one of the few key bridges across the current yawning gap separating creative academic science and fundable biotech companies.

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IPO Drought Likely to Last, Boston Globe writes

Scott Kirsner, the Boston Globe’s innovation columnist, on Sunday thoughtfully tackled the question of when the current IPO drought is likely to end. His piece, which makes a nice mention of CBT Advisors, is nominally focused on the Boston area but the sentiments are of course similar in other geographies. Here is an excerpt with a link to the rest of the piece below.

Innovation Economy

IPOs in a holding pattern

Start-ups are ready, when the market is right

By Scott Kirsner Globe Columnist / June 13, 2010

Filing the paperwork for an initial public offering is like buying the perfect bathing suit for a beach party. Yes, you’ve taken the first step by finding something to wear, but you still need people to show up at the party and warm weather, too.

Right now, the forecast isn’t phenomenal for the five Massachusetts companies looking forward to their day in the sun.

“There were some dumb people last year saying that 2010 was going to be a good year for IPOs — and I was among them,’’ said Peter Falvey, cofounder of Revolution Partners, a Boston-based investment bank. “As we’ve seen, the markets have been really unsettled, and when that happens, IPOs are the first thing that shuts down.’’

One of the most recent local offerings, Aveo Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Cambridge biotech working on a drug for kidney cancer, had hoped to sell its shares for between $13 and $15; the shares debuted at $9 in March and have declined since to about $7.50.

Despite the market conditions, a quintet of companies is lined up for their turn, representing diverse sectors of Massachusetts’ innovation economy: energy, consumer-focused services, life sciences, and technology.

■ Newton’s First Wind Holdings Inc. develops and runs six wind farms in states including Maine and Vermont, and has plans to build others; the company originally filed to go public in the summer of 2008, and it hopes to raise as much as $450 million, using the clever ticker symbol WNDY.

■ Zipcar Inc., based in Cambridge, operates the world’s largest car-sharing service, with more than 400,000 members who pay for convenient access to a fleet of 7,000 vehicles.

BG Medicine Inc. is a Waltham company developing blood tests for heart disease and multiple sclerosis.

■ GlassHouse Technologies Inc. of Framingham is a consultancy that helps its clients manage corporate data centers.

■ Ameresco Inc., also based in Framingham, helps customers manage their energy usage.

Of BG Medicine, Steve Dickman of the consulting firm CBT Advisors notes that the company’s tests haven’t yet won approval to be sold in the United States or Canada. “It’s a very promising technology platform, but it’s wishful thinking that they will be able to go public without significant revenue,’’ he wrote in an e-mail.

And Ethan Zindler, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said First Wind may also have a tough time.


You can read the rest of Scott’s article here.

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