By Matthew Pillar, Editor, BioProcess Online
While the economy wrestles its way through the pandemic in fits and starts, no such slowdown is yet palpable in biotech. If anything, the attention being paid to biopharma’s role in the COVID-19 crisis is supporting continued investment, as many players in the space race toward vaccines and therapies to treat this new virus and prepare for new ones as they emerge.
It’s timely that our team at BioProcess Online, with the support of Cytiva, formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences, decided to launch a podcast to serve as a resource for the leaders of new and emerging biopharmas. I’ll host the Business Of Biotech podcast, and I’ve got an incredible group of guests—all of them founders who have taken biotherapy ideas and successfully turned them into clinical realities—lined up to share their insight with you.
Here’s how the first half of the series, which is focused on the financial and funding, organizational, and HR aspects of launching a biopharma company, will play out.
On our first episode, industry veteran Alan Shaw and I will give you a bird’s eye view of the primary pieces of the biopharma startup puzzle via “hot takes” on each of the episodes to come. Shaw, who’s launched several successful biopharma startups and continues to direct many more at the board level, will offer some golden nuggets of advice on each of those pieces.
On episode 2, I’ll go deep on biopharma business planning with another industry luminary, Dr. Francois Nader. Dr. Nader and I will dig deep into why it’s important to launch your startup with the end in mind. Will you seek an IPO or remain private? Will you look to be acquired or seek a merger? Would you entertain a reverse merger? While Dr. Nader has several biopharma startups under his belt, including Moderna, you might best recognize him as the man who resurrected NPS, culminating that resurrection with a $5.2 billion sale to Shire. He’s a ringer on the topic.
Turning our attention to fundraising, episode 3 will feature a candid conversation on best practices for building your pitch with Leslie Williams, founder and CEO of ImmusanT. On that episode, Leslie and I will discuss not only the nuts and bolts of how to build and present a compelling pitch deck, we’ll break down the art of the deal and why a combination of nuance and humanity in your presentation are just as important as the slides in your deck. Leslie has multiple launches on her CV. Having begun her life sciences career as a critical care nurse, she brings a uniquely patient-centric perspective to the conversation.
Episode 4 takes an even more granular look at the biotech funding landscape, addressing how and where to find it and secure it in these incredibly volatile times. On that episode, I’ll sit down with Dr. Bert Liang, who’s currently CMO at Kitov and who formerly served as CEO at Phoenix and Abcentra. Dr. Liang’s take on winning funding is colored by his early experience at Amgen and the years he spent directing development and venture capital at Biogen—roles that informed his ability to secure capital for the startups he’s led.
We’ll shift into human resources gear for episode 5 in a conversation with Dr. Vivek Ramaswamy, CEO of Roivant Sciences, parent company to a full 20 distinct biopharma firms boasting several dozen discovery-to-phase 3 candidates in its pipeline. Dr. Ramaswamy will share the lessons he’s learned about the connections between building an all-star team, a promising therapy, and why people are the most important element of building legitimate company valuation.
For Episode 6, we’ll explore considerations around leaving the comfort and security of the incubator and growing your own lab and production space with Zumutor Biologics founder and CEO Kavitha Iyer Rodrigues. Her startup tech transfer knowledge is unparalleled—from her days in process development at Merck through her founding and launch of Inbiopro, Theramyt, and now Zumutor, Rodrigues ironed out virtually every wrinkle of the process.
That will wrap up our first season, but soon on it’s heels we’ll shift into process and regulatory mode, with another full docket of episodes focused on the quality data needed for FDA submissions, mapping out your commitment to Good Manufacturing Processes, CMC considerations for your first in-human studies, gap analysis and next steps, and a whole lot more.
If you’re in a leadership role with an emerging biopharma, make listening to these 30-40 minute conversations with biotech founders a priority. I’m looking forward to bringing you some incredible peer insight that you won’t find anywhere else.