Archive | April, 2016

From Lab Bench to Bedside in Record Time: How Industry, Academia, Healthcare Providers fuel Toronto’s R&D

28 Apr

By Dianne Carmichael, Guest Writer; Managing Director, Health Innovation & Venture Services, MaRS Discovery District

Blog Post Series #3 of 3

Dianne-CarmichaelIndustry–academic collaborations are the engine that powers successful enterprises in health research and development today. Nowhere is this connection more powerful than in the city of Toronto, where academic leaders such as the University of Toronto are locating their investigative teams within the MaRS Discovery District, supporting consortium able to pool research and commercialize health innovations.

Investors attending the RESI on MaRS conference will get a chance to check out some of the cutting-edge science in Canada, and discover a northern health ecosystem that boasts a perfect match between intellectual property and world-class hospitals that offer clinical infrastructure and access to patients — factors that are critical for young companies building new products and testing business models.

Toronto offers a unique health cluster that sets it apart from other health hubs such as Silicon Valley and Boston. Not only does this region have clusters of entrepreneurs that work in both the life sciences and digital sectors, but capital in Canada stretches much further for investors. The low Canadian dollar is one factor. Another is the geographic layout of Toronto and the close proximity of several hospitals, clinics (offering access to patients), a world-class university and commercialization hub that reduces investor risk by providing a steady volume of startups with access to a robust market — $50 billion annually is spent on healthcare in the region. MaRS, the innovation hub, also pilots a unique program called EXCITE which specifically fosters the early adoption of technology by institutions, speeding up local procurement.

Finally, Toronto is working on the frontier of new science. The biggest verticals in the region are cancer and brain research, regenerative medicine and stem cell genomics, the latter being part of an industry expected to grow to US$1.5 trillion globally, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. If the future of medicine is in gene manipulation and tissue re-engineering, then Toronto is at the epicentre of a new economic engine. The health sector here is not just drugs and devices; It’s all modalities of technology related to disease management.

Outstanding examples of well-developed research partnerships in these fields include the Structural Genomics Consortium, the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, the new JLabs@Toronto, and the long-lasting partnership between MaRS and the University of Toronto.

At the world-leading Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), U of T scientists are working in partnership with Bayer, Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, Janssen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Takeda and Abbvie, as well as researchers from five other universities worldwide to determine the 3D structures of human proteins of therapeutic relevance to diseases such as cancer and metabolic disorders. Located within the MaRS Centre in Toronto since 2008, the SGC has already solved over 1500 protein structures and has generated 19 chemical probes for epigenetic proteins.

Also moving into the MaRS Centre is the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM). The CCRM recently received a $20-million grant from the Canadian federal government, announced at MaRS by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to establish a Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies. GE Healthcare is also committing $20 million to the new centre. Kieran Murphy, CEO of GE Healthcare’s life sciences business, said in a news release that “regenerative medicine will transform health care globally.” The global market for cell-based therapies targeting cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, musculoskeletal disorder and autoimmune diseases is expected to grow past US$20 billion by 2025.

Another new frontier of science converging at MaRS is the Parametric Human Project, headed by Autodesk (also a tenant at the MaRS Centre) and U of T, in a consortium of 28 institutions worldwide, working to produce a fully functional digital human model, morphologically and physiologically complete. The resulting Parametric Human promises to revolutionize clinical trials, removing human subjects from the equation and revamping commercialization itself along the way.

High-level partnerships leading to innovation is a tradition at U of T, which has nine fully-affiliated research and teaching hospitals. Most of them are either adjacent to the MaRS Centre or within a short walk from it. The world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children and University Health Network actually maintain their basic research facilities within the MaRS Centre, at the 15-storey Toronto Medical Discovery Tower.

This hot bed of innovation in and around the MaRS Centre attracts talent, naturally, but also investors and other partners. The soon-to-open JLabs@Toronto, of Johnson & Johnson Innovation is not just parachuting into the scene at Toronto’s Discovery District, known in previous decades as “hospital row.”

Other U of T research labs have also moved in to the MaRS Centre, and last year U of T invested $31 million to become a 20-per-cent equity owner in the 20-story West Tower at the 1.5-million square foot MaRS Centre, in addition to renting another five floors in the tower.

“It’s a key vote of confidence,” said Scott Mabury, U of T’s vice-president, university operations. “We are going to be here for decades, even centuries.”

The U of T expansion into the MaRS Centre’s West Tower, will also provide a new home for the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, itself a partnership of U of T’s with the University Health Network and the Hospital for Sick Children, focusing on new models for repairing damaged hearts. The West Tower is located next door to the UHN’s world-class Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, which stands between the MaRS Centre and the Toronto General Hospital.

For those unfamiliar with Toronto’s hub of health innovation and care, within a five-minute walk above ground or in a network of underground tunnels, the MaRS Centre connects with: Toronto General Hospital, Hospital for Sick Kids, Mount Sinai Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Women’s College Hospital, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the U of T’s Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Bimolecular Research and the university’s faculties of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing. This environment, not just in theory, but in practice, means health innovation in downtown Toronto flows naturally from lab bench to bedside.

Perhaps one of the most fruitful sides of the synergy between U of T and MaRS is indeed the facilitated path to take innovation from the lab bench to the bedside. U of T’s nine on-campus accelerators for startups galvanize the university’s innovation through the Banting & Best Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (BBCIE), located across the street from the MaRS Centre. The BBCIE, on its turn, is a partner of MaRS Innovation, which leads the commercialization efforts for the innovation pipeline coming out of 15 research institutions in Ontario, funnelling a $1.5-billion portfolio in annual R&D.

The longstanding, close partnership between MaRS and U of T opens up opportunities for even further fostering activity, such as the opening of JLabs@Toronto in May.

“Toronto is home to a vibrant and prolific healthcare and life sciences community led by academic hospitals, world-class research institutions, top scientists, and a strong startup ecosystem. For these reasons, Toronto is a natural choice for our first international expansion of JLABS,” said Melinda Richter, head of JLABS, at the announcement of the project spearheaded by the Ontario government, MaRS, U of T and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Toronto, City of Healthcare Innovation

28 Apr

By Lucy Parkinson, Director of Research, LSN

With RESI on MaRS conference coming up in June, MaRS Discovery District (MaRS) and Life Science Nation (LSN) have made a 3-minute video to introduce Toronto’s healthcare hub and the significance of RESI landing on MaRS.  We’ve spoken to innovation leaders, startup CEOs and investors about why Toronto is on the rise in the biomedical sector.  Watch the video to learn more about what’s happening in Toronto, and how RESI on MaRS will bring new opportunities for both entrepreneurs and investors.

RESI on MaRS Agenda Announced

28 Apr

By Nono Hu, Director of Marketing, LSN

With less than 60 days to go before launch, LSN is announcing the content agenda for RESI on MaRS. With three tracks of panel and workshop content, RESI will feature a wealth of speakers representing many different types of life science investors, including family offices, angels, venture philanthropy, major pharma and medical device corporations, and more.

It’s the first RESI event outside the US, and we’re looking forward to this opportunity to share all that Toronto’s healthcare innovation hub has to offer with investors and innovators from beyond Canada’s borders. Look out for speaker announcements in forthcoming editions of Next Phase.

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Hot Investor Mandate 1: European Firm Seeks Microbiome, Food Biotech, Therapeutic Platforms and Connected Health

28 Apr

One of Europe’s largest venture capital firms is investing in life science companies through several funds which target seed, venture and growth-stage investments in European, North American and Asian companies. The initial investment size via these funds ranges from € 500K- € 10M and is in the form of straight equity. The firm is capable of leading or co-investing in financing rounds, however they prefer to have a local investor lead U.S. deals, unless it is a later-stage round (i.e. B, C, etc.) and the prior round was led by a U.S. investor. The firm has much more flexibility for European-based companies, and typically leads these rounds. The firm is aiming to make at least 6 more investments in 2016, with the average investment being € 3- € 5 M.

The firm takes a true venture approach to investing and prioritizes breakthrough technologies with a strong IP position. The firm is very interested in microbiome technologies and food technologies, and strongly believes in technologies at the intersection of food and pharma/biotech. Microbiome therapeutics and platforms are the primary interest, and the firm is willing to invest as early as pre-clinical in this subsector. As for other therapeutics preferred phase of development, typically only pre-clinical investments are made into companies with a platform technology, who aren’t relying on one therapeutic asset. Medical technology and connected health companies are also evaluated whatever the stage of development.

The firm prefers to work with mature, experienced management teams, but has no strict restrictions and is open to working with all entrepreneurs. The firm will invest in pre-revenue as well as revenue-generating companies, with maximum revenues of € 50M.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com

Hot Investor Mandate 2: Japan-based Pharma Seeks Early Stage Assets in Neurology, Diabetes, Immunology & Infectious Diseases

28 Apr

A multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered Japan with a subsidiary based in the USA is actively looking globally for opportunities to in-license cutting-edge, early stage therapeutic assets. Sponsored research may also be considered.

The firm’s external R&D is focused on both neurodegerative and neurodevelopmental diseases including Parkinson’s disease, autism, Rett Syndrome, fragile X, and lysosomal storage diseases. The firm is also interested in diabetes, immunology, and infectious diseases. The firm is seeking platform technology with new MOA such as gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and monoclonal antibody acting on new targets. The firm prefers early stage, pre-POC assets.

The firm is looking for assets that would be strategic a fit with its current portfolio. The firm is willing to negotiate regional rights based each therapeutic field. For example, in immunology and neurology, the firm would prefer both US and Asia rights. In diabetes, infectious diseases, and other areas, the firm can request Asia rights only.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com

Hot Investor Mandate 3: California VC Seeks Series B, C & D Rounds in Diagnostics

28 Apr

A boutique venture capital firm based in California invests in growth and expansion-stage technology and life science companies. The firm closed its second fund in 2015, and prefers to make growth stage investments in Series B, C and D rounds, typically co-investing with other institutional investors. The firm leads about 30% of the investment rounds it takes part in, with allocation sizes varying according to the needs of the round. The firm focuses on companies located in Southern California and other regions undeserved by venture capital such as Utah, etc. The firm is actively seeking new investment opportunities, and anticipates that the second fund will invest in over 15 companies.

In the Life Sciences, the firm seeks to invest in diagnostics, therapeutics, and also selectively in medical device opportunities. The firm is opportunistic in terms of subsectors and indications, and generally seeks therapeutics that are at least in Phase III and diagnostics and medical devices that are very close to or with FDA approval. The firm historically invested in vitro diagnostic tests and medical imaging.
The firm generally co-invests with top tier institutional investors, and for companies based in Southern California the firm may act as a local lead investor to bring a syndicate together. MVP seeks companies with a strong and experienced management team.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com

Hot Investor Mandate 4: Singapore Angel Fund Seeks Healthcare Opportunities

28 Apr

An investment firm based in Singapore manages a fund which was raised entirely from its two founders; therefore, the firm invests more similarly to an angel fund rather than a typical venture capital fund. The firm seeks to invest in seed and series A rounds and is sector agnostic. The firm is interested in the life sciences and has made one investment thus far. The firm typically invests USD 100K-500K per company. The firm looks to invest in companies that are based in Asia and is actively seeking new investment opportunities.

The firm is sector agnostic and will invest opportunistically across the life sciences. Given the firm’s investment size, the firm generally does not invest in technologies that are capital intensive, i.e. drug development. However, the firm may consider co-investing in larger deals if the opportunity is attractive.

The firm places great emphasis on the management team and seeks a strong and experienced management team with prior achievements.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email mandates@lifesciencenation.com