A Canadian Fundraising CEO’s Success at RESI

22 Feb

Anton Neschadim

An interview with Anton Neschadim, CEO, ImmunoBiochem
– By Chris Cummings, Senior Marketing Manager, LSN

Chris Cummings

Chris Cummings: What is your background, and how long have you been working in the life science space?

Anton Neschadim: I am a scientist-entrepreneur. I have a very deep, multi-disciplinary science background that I ultimately combined with a business degree, all from the University of Toronto. I am a lateral thinker, and as such always strived to be a subject-matter expert across multiple areas. And so, contrary to the traditional path of specialization in academia, I wanted to become a problem solver and innovator, and sought to master additional disciplines with every degree – chemistry, physics, immunology, cancer research, regenerative medicine. I believe that being able to draw on knowledge from multiple disciplines is key to generating creative insights. I transitioned into industry eight years ago, in the final year of my PhD, and took up a drug development role in a biologics program, while continuing to work in an academic lab evenings and weekends to amass more than 25 manuscripts and patents. Three years ago, I have focused on leading ImmunoBiochem with an exciting novel biologics program.

Chris Cummings: Are you currently fundraising? What previous financing or milestones has your company achieved (that you can disclose)?

Anton Neschadim: We are always fundraising, and are targeting to close another round led by current investors and partners in March. Our first deal was with one of the RESI sponsors and helped us develop fully-human antibody molecules for our lead target, and the subsequent angel-led round allowed us to develop a lead that we showed to be both efficacious and safe in preclinical animal tumor models. This new round will take our lead molecule into large animal studies, but we are eager to get into the clinic and are looking for additional capital to get us there.

Chris Cummings: How many RESI conferences have you attended previously, and when was your first event? Was ImmunoBiochem fundraising at the time?

Anton Neschadim: I have now attended three RESI conferences with the goal of raising funds every time – two in our hometown of Toronto, and the latest RESI during the JP Morgan healthcare week in San Francisco. We have closed a deal or round subsequent to each conference, and are on track to closing another round of financing following RESI in San Francisco. RESI has been extremely helpful for connecting with smart early-stage capital and learning how to better develop and tell our story to a broad range of investors. You know you have done well when you have new investors reaching out to you to learn more.

Chris Cummings: What components of RESI do you find most valuable? Do you spend most your time in partnering, or try to attend panels as well? When you participated in the Innovation Challenge, what aspects did you find beneficial?

Anton Neschadim: I tend to spend at least half of my day in one-on-one meetings, and then network with investors free-form outside of that. Panels and different tracks can help you be more targeted with the latter. I find the half-hour partnering format to be very optimal – just the right amount of time to make a connection with the investor, tell your story, answer questions, and for you to learn more about the investor’s interests and ask for feedback. The Innovation Challenge provides great exposure and is like real fundraising. It helps to have a team and to ultimately hold as many meaningful conversations as possible.

Chris Cummings: What advice can you give to other fundraising entrepreneurs attending RESI? For example, do you have any suggestions on mastering partnering, or perhaps maximizing your visibility in the Innovation Challenge?

Anton Neschadim: Visibility and being able to highlight your novelty and differentiation are paramount. What I found to be most useful is to have a team on the ground. It is great to have at least one person to move around the event, strike up conversations and bring people to your poster, while another is taking one-on-one meetings. When it comes to one-on-one meetings: register early and start requesting meetings as soon as partnering opens or even before that – spots fill up really fast. Do your research and target the right investors, avoid generic or overly long messaging, and manage time efficiently during the one-on-one meetings. The main goal is to get a second meeting or follow up.

About ImmunoBiochem

ImmunoBiochem is addressing significant unmet needs in oncology by developing highly-selective biological therapeutics. The majority of targeted biologics, which are focused on identifying and targeting unique features on the surface of cancer cells, face the challenge of tumor heterogeneity and general lack of selective tumor antigens, particularly as more potent platforms are utilized. CAR-T therapies are very exciting, with a single CAR-T cell being able to terminate from hundreds to thousands of cancer cells, but the current generation is extremely limited by very few suitable targets, such as CD19. The second generation of CAR-T therapies in the clinic will have to find a way to derive that selectivity from other mechanisms. To circumvent these challenges of surface-targeted biologics and cell therapies, ImmunoBiochem is solving this problem by combining a highly targeted and precise therapeutics platform – antibody-drug conjugates or ADCs – and non-traditional targets in the secretome of cancer cells that are amplified in the tumor microenvironment. ImmunoBiochem has defined a novel class of targets by isolating proteins with specific properties that are necessary to achieve selective and efficacious targeting of tumors with ADCs.  ImmunoBiochem was the original inventor of this technology and has tested this concept within an academic institute, and then developed a lead human antibody molecule in collaboration with the University of Toronto. Today we are supported by multiple organizations, including Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS), where ImmunoBiochem is based, CCAB (the Centre for the Commercialization of Antibodies and Biologics), our key development partner and investor, OBIO, through membership and the CAAP program, and H2i at the University of Toronto.

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