Interview with SOLA Biosciences: How They Secured 26 Investor Meetings at Digital RESI April

28 May

Keizo Koya

By Claire Jeong, Vice President of Investor Research, Asia BD, LSN

Claire Jeong

As many of our readers are aware, the LSN team is busily preparing for the upcoming Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference from June 8th – 10th. This will be our third digitally run RESI, and we have been impressed by everyone’s dedication and support for our conferences.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Keizo Koya, CEO of SOLA Biosciences. SOLA Biosciences attended the last digital RESI conference in April and was one of the highest performing companies at the conference with 26 confirmed investor meetings. I was able to learn more about SOLA Biosciences’ proprietary platform technology and hear about the factors that contributed to his success in securing an impressive number of meetings at the last RESI.

Mr. Koya delivers a very positive message and is exemplary of how businesses should be moving forward during these times. We hope you enjoy this read!

Claire Jeong (CJ): Could you briefly introduce SOLA Biosciences and the company’s technology?

Keizo Koya (KK): SOLA Biosciences was established in 2016 based on the research Dr. Akinori Hishiya started working on in 2010. The science he was working on was very fascinating to me, but when I first met him, I was working for a different biotech company, so I spent time with him on weekends to help move the research forward. Very promising data was generated, and we moved the science into Strategia Therapeutics, which is a consulting company I founded in 2012 to start a new, innovative model for drug R&D, and help support Asian-based pharmaceutical companies in the USA. We filed for patents, published research findings in scientific journals, then spun out SOLA Biosciences.

SOLA Biosciences developed a novel, “Engineered Chaperone” technology that can control cellular protein folding of disease-causing proteins. The technology is designed to harness the power of the patient’s own chaperones to repair and prevent protein misfolding. This is a platform technology, as it can potentially be applied for any types of conformational diseases (proteopathies) such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, ALS, and more. We are taking a patient-centric approach and want to use our technology for life-saving therapies.

CJ: How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business?

KK: Fortunately, the pandemic has not had a significant impact on our business.  Long before Covid-19, I had wondered whether it was necessary for all of the management team to be in the same location to discuss science and move business forward. I wanted to work with the best people from all over the world in the fields of research, manufacturing, development, etc., Therefore, for a few years I have been using platforms and approaches so that our team can work remotely anywhere in the world.

CJ: What was your initial thought when you heard that RESI shifted to a digital format? Did you have any concerns?

KK: Not at all. I thought it was a good idea. I saw LSN’s summary of the Digital RESI April event on LinkedIn, and it was wonderful to see people all over the world connect in virtual meetings for 48 hours.

CJ: Great! So how many meetings did you have at the last RESI event?

KK: We had 26 meetings in total.  For the people we could not schedule meetings during the conference, we had meetings after RESI.

CJ: Were these meetings with mostly investors, or did you meet with other groups as well?

KK: We focused on investors and pharmaceutical companies for this RESI conference.  Even though we did not have meetings with CRO companies, it is good to learn about them through the RESI list.

CJ: What do you think contributed to your success?

KK: The participants were interested in learning more about our unique technology platform and how it can be applied to conformational diseases such as Alzheimer’s which quite a few investors had interest in.

CJ: How are your follow-up discussions going?

KK: Most of the investors are still reviewing our platform technology and pipelines. Right after RESI, we followed up with all in more detail and we are moving forward under CDAs.  One group kindly let us know that our stage of R&D is still too early for them, which we fully respect their decision.

CJ: Given how the current situation is, it seems like RESI and other conferences will continue digitally. Do you think continuing this Digital RESI provides enough value for companies like SOLA?

KK: Absolutely. Even major conferences like ASCO are also converting to a digital format. The only missing part is actually meeting the people, which gives us an opportunity to get to know them better and show my passion for our projects. Traveling to meet new people and to discuss how to develop the drugs with them is very enjoyable.  But the digital format still provides a good alternative.

CJ: What advice would you like to provide, if any, to fellow entrepreneurs?

KK: I am still in the process of raising funds and continuously learning from fellow entrepreneurs, collaborators, and investors.  The main goal for many startups is to raise money and then exit.  If we find amazing investors/companies to transfer our technology to, who can develop our technology better than we can, then that is certainly the right strategy. It is also good to find collaborators and investors to work together if we can create synergy.  The ultimate goal is to use our technology to help patients. This is all part of a large process of all of us helping patients by doing what we can do well. With an open mind, we will be able to develop a good, long-term relationship with investors and/or collaborators to bring the needed medicine to patients.

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