Origami Therapeutics Leverages RESI Innovation Challenge to Meet Investors

25 Jun

Beth J. Hoffman, Ph.D.
Founder, President & CEO of Origami Therapeutics

Erich White
BD Manager of LSN

We are always happy to share success stories from companies that have attended RESI. As a finalist in the RESI Innovation Challenge, Origami Therapeutics used that to their advantage in their investor outreach. I spoke with Beth J. Hoffman Ph.D., Founder, President & CEO of Origami to see if she could share her insights with me.

Erich White (EW): Congratulations on a successful RESI event! What is your tagline and elevator pitch, to get the audience calibrated?

Beth J. Hoffman (BH): Tagline: “Discovering drugs that reshape proteins to restore health”

Elevator Pitch: Origami Therapeutics is taking a precision medicine approach to discover disease-modifying treatments for neurodegeneration caused by toxic protein misfolding. Origami plans to generate a pipeline of small molecule therapeutics that prevent or delay the onset and the progression of neurodegenerative diseases by targeting the underlying genetic cause of disease. Leveraging the founder’s experience in discovering transformational therapies for Cystic Fibrosis that modulate CFTR conformation, the company’s focus is to treat neurodegeneration by directly modulating pathogenic proteins. Our platform enables discovery of both protein degraders and conformation correctors, allowing us to match the best drug to treat each disease using patient-derived disease models. Currently, we are selecting the optimal compound to advance into preclinical testing for Huntington’s disease and initiating programs for additional indications.

EW: Tell me about your technology. Where it came from and current status?

BH: Our technology relies on the demonstrated ability of small molecules to influence how a much larger protein functions. Proteins are the molecular machines in your cells. They are made as a linear string and must fold into the proper shape in order to function properly. If there is a failure to fold properly, disease can result. In short, we use small molecules that directly interact with mutated disease-causing proteins to either repair their folding (conformation correctors) or to further disrupt their folding (protein degraders) to shunt them into degradation pathways. In either case, the toxic proteins are reduced and cellular function can return to a normal healthy state. At Origami, we started with a proprietary high-throughput screen to identify protein conformation modulators for Huntington’s disease. Currently, we have several potential lead molecules from which we are selecting a lead to optimize and advance into preclinical testing for Huntington’s disease.

EW: What is your funding history, and what are your upcoming goals?

BH: Origami has been self-funded thus far. We are currently seeking Seed funding and non-dilutive grant funding.

EW: Enter RESI.  How has LSN and RESI been helping to get you in front of investors? Please describe the coaching and what you have learned.

BH: First, I have to credit Women in Bio and their efforts to get us engaged with the WIB Pitch Competition and the Innovation Challenge.  I would not have been likely to become engaged with RESI without the WIB engagement and pricing discounts.

The most important aspect of the RESI coaching has been to adopt my pitch materials to the “RESI approach”.  The process, itself, enabled me to view my pitch differently, adding important details such as a “Risks & Mitigations” slide. Adapting my materials to the RESI Executive Summary and Tear Sheet formats enabled me to focus on slightly different aspects of Origami, making the totality of our materials much richer and brought out more storytelling in the written materials – information I would typically include in a verbally delivered pitch.

EW: Tell me how it has been going for you in terms of getting in front of investors

BH: I’ve been very fortunate to be part of JLABS @ San Diego and the San Diego/ SoCal ecosystem (i.e. Biocom, San Diego Entrepreneur Exchange, WIB). This has afforded me opportunities to get in front of investors at fairly regular intervals through investor hub meetings (JLABS), pitch competitions and partnering days. We’ve been quite successful in being selected for 1:1 meetings and platform pitches. These are roughly monthly or bimonthly and a combination of VC, strategic and Angel groups.

EW: What is your frequency of outreach and how big is your investor list?  Did the fundraising dynamic change after RESI how?

BH: I’ve participated in the April RESI and the June RESI, both digital meetings.  I’ve gotten in front of many more investors and different types of investors. By selecting investors by funding round and disease area interest, I was able to meet a greater percent of investors interested in what Origami is doing.  I joined April RESI with very little lead time yet still managed to have 13 meetings.  At the June RESI, I had 22 meetings plus 3 other interactions.  Perhaps, in part, as a result of being selected as an Innovation Challenge finalist, I received meeting requests from 8 investors that I had not pursued. Six of these 8 were new interactions. I’ve had several meetings before and after the official June RESI dates and continue to have follow up meetings.

EW: How do you see the innovation Challenge and how did you approach it?

BH: I saw the Innovation Challenge as an opportunity to draw attention to what Origami is doing and to provide our information in multiple formats. I believe that these multiple formats enable our message to be received by the broadest number of people. As a follow-up to my initial meeting request, I send the link to our IC page. Doing the voice over for the poster was critical in refining my meeting pitch.

EW: You also participated during the Digital RESI 2-Day Partnering Event last month. How many meetings were you able to secure?

BH: I had 13 meetings out of a total of 26 requested.

EW: How did you secure so many meetings? What did you do to get so many?

BH: Our entry into the April RESI was quite last minute, so there wasn’t time for follow-up messages. I’d say we did the bare minimum in this case. For June, I used the announcement of the Innovation Challenge finalists to follow-up with those who had not responded to meeting requests.

EW: What helped you most to get those meetings?

BH: I would have to imagine that the novelty of our approach/ technology and the disease area (neurodegeneration) probably piqued interest. Being named as an IC finalist definitely brought attention to Origami.

EW: How did those meetings go? Any follow-up yet?

BH: I’ve already had 2 follow-up meetings, 5 requests for additional information and 1 CDA.  There are still 2 more initial meetings upcoming in the next 2 weeks.

EW: What have you learned so far participating at RESI?

BH: The large number of meetings in a small amount of time definitely honed my pitch and sharpened how I approached and handled each meeting. I think the virtual nature helped minimize the running around and let everyone be a bit more relaxed and attentive.

In addition, it’s critical to have a team member with you to take notes, observe people’s reactions and add comments in case I forget something. It also helped in debriefing after the meetings. In a virtual meeting when the audience is not in front of you, it’s very hard to pitch and notice facial expressions, body language, attentiveness, etc. This is especially true if you are also negotiating slide sharing.

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