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Successfully Raising Money through RESI: An Interview with Ankit Agarwal, CEO, Imbed Biosciences

13 Feb

Ankit Agarwal

– By Bryanna Allison, Business Development Manager, LSN

Bryanna Allison

Companies frequently ask me the question: does RESI work? We at LSN believe strongly that companies can successfully complete their fundraising if they follow our advice, but you don’t have to take our word for it: I recently spoke to Ankit Agarwal, CEO of Imbed Biosciences, who was eager to share his story of how he used RESI to raise his Series A.

Bryanna Allison: Congratulations on raising your Series A! Why are you so excited to share your story?

Ankit Agarwal: Thank you! I wanted to do this interview to encourage other fundraising CEOs – it’s a long and difficult process. It’s important not to get discouraged, despite how long it may be taking and how many noes you may hear. I found that the key was reaching out to multiple types of investors, and to meet with as many relevant investors as possible. This is why RESI was so helpful –it gave me access to hundreds of investors in one room. Beyond that, RESI is like a community for early stage life sciences; I had the chance to meet fellow fundraising CEOs facing the same challenges, allowing us to make friends and compare notes.

Over the course of a year, I attended 4 RESIs and was selected twice for the Innovation Challenge. I had a lot of meetings and got a lot of noes before I started hearing yeses. My advice is to make sure you are consistent and to get yourself out there as much as possible.

BA: How much did you raise for your Series A?

AA: Our goal for the Series A was to raise $5M in capital. We closed $4M in investments and a $1.5M grant from the NIH for a total of $5.5M in capital.

BA: Did you meet your investors for the first time at RESI?

AA: Yes, we did! But, we were very diligent about reaching out to hundreds of investors, both at RESI and in between conferences, making sure that they were relevant to our technology. We worked hard to get 12-16 meetings scheduled for every RESI we attended, and we got a lot of feedback that helped us refine our message and pitch. We also went into deeper diligence with several investors that did not end up leading to funding, but provided invaluable feedback and connections to the right investors.

BA: How long did your fundraise take?

AA: Before RESI, I was on the road for about 9 months to fundraise. From the initial meeting at RESI, it took about 10 months to finalize the deal, with a lot of back and forth. RESI is like the Disneyland® of early stage investors – it cut out so much time and money that I would have spent to meet with that many investors if I had continued fundraising as I did before attending RESI.

BA: With regards to the fundraising process, was it familiar to you? Do you have prior experience as a startup CEO and with a successful fundraise?

AA: This is my first company – the technology behind Imbed’s products came out of my post-doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin. This was my second round of fundraising for Imbed, the first being three separate seed rounds, raising a total of $3M, over a 4 year span.

BA: How many meeting requests did you send out in the RESI partnering platform?

AA: I sent 100+ requests through the partnering platform at each RESI I attended. I also reached out to investors that were a close, but not perfect, fit, because I wanted to make sure that I cast a wide net, in case they were interested. In addition to the meetings at RESI, this led to around 50 pitches outside of RESI with investors I met at the conference. I met with at least 100 investors over the course of 10 months.

BA: As a first time CEO, how did you prepare for your meetings?

AA: I used all of the resources LSN and RESI made available, and I followed your directions. I used the templates you provided for my outgoing message on the partnering platform, I sent out 100+ meeting requests to the relevant investors, as you recommended. In all, the process was easy and straightforward.

BA: What did you include in your message that was of the most interest to investors?

AA: Having a good pitch deck was key. Also, discussing our path forward, including the strategy for raising our Series B helped. This allowed me to clarify that this was not our last capital raise, that there was an opportunity for follow-on investments, as well as mentioning the bigger value inflection point down the line.

BA: Did you present your pitch deck at the meeting, and did you bring any additional material with you?

AA: I sent the investors an email before the meetings with the pitch deck and executive summary attached. During the meeting, I showed the device and clinical cases using our products. At the end, I gave them a brochure with the information.

BA: How many meetings do you think you had before closing the round?

AA: There were quite a few. That was the benefit of RESI: that I had a lot of meetings in one day. Even if I received 15 noes that day, it was still productive because this allowed me to screen potential investors before spending money to travel and meet them all individually.

BA: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to companies attending RESI to fundraise?

AA: I would tell them to believe in the RESI process and follow your advice on how to make the most of it. They should really try to fill in those 16 slots, but should not be disappointed if all of those meetings end up not being a fit. They should look at it as a positive: they still met and screened out 16 investors – who knows how long that could have taken outside of RESI if they had to try to meet with them one at a time.

I viewed this as a personal challenge: as a first time entrepreneur, I wanted to see if I could close this round myself. I followed your recommendations by the book, and it worked! Using RESI to fundraise is an easy and elegant process.

BA: Thank you for sharing your story. Good luck moving forward!

Imbed Biosciences LogoAbout Imbed Biosciences: Imbed Biosciences is a privately held biotech company registered with FDA as a medical device manufacturer with an ISO 13485 certified quality management system. The company has a portfolio of products in development based on its patented and FDA-cleared Microlyte® technology to combat local pain and infections in complex wounds such as burns, chronic ulcers, surgical wounds, epidermolysis bullosa, and colorectal surgeries. A portion of Imbed’s research funding comes from the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

RESI Europe Speaker Spotlight: Hear Insightful Remarks from Big Pharma, Strategic Partners, and Top VCs

13 Feb

By Jessica Yang, Investor Research Analyst, LSN

RESI Europe in Paris will feature two tracks of investor panels that include specialized topics relevant to current industry trends, such as Seed Funds, Big Pharma, AI in Healthcare and Oncology Innovation. RESI Panels are focused on an audience of entrepreneurs seeking to raise funding and make strategic relationships. LSN recruits panelists from our extensive network of investors in different categories, who are actively looking to make investments in early-stage life science and healthcare sectors. The panelists will have advice to share with startup CEOs on how to get through the process, get into dialogue, and secure funding or make a deal.

If you’re interested in hearing and meeting active industry experts, it’s not too late to register now!

Here are some of the panelists who will be joining our panels at RESI Europe in Paris:


Alexandra Bause
Partner
Apollo Health Ventures

Alizée Cres
Principal BD & Strategy MITG EMEA
Medtronic

Yuwen Liu
Founding Partner
BOHE Angel Fund

Benedikt Luhmann
Principal – Healthcare
VI Partners

Chris Church
Manager, Search & Evaluation, CVRM
AstraZeneca

Corinne Venot
Sr. Director, BD
Beigene

Diana Saraceni
Founder, Managing Director
Panakes Partners

Guillermo Yudowski
Principal Investigator, EPIU
Biogen

Jonas Jendi
Investment Manager
Industrifonden

Katherine Cohen
Venture Partner
Panacea Ventures

Kevin Johnson
Founding Partner
Medicxi Ventures

Martin Pfister
Sr. Investment Manager: Life Sciences
High-Tech Gründerfonds

Murali Gopalakrishnan
Sr. Director, Head Search & Evaluation Neuroscience
AbbVie

Olaf Koenig
Director, International Bd
Amgen

Olivier Nosjean
Research Scientific Director
Servier

Paolo Pio
Managing Director
Joyance Partners

Sofia Ioannidou
Partner
Andera Partners

Stefan Luzi
Partner
Gilde Healthcare Partners

Thibaut Roulon
Investment Director (Bioam & InnoBio)
bpifrance

Thierry Laugel
Managing Partner
Kurma Partners

Tom Willis
Partner
Illumina Ventures

Victor Tong
Partner
Decheng Capital

Walter Stockinger
Managing Partner
Hadean Ventures

Wieger Vos
Corporate Strategy, Healthcare
KPN Ventures

 

What You Need to Do Before You Write Your Business Plan

13 Feb

By Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

LSN business development teams spend a lot of time at various bio clusters and technology hubs around the world.  In the last week, my team visited two hubs in the Netherlands to deliver our free Fundraising Bootcamp, and we are planning more visits to Europe tech hubs soon.

The more I travel around the planet the more similarities I see in the approach tech hubs take with their early stage company training strategy.  I see that unanimously they are focused on getting a rational business plan to present to partners and investors.  In order to accomplish this task they have hired Entrepreneurs In Residence and developed training programs. We have written before about the LSN training program fundraising training program Focus on Cures (FOC) and where it fits in the early stage of identifying potential partners and teaching how to reach out. LSN has found that FOC is augmenting and complementary with almost all of the tech hub strategies for partnering. You can learn more about how FOC is different here.

In many aspects getting a business plan around early stage technology assets is a great challenge. A company needs to be thorough and in context in a fast changing arena on many different levels.  LSN offers training in a complementary skillset: the LSN mantra is to find all the folks you should be in dialogue with and start that dialogue no matter where you are at in the development cycle from idea to clinical stages. When you start a dialogue and begin relationships, the data elements needed for the business plan will  fall out of the relationship.

LSN is the early view of talking about your company’s technology and team. It is not about market segments and reimbursement strategies – those will happen immediately after some validation with the existing programs already in place.  LSN will posit that the partners in the early stage technology arena are more interested in trying to determine if the management team can be vetted and parsed for their ability to execute and move the technology forward.  After the technology is vetted and partners surface around a table, that’s when formal business plans evolve.

 

Interview with Nancy Briefs, CEO at Cambridge, MA-based Altrix Bio Finalist at the Featured Company Pitch Session at RESI San Francisco

6 Feb

Nancy Briefs

An interview with Nancy Briefs, CEO of Altrix Bio

– By Greg Mannix, VP of International Business Development, LSN

Greg Mannix

RESI has recently added an all-day pitch track in which entrepreneurs can deliver their short presentation to an investor audience and get instant feedback and questions from investors. In January at RESI SF, Altrix Bio was selected as one of the pitch session finalists. You can now apply to pitch at RESI Europe. You can also apply for a poster spot in the RESI Innovation Challenge.

Nancy Briefs, CEO of Altrix Bio

trategic business leader with extensive experience creating value, driving strategy and launching product commercialization in diverse life science companies. Deep general management and fundraising expertise having raised over $500 M in equity including IPO. Innovative, collaborative and entrepreneurial, strong communicator and tenacious. Energized by turning innovation into commercial reality, working with creative scientists, and communicating value to partners and investors.

Greg Mannix: Nancy, congratulations on being a finalist in the first ever Featured Company Pitch Session dedicated to women CEOs. What are your thoughts on this focus?

Nancy Briefs: I think it was timely and important. Especially being in California, one of the first places to really push for more diversity. I thought it was a refreshing change!

GM: What can be done to increase gender diversity in leadership roles at life sciences companies?

NB: I think a lot of women fall off the path between senior management positions and the C-suite, partly because of family commitments and other factors. Another thing might be the lack of role models to look up to when they are coming up the corporate ladder.  And finally, it doesn’t help that the large majority of investors are also men, and are probably more prone to invest in people that look like them.  Events like this RESI pitch session dedicated to women in CEO roles, which gives visibility to women role models and successful leaders, is a good thing. It is a fact that women make most of the healthcare decisions in their families, so it would seem to make sense that they play a more prominent role in healthcare companies.

GM: How did the Pitch Session go?

NB: It was well attended; I think there were 100 to 120 people in the auditorium. The moderator did a good job keeping everyone on schedule. It was a well run session.

GM: And how did you do in this new pitch format at RESI?

NB: Really well! I love to pitch and we got really positive feedback from several people. We got great visibility for the company and two of the investors in the audience reached out to me afterward. We are currently in conversations with them, so we are pleased with the result.

GM: Why do you think Altrix got traction with investors?

NB: I think Type 2 diabetes it is such a huge global problem, and our solution LuCI™ AJN 003 is an elegant drug without any systemic effects.  That is important for the 50% of patients who do not reach glycemic control.   And our experienced team really knows what it will take to get us through Phase II clinical trials.   Also, Dennis Ford (Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series), who we’ve been working with on our fundraise, really helped us focus our story. That made a difference as well.

GM: So you would pitch again at RESI?

NB: You bet!

AltrixBio has developed LuCI™, a novel substance that transiently coats the GI mucosa to block nutrient absorption, independent of the pH environment, temporarily mimicking the effects of Gastric Bypass (RYGB). LuCI is comprised of a sucrose octasulfate aluminum complex engineered into a complex coacervate formulation linked via pH-independent electrostatic interactions. When exposed to gastrointestinal fluid, LuCI forms a sticky paste that binds to the mucosa to form a coating on the site of GI tract. LuCI 1) can be orally administered, 2) rapidly binds to the luminal surface of the stomach, duodenum, and small intestine, 3) forms a continuous barrier coating to block nutrient contact, 4) has shown in vivo efficacy in a rodent model to significantly lower postprandial glucose response, and 5) has shown no systemic absorption or toxicity, thus minimizing the risk profile. Furthermore, by adjusting viscosity and dosing of the drug, we can alter duration of exposure, thus creating a family of drug formulations to coat the intestine and alter glucose homeostasis for different periods of time. The company is advancing AJN 003 for the treatment of type 2 Diabetes. Additionally, LuCI’s unique attributes may provide an ideal platform for delivery of drugs to the GI tract.

Analysing Pharma Deal Data Shows the Importance of Early Partnering

6 Feb

By Lucy Parkinson, VP of Investor Research, LSN

In addition to maintaining the LSN Investor Platform, LSN also provides access to the LSN Business Development platform, which tracks tens of thousands of early stage companies and new life science technologies all over the world.  This platform includes a licensing deals dataset that provides crucial information on valuations, milestones, upfront payments, and everything else you’d need to build valuation comparators for your assets.  By taking a look at all the 2019 data as a whole, we can reveal what’s really happening in pharma dealmaking.

We have recently expanded our deals records and due to the change in the way we compile this data, year-over-year comparisons are difficult.  But here are the key facts that emerge from the 2019 deals data.

Partnering Starts Early

While 2019 saw a good deal of horse-trading of assets that were already on the market (including many deals for regional rights in Asia), we continue to see a lot of early stage companies locking in deals at the Research, Preclinical or Phase I stages.  As you can see by the chart, about a third of 2019’s deals that pertained to a specific therapeutic asset happened prior to Phase II.

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Oncology, Oncology, Oncology

In 2019, dealmakers continued their hunt for new targets and treatments for cancer. Many assets were licensed that did not specify an indication or did not pertain to a specific disease area (this is often true of new drug platforms or delivery technologies), but among those that did, oncology continued to have an outsized presence.  However, we saw an uptick in interest in infectious diseases and in gastroenterology.  In the infectious space, there were several deals for HIV treatments, and in gastroenterology, there was interest in Crohn’s disease, NASH and IBS.  Neurology also remained an active field for deals, with in-licensing efforts related to multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, among other disease areas.

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There are hundreds of potential licensees out there, and they have deep pockets

Every time we take a look into licensing deals data, we find deals being made with a huge variety of organizations all over the world.  From traditional big pharmas and global conglomerates to rising biotechs and even philanthropic foundations that are making co-development deals with startups – there’s no shortage of dealmakers out there, and if you’re looking for a partner for your early stage asset you should spread your net wide.  We captured a total of over 170 organisations that made an in-licensing deal in 2019.  About half of all deals included a stated upfront payment, and over half also stated a milestone payment – sometimes in the billions of dollars.

While not all deals are made public, within our data set the most highly active dealmakers in 2019 were AstraZeneca and Gilead.  We’ll keep our eyes peeled during 2020 for in-licensing activity from these firms and hundreds more.

Sales & Marketing 102: Develop A Product, Get Initial Data, And Start Telling Your Story

6 Feb

By Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

Last week I wrote about why every entrepreneur needs to build a fundraising campaign that utilizes comprehensive marketing collateral and includes a strategy for getting in front of the right partners to help move your company forward. However, equally as important is an innovative technology, a compelling story and sufficient data to prove how effective your product is.

Early stage innovators need to get their products developed through prototyping for a target market, then get out of the building and go after that market (investors, end users, channel partners) with their product info and validating data. The key is emphasizing and differentiating their technology, proving why they are different and telling the story of what that difference will mean.  You have to start telling the story early.  Preclinical and IND stages are where you want to be talking about how your technology will impact the existing landscape, and you must deliver a prototype with data to prove it.

The lean company model, in which LSN believes, is to get your technology going and take it to the potential partners in your space (LSN can identify them) that would be interested, and build momentum and relationship value through early stage interaction. Attending RESI, which is held every few months, allows you to regularly meet your potential partners face to face and develop deeper relationships as the products iterate, instead of meeting once or twice a year. This is why RESI is so pivotal: because all the different but relevant players are at every RESI. LSN provides the tactical aspect of how to engage partners in discussion and where to find them.

Ultimately, a company cannot succeed without using all of these pieces to put together a complete picture: a product that continues to meet important milestones, a compelling story backed up by a complete marketing collateral package, and on-going relationships with investors and strategic partners to move it forward. However, the product and the validation data is the foundation on which everything stands, and it needs to be solid to avoid crashing to the ground.

Two Ways to Highlight Your Startup at RESI in Paris

23 Jan

By Karen Deyo, Investor Research Analyst, LSN

On March 23rd, RESI will be coming to Paris for our second RESI in Europe. Life Science Nation (LSN) is offering early stage companies the chance to increase their exposure through two different startup showcases – the RESI Innovation Challenge and the new Featured Company Pitch Sessions.

Those who have attended RESI in the past are familiar with the RESI Innovation Challenge, which features the 30 most ‘investable’ companies, selected after a rigorous evaluation. These companies are evaluated based on innovativeness, marketability, stage of development and competitive edge, among other criteria, with selected companies presenting posters in the exhibit hall on the day of the conference. These companies compete for ‘investments’ of ‘RESI cash’ from their fellow attendees, with the top companies receiving prizes at the end of the day. Investors who attend RESI regularly are aware that companies selected to participate in the Innovation Challenge are selected based on merit, and many Innovation Challenge winners have successfully raised investments. The application deadline for the Innovation Challenge is February 21st, so make sure to apply here!

Meanwhile, the Featured Company Pitch Sessions are a new opportunity for companies to gain exposure to the investors attending RESI. For RESI Europe, companies can pay a fee of €1000 to pitch to a panel of investor judges as well as a broader audience of RESI attendees. Each hour slot will feature 4 companies pitching, with time after every pitch reserved for questions from the panel and audience. The application for the Featured Company Pitch Session is streamlined, with a rolling acceptance process. Pitching spots can fill up fast, so make sure to apply early.

Companies participating in both the Innovation Challenge and the Featured Company Pitch Sessions will be featured in the LSN Newsletter and the RESI Program Guide, with the Innovation Challenge winners announced after RESI.

 

RESI Innovation Challenge Featured Company Pitch Sessions
Rigorous application process, top 30 selected Streamlined application process, rolling acceptance
Poster display in the exhibit hall Pitch slot with 4 min pitch and 8 min Q&A
Competition with prizes Pitch to a dedicated feedback panel of investors
No fee to participate (beyond registration) Additional fee of €1000

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