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Life Science Nation’s RESI Conference – The Sweet Spot

16 Mar

An interview with Life Science Nation’s CEO Dennis Ford regarding the up and coming Redefining Early Stage Investments conference series – By Ying Tam





Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS:

Dennis, what is the key differentiator of the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference?

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

The sweet spot. RESI is the only “dedicated” early stage global investor conference out there that I can find. On another note, we actually deliver 10 categories of early stage investors. Also, to your point, RESI is unique and the only one that goes across the silos of Drugs, Devices, Diagnostics and Healthcare IT, which is one of the reasons why JLABS has stuck with RESI as title sponsor for three years now. Many investors have multiple investment mandates covering multiple silo’s in the life science arena.

Ying Tam: Who does the RESI Conference compete with?

Dennis Ford: There are other conferences that we share the marketplace with. RESI is focused on Preclinical, Phase I and Phase II funding strictly. Other conferences tend to be more general and more focused on Phase III and commercialization centric in their content and RESI has 16 panels of dedicated to early stage investment content aimed precisely at fundraising CEOs and scientist-entrepreneurs.

Ying Tam: Explain how you and other conferences know you are getting the right investors?

Dennis Ford: I attend these conferences regularly and pay very high fees ($3,500 + USD) to go and therefore get the attendee lists. From the last one I attended, I downloaded the alleged 120 investors attending and gave them to our research group to validate. What we found was 22 investors that actually had investment mandates for early stage preclinical and the rest were I-Banks, consultants, and finance BD folks who go to these events trying to get fundraising CEOs to pay them a monthly stipend for services to aid in raising capital. All of which is fine for them and a draw which creates revenue. RESI only allows “real” investors with vetted mandates. RESI Investors need to adhere to these strict guidelines. RESI@JPM had 500+ investors so the numbers speak for themselves.

Ying Tam: What about Pharma partners?

Dennis Ford: All of the Big Pharma players globally regularly attend RESI conferences and present on our RESI panels. They are seeking technology assets for their pipelines. Pharma attendees are the scouts and BD players and are typically the buy side staff for the Pharma.

Ying Tam: How is RESI business model different?

Dennis Ford: I created the RESI conference and the business model is a real challenge because the price point has to stay relatively low for our scientist-entrepreneur and fundraising CEOs audience. The challenge is investors don’t pay (and won’t) so only half the attendees pay and that makes it hard from the business side. I can understand why other conferences in the market are more general and have a broader content reach as that really helps the bottom line. That said, RESI is a success on many other fronts which is providing a vehicle every 45 days for CEOs to get in front of investors, start a dialogue, that leads to a relationships and hopefully an allocation. We now have 5 RESI conferences a year, JPM, Toronto, BIO, Boston, NYC and that means that a CEO can get 16-20 investor meetings per event and that is a BIG deal as fundraising is a numbers game. RESI provides a vehicle to match up investors and scientist-entrepreneurs and if they attend all 5 RESI meeting can have a dialogue with up to 100 investor meetings and that is a game changer.

Ying Tam: How successful is RESI in terms of getting companies funded?

Dennis Ford: We have run some metrics and have found 15-20% of the firms who buy our global investor database, attend our RESI conferences, and use the techniques outlined in my book do raise capital. We can do better than that but that would mean really getting the sell side players educated and more efficient at branding and messaging and understanding how to run a compelling fund raising campaign.

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

Dennis Ford is an entrepreneur and author with expertise in sales, marketing, and business development. He has spent most of his career launching new companies. Over the last decade, he has worked extensively with global alternative investors interested in high-growth early-stage technologies. His expertise encompasses using database subscription services to create business solutions and using the Internet to create an interactive dialog between buyers and sellers. He is a big proponent of using profiling and matching technology to find that all-important business fit in the marketing and selling process. Before LSN, Dennis was the President and CEO of Brighton House Associates (BHA). BHA was launched in order to improve the way hedge fund and private equity fund managers raised capital and marketed their funds to investors. Ford is the author of The Peddler’s Prerogative and The Life Science Executive’s Fundraising Manifesto, two well-received sales and marketing books.

Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS

Ying Tam is a seasoned entrepreneur and business executive, and is currently Head of Digital Health, Venture Services for MaRS, one of the world’s leading urban innovation hub. MaRS works with a large network of corporate partners and venture funds to help entrepreneurs launch and grow the innovative companies that are changing the future. Ying has co-founded several start-up companies, including Mindful Scientific, a medical device company addressing concussion diagnostics and management, abridean (acquired by nCipher PLC), a software company developing application provisioning and identity management solutions, and i-HRx (acquired by Healthconnex), a digital health company focused on chronic disease management. He has significant strategic and functional experience with operating roles in a wide range of organizations, from early stage companies to major multi-national corporations.

Toronto’s Medical Device Sector Climbs Global Rankings

16 Mar

By Sarah Mortimer, MaRS Discovery District

With venture capital and private equity investing hitting levels not seen since the dot-com boom, Canada is increasingly drawing foreign investors scoping the latest innovations. One of their areas of focus is the country’s medical device and equipment sector, which is now ranked ninth globally, according to Canada’s federal department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

“The medical devices sector in Canada is one to watch,” says Dan Mathers, investment director at the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), noting that the same government report estimates the sector’s worth at $6.8 billion, with additional exports totaling $1.9 billion. “Canada has always had a very strong ecosystem for driving innovation in health sciences, particularly in medical imaging, equipment and devices. The vision here is big.”

Over the past decade, Canada’s medical device sector has seen steady growth, with close to 1,500 medical device firms based in the country (not including medical imaging or assistive device companies), and a growing number of companies being acquired internationally. For example, companies like Mitra (acquired by Agfa), Karos Health (acquired by Vital Images) and Sentinelle Medical (acquired by Hologic) have paved the way for a new generation of companies getting noticed on the global stage.

Many of these firms are based in Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, as well as Canada’s largest city and a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. “There’s a lot of activity here,” said Mathers, referring to successful medical device companies like Perimeter Medical Imaging, Synaptive Medical, eSight and Intellijoint Surgical. “With all the research centres and innovation activity in Toronto, you end up with the ability to turn what was previously science fiction into real-life solutions.”

This growing reputation is drawing investors to Toronto’s annual Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) on MaRS conference on April 4. Canada’s largest health investor event, it connects investors to the country’s top health startups across a range of key sectors, including medical devices. Over 150 investors have already confirmed attendance. This year, RESI on MaRS will be followed by MaRS HealthKick on April 5, an invite-only event that will see a select number of companies pitch to investors for the opportunity to win a cash prize.

Mathers, who has invested in eSight and Intellijoint Surgical – both of which recently expanded to the US market – believes Toronto’s concentration of top talent and “hospitals and universities with significant research budgets” is part of what makes the city an ideal location for medical device ventures. For example, the University of Toronto, which ranks 11th worldwide for clinical research and first in Canada for innovation, is located within a short walk of five renowned research hospitals and just across the street from MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub that is home to a range of tenants, including life science giants like Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS incubator.

All of this is reflected in the bold medical device research currently taking place in the city. “Investing money in trialing new technologies is one of our greatest strengths,” said Mathers, adding that the US National Institutes of Health has ranked Canada third globally when it comes to the number of sites for active clinical trials for medical devices.

Generous funding opportunities for medical device businesses are another draw for investors, Mathers says. A number of Toronto-based venture firms, including MaRS IAF, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Genesys Capital and Lumira Capital, include the medical devices sector as a specific area of focus. The country also offers “significant grant money” for medical device businesses, Mathers says. For example, it offers up to $500,000 in low-interest loans for small businesses, as well as federal research grants, federal tax credits like SR&ED and market readiness funding from organizations like the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

These factors, combined with the low cost of manufacturing medical devices in Canada and the expertise and entrepreneurial support of organizations like MaRS, all lead Mathers to predict “accelerated growth for the sector.”

Arun Menawat, CEO of Profound Medical – a company that makes a real-time MRI-guided ultrasound procedure that destroys cancer cells in the prostate while sparing surrounding tissue – says it’s an exciting time to be in the medical device industry in Toronto.

“There has been a stream of medical device companies that have successfully created growth in the area,” he said. “I think that trend is likely to continue.”

Profound Medical won the MaRS HealthKick Challenge in 2014 and is among the many Canadian medical device companies heading to this year’s RESI on MaRS conference. The company, which went public two years ago, has since grown to a market valuation of $50 million. And in a sign of continued momentum, they secured $17.4 million in bought deal financing just last October.

“There are more and more people in New York and San Francisco who are getting the message that there is a pool of talent in Toronto, which is a great thing,” Menawat says, adding that he looks forward to connecting with investors and other great minds in the medical device industry as Profound prepares to present at this year’s conference.

“Getting the medical device community together is something I’m always excited about,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a lot of talent at that conference.”


Healthcare IT Investors Share Their Strategies at RESI on MaRS

16 Mar

By Cole Bunn, Senior Research Analyst, LSN


Healthcare IT entrepreneurs, as opposed to biotech/medtech entrepreneurs, enjoy some favorable realities when it comes to successfully launching and sustaining a new venture. However, even though software and healthcare IT companies require far less capital than a biopharmaceutical product or medical device to get up and running, investors tend to place an emphasis on market penetration and traction, often the rate limiting step for these startups. A key to overcoming this hurdle is healthy ecosystem with innovative institutions willing to put programs in place to help new digital health technologies enter the marketplace and refine their product.

Canada is embracing digital health and the impact it can have on the public, patients and the healthcare system at large. Toronto, as the epicenter of Canadian healthcare and innovation, is naturally working to catalyze venture creation in healthcare IT and will host the RESI conference and a panel of venture investors active in the space.

The session will feature the following investors:

By registering for RESI on MaRS, you’ll be able to listen to the Healthcare IT panel live, interact with the investors and experience numerous opportunities to expand your network.

30 Leading Life Science Startups Compete in Innovation Challenge at The Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference at MaRS

9 Mar

By Michael Quigley, VP of Market Research, LSN


As RESI gears up for its second landing on MaRs in Toronto this April 4th we are proud to announce our latest batch of life science/health tech companies that will be participating in the RESI Innovation Challenge.

30 companies from across North America, hand selected by LSN’s scientific and commercial review team, will compete directly on merits of innovation and commercial viability.  Past RESI events have seen as many as 50% of innovation challenge contestants go on to receive funding or significant partnerships within a year from the competition.

From companies helping to detect oncoming seizures to those developing cost effective ways of growing blood stem cells, this diverse class of competitors is sure to impress. Come check them our yourself in the Exhibition Hall at RESI on MaRs on April 4th!

Medical Device
Healthcare IT

“Third Coast” Contenders: Rising Life Science Hubs in Houston and Seattle

9 Mar

By James Huang, Research Analyst, LSN

Claire Jeong, Research Analyst, LSN


Last week, LSN looked into the emerging life science hubs in Toronto and NYC to assess where the “Third Coast” of life sciences might emerge.  This week, we’ll take a look at two more cities that are looking to become beacons for the life science industry: Houston and Seattle.

The emergence of Texas Medical Center’s innovation programs has put Houston on the life science map.  In 2015, JLABS @ TMC opened to provide wet lab space for young biotech companies.  In Seattle, Juno Therapeutics has recently put the city back into the spotlight.  Both cities are home to major research centers, and are looking to convert their scientific acumen into further commercial progress.  Here’s how they stack up.

Houston Seattle
Research institutions Texas Medical Center comprises over 40 institutions, including major research centers such as MD Anderson, Baylor, Texas Children’s, and Rice University Major institutions include the University of Washington (UW), Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, Allen Institute for Brain Science, and Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.
Pharma presence Johnson & Johnson have opened JLABS @ TMC. Alcon, Lonza, Mylan, Bayer and Novartis also have facilities in Houston. Pharma companies with Seattle operations include Celgene,  Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novo Nordisk and Gilead Sciences. Juno Therapeutics is based in Seattle.
Local investors The LSN Investor Platform tracks 52 life science investors based in Texas. The LSN Investor Platform tracks 18 life science investors based in Washington State.
Government support CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Initiative of Texas) provides $3 billion in funding From 2005-2015, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund provided support to biotech startups. This continued into 2017 as a competitive grant program.
Startup companies The LSN Company Platform tracks 69 biotech and 123 medtech startups in Texas. The LSN Company Platform tracks 61 biotech and 35 medtech startups in Washington State.

Both cities have the potential to become biotech hubs.  Seattle has recently been challenged by a pullback in state support for the Washington Life Sciences Discovery Fund, and a loss of jobs due to Amgen pulling out of the city.  (Amgen had previously purchased Seattle’s leading biotech company, Immunex).  However with a rising star in Juno Therapeutics, the city has the potential to rebuild its status in the life sciences.  Additionally, the city’s tech expertise could lead to success in the booming Healthcare IT market.

Houston is eager to diversify its economy, and its local oil and gas wealth provide a source of capital to deploy into the life science industry.  With JLABS @ TMC, the TMCx accelerator, and AT&T’s Foundry, there are now many facilities for young healthcare companies to use while they develop their ideas.  Texas Medical Center is a major local employer and has become a source of skilled staff for new companies.  That said, the city has little previous experience as a biotech hub; any major company emerging from Houston would be the city’s first.

We’ll be keeping an eye on these two cities as they continue to build out their hubs.  Which do you think is most likely to make it as the “Third Coast”?


RESI@MaRS Panel Announcement: Early Stage Therapeutic Investors

9 Mar

By Christine A. Wu, Senior Research Analyst, LSN


Despite therapeutic companies’ high-risk development timeline, investors continue to remain focused on investing in biotechnology, seeing its long-term impact and enormous potential in the healthcare industry. Along with the technology, entrepreneurs need to also consider capital intensity, fundraising and milestone timeline, management team, and endpoint selections, among other topics beyond the science.

LSN has assembled five active investors specifically interested in early-stage biotech therapeutics for RESI Toronto, occurring on April 4th. Held in the heart of Canada’s healthcare innovation hub, MaRS Discovery District.

The Early Stage Therapeutic Investors Panel will be moderated by Mark Day, Head, CNS Virtual Discovery of Purdue Pharma, and will be joined by:

The panel will serve as an educational opportunity for scientist entrepreneurs to better understand the investment trends; the investor’s perspective when approaching a deal in a high-risk space; and note-worthy advice to entrepreneurs on the best way to approach and work with investors such as themselves.09

This is a tremendous opportunity for biotech life science entrepreneurs and investors to meet and develop relationships in person. Register for RESI@MaRS now so you don’t miss the chance.

The Battle for the “Third Coast” in 2017. Comparing Emerging Life Science Hubs in NYC and Toronto

2 Mar

By James Huang, Research Analyst, LSN

Claire Jeong, Research Analyst, LSN


While new biotech breakthroughs are made all over the world, it’s generally held that the biotech world has two major hubs – California and Massachusetts.  When it comes to other cities, the question is often about which of the many emerging life science hubs will become biotech’s “Third Coast”.

For this article, LSN has put together a table comparing two of the challengers; Toronto on the coast of Lake Ontario, and NYC on the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Toronto New York City
Research institutions Toronto’s Discovery District is said to be “the densest geographical center for research in the world”.  Home to top universities including University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson University, and medical centers such as University Health Network’s five medical research institutions. NYC is home to many major universities and medical research institutions, including Columbia University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Rockefeller University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


Pharma presence 50 global pharma firms have a Toronto HQ.  Toronto is at the center of the “Ontario-Quebec life science corridor,” with access to the many pharma companies that have operations in Montreal.


Celgene, Cellectis, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Roche have research centers in NYC.  Additionally, NYC benefits from proximity to the New Jersey pharma hub.
Local investors The LSN Investor Platform tracks 61 life science investors based in Canada. The LSN Investor Platform tracks 184 life science investors based in NY.
Government support $30 million Life Sciences Seed Venture Capital Fund. Additional government support includes SR&ED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development) tax credits, and a strong set of framework policies, including intellectual property changes through the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) The NYC Life Sciences Fund will deploy a minimum of $150 million and seeks to launch 15 to 20 breakthrough ventures by 2020. Additionally, NYC has allocated $100 million to create a biotech hub, and $300M in tax incentives.


Startup companies The LSN Company Platform tracks 71 biotech and 177 medtech startups in Ontario. The LSN Company Platform tracks 98 biotech and 40 medtech startups in New York State.


Both cities are putting their resources and local strengths to work to build a life science hub around their strong research bases; NYC has many well-known top tier institutions, and the University of Toronto produces more peer-reviewed publications than any other medical center in the world.  Each has different challenges; in NYC, it may be harder to spin out a new company due to real estate costs.  Meanwhile Toronto has fewer local investors than NYC; however the city is drawing in global capital with new initiatives such as RESI Toronto and the Toronto Health Innovation Week.

We’re very excited to include both cities in RESI’s annual circuit (with our first RESI NYC coming up in November), and it will be interesting to watch the two cities develop while playing to their local strengths.