The second day of “LSTCON 2020” – Life Science Tennessee’s (LST) annual conference featured four separate program sessions ahead of the annual “Venture Forum” that was won by Ichor Sciences.
After a break that is one day short of three weeks, the final “LSTCON 2020” event will occur on November 17 as a one-hour review of next week’s national and state elections and a preview of what life science companies might expect from the federal and state executive and legislative branches in 2021.
Yesterday’s topical sessions were built around the themes of “Fund It,” “Build It,” “Secure It,” and “Translate It.” The day started with a panel featuring two investors in the life science sector – Rob Readnour, Managing Director at Mountain Group Partners, and David Adair, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Solas BioVentures.
Much of the discussion was the two investors responding to questions from attendees, and you might imagine that the discussion focused on both traditional topics – what they assess when considering investments in start-ups – and the all-consuming issue of how COVID-19 has impacted the investment picture.
Readnour, who joined Mountain Group in July 2018, noted that the firm’s first priority when the novel coronavirus hit in early March was making sure its portfolio companies were doing well before making new investments. “Almost every company in our portfolio has had to make some sort of change,” he said. Moving forward, Readnour said that vetting of new opportunities is taking longer than it used to require.
In the case of Solas BioVentures, Adair said that the firm has raised about 25 percent toward a second fund that has targeted a $100 million goal. “We’re actively looking for deals,” he said while adding some words of caution with COVID-19 cases rising across the country and internationally. Adair is clearly concerned about possible restrictions in cities, states and countries if the case counts continue to rise. He cited two specific areas that would impact life science companies – elimination of elective surgeries that would severely impact hospital revenues and facility closings or limitations on access that would affect R&D activities.
Adair talked about his focus on investing in new ventures that can have what he termed a monumental impact. “Can you save a life?” He also emphasized something many investors describe in one way or another about the coachability of the management team. “We want to see how you handle things,” Adair said. “We want to see how you interact with others.”
Readnour agreed with those points, noting that “experience is critical for us.” He also said the dating or vetting process was another key aspect of Mountain Group’s vetting, saying the firm wanted to understand how good the relationship was early on to decide if a marriage (i.e., investment) made sense.
In that regard, Readnour added that areas like utility of the product or service is very important. “We look at it through the eyes of a patient or customer,” he said. “It might work, but is it impractical?”
Participants in the annual “Venture Forum” were the winner – Ichor Sciences, a Nashville-based company that has developed the StatBond, a hemostatic device built to provide both a localized sealant to prevent blood loss and a physical scaffold the body can use to build a clot. The other two were:
- MiCare Path, one of the two Memphis competitors that seeks to enable Patient Coordinators within physicians’ offices to provide patient monitoring and personalized care pathways in a simple patient app and web platform; and
- Diatech Diabetes, the other Memphis company, is developing a patent-pending smart infusion set that monitors and alerts patients with insulin-dependent diabetes and their caretakers of insulin pump delivery malfunctions.
The competition, sponsored by Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, featured a $5,000 prize for the winner.
The new Chair of LST is Paul Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Advanced Catheter Therapies Inc. Other officers elected late yesterday are: Glenn Perdue of Managing Member of Kraft Analytics LLC, Vice Chair; Kayla Graff, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SweetBio Inc., Secretary; and Hunter Rost, Partner at Waller, Treasurer.