On May 5, 2011, representatives of the venture capital, angel investing, entrepreneurial, and pharmaceutical communities visited Einstein to participate in a panel discussion highlighting their approaches to advancing early-stage life sciences technology and business opportunities. This panel discussion served as the third installment in the offices of biotechnology and business development’s Science & Business series. The event, entitled Commercial Catalysts in the Early-Stage Life Sciences Technology Ecosystem, was co-sponsored by the graduate division of biomedical sciences and the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies.
Mr. Richard Kosman (director of Einstein’s office of business development) served as moderator of the panel, which consisted of Elizabeth Stoner, M.D. (managing director, MPM Capital and former senior vice president of Global Clinical Development Operations, Merck Research Laboratories), Ronald W. Lennox, D.Phil. (partner, CHL Medical Partners), Milena Adamian, M.D. (director, Life Sciences Angel Network), and Melinda Thomas (entrepreneur-in-residence for New York City, NYC Tech Connect).
The group discussion extended two core threads that have been woven through the Science & Business series: (1) how commercial groups that exist at the interface between life sciences discovery and its commercial orientation assess, value, and advance technology and business opportunities; and (2) career paths within these commercial groups. The discussion began with Dr. Adamian and Dr. Lennox describing some differences between venture capitalists and angel investors, but both panelists also identified substantial common ground and areas of cooperation between the groups. Mr. Kosman then asked the panelists about attractive technology and business opportunity characteristics and criteria and the likelihood that individual opportunities will get financed. Dr.Stoner commented about the vast number of proposals and business plans received by MPM Capital, which are later pared down and prioritized for further evaluation. The other panelists echoed their experiences with this dramatic “funnel” (i.e., low yielding) process of evaluation; the resounding message of the panelists was that the percentage of transactions completed is a vanishingly small fraction of the number of opportunities received and evaluated
Mr. Kosman later asked the panelists about the importance of intellectual property (IP) protection in their evaluation of opportunities. Ms. Thomas, as an experienced entrepreneur, spoke for the panel when she noted that IP is extremely important for any investor. Mr. Kosman reminded the audience that the IP process at Einstein begins with the Einstein inventor’s submission of an Invention Disclosure Form to the offices of biotechnology and business development.
The panel discussion concluded with each panelist briefly discussing their own career trajectory, and, in response to an audience question during the “question and answer” period, they each provided additional insights into how one might enter their field.
The lively discussion was well attended by members of Einstein’s faculty, staff, post-docs and students.