Medical devices, biopharmaceuticals and healthcare sectors are growing rapidly, fueled by an influx of smart investment dollars. How do investors assess life science startups before committing to an investment? What are on their checklists for determining risks and returns? In this panel discussion, we bring together experienced investors across the funding landscape, from venture capital and angel investing, to multinational corporations and government organisations. Join us to find out what these investors look for when evaluating life science companies and how you can improve your odds of getting funded.
Biotech Connection Singapore (BCS) hosted a panel discussion featuring “Evaluating Life Science Companies for Investment” on the evening of Sep 6th at Breakthrough Theatrette, Matrix Building, Biopolis. Over 170 professionals from the local biotech community attended the event and engaged in lively discussions with the panelists.
Following up on the discussion we had at our last event, seasoned investors from venture capital, MNCs, and the public sector delved into the key considerations that drive investment decisions. The discussion was moderated by Dr Snehal Patel, Co-Founder and Director of MyDoc Pte Ltd, and Co-Founder of Galen Growth Asia, with lively participation from the panelists – Dr. Carolyn Ng, Investment Director from Vertex Healthcare Venture Capital; Dr. Stefan Hart, Director of New Ventures from Johnson & Johnson Innovation; Mr. Sridhar Gopal, Business Development and New Product Planning Director from Abbvie, and Mr. Chik Wai Chiew, Executive Vice President of the Commercialization Division from Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (A*STAR).
Kicking off the discussion, the panel shared their views on the sectors and therapeutic areas that have garnered the most investment interest. The panelists noted that immuno-oncology has seen the most investment activity and corporate acquisition interest in recent years. Other potential areas with huge unmet medical needs include cardiovascular, neurology, metabolic disease and orphan diseases. Besides therapeutics, the panelists suggest that there is promise in developing technologies that better support both medical providers and patients by integrating multiple research areas such as bioinformatics, bio-electronics and diagnostics. While most startups tend to focus on novel technologies and therapeutics, Dr. Hart emphasized the importance of building groundbreaking business models with innovative customer delivery channel in order to create value for the technologies and products. With the main players in the healthcare and life science industry (eg. insurance and pharma companies) all located within Singapore, he sees Singapore as an ideal test bed for these innovative business models before global implementation.
When assessing life science companies and technologies for investment, our panel of investors value strong management teams with truly disruptive technologies that fulfill significantly unmet medical need. In addition, the company’s business model should be capital-efficient in order to drive significant value creation from the initial investment. The company should also possess a sound intellectual property (IP) strategy, as a strong IP portfolio sets the foundation for further product development. Notably, Mr. Gopal and Mr. Chik highlighted the importance for researchers to stay open-minded and be receptive to collaborating with industry partners via various mechanisms such as joint ventures, co-development programs or licensing deals to successfully commercialize their research and bring it to market.
Our panelists noted that startup companies tend to be acquired or go IPO at a very early stage in recent years – i.e. clinical Phase I or even preclinical stage. As such, there has been a significant movement amongst venture capital firms to evaluate and invest in companies at even earlier stages. This has the unfortunate outcome of increasing the risks of investments. According to Dr Ng, top-tier journal publications or sound scientific evidence are strong indicators that can help push investors to commit at these early and high-risk stages. Other de-risking strategies include: investing in platform technologies capable of generating different targets in various areas for a potentially broader product portfolio, and syndicating investments with fellow VCs with deep pockets and technical know-how to better validate the company and spread risks. Lastly, Mr. Gopal emphasized that conducting proper due diligence and having a thorough understanding of a potential investment is fundamentally critical.
The discussion came to a close with strong encouragement from the panel for scientist-entrepreneurs to enthusiastically reach out to both industry players and end customers, seek to partner people with complementary business skills, while staying alert about the challenges and potential competition.
The attendees enjoyed food and drinks at the networking session after the panel discussion, generously sponsored by A*StartCentral.
6.30 – 7.00pm: Registration
7.00 – 7.05pm: Introduction to BCS and A*StartCentral
7.05 – 8.05pm: Speaker Introduction & Panel Discussion
8.05 – 9.00pm: Networking reception with light refreshments
Carolyn Ng, Ph.D.
Investment Director, Vertex Healthcare Venture Capital
Stefan Hart, Ph.D.
Director, New Ventures Singapore/SEA/India, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
Chik Wai Chiew, MBA
Executive Vice President, Commercialisation Division, Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd
Business Development & New Product Planning Director, Japan Asia Pacific, AbbVie Inc
Snehal Patel, M.D., J.D.
Dr Patel co-founded MyDoc and is also a Managing Director of Saena Partners, a Singapore-based investment company. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President at Chandler Corporation, a multi-billion dollar investment fund based in Singapore. In this role, he founded and led the investment team responsible for investing in healthcare businesses in South and Southeast Asia. His responsibilities included leading the on-the-ground incubation and early growth of a regional healthcare chain, as well as serving on the boards of several early-stage healthcare and education businesses throughout the region. Prior to moving to Singapore in 2008, Dr Patel practiced law at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and LLP in New York. He received an MD from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a JD from Columbia Law School. Upon graduation, he served as a Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Medical School, and was offered a Fulbright scholarship to study the differences between the Singaporean and US healthcare systems. Dr Patel was a featured speaker at the 2011 Milken Global Conference and is a member of the Society of Kauffman Fellows.
Carolyn Ng, Ph.D.
Carolyn Ng is the Investment Director of Vertex Healthcare Ventures, the VC arm of Temasek Holdings specializing in early stage life sciences investments. She is based in the Singapore office, where she evaluates venture investment opportunities across biotechnology and medical devices sectors globally. Prior to joining Vertex, Carolyn was a Consultant at Deallus Consulting, a specialized life sciences strategy consulting firm. While at Deallus, she led multiple consulting projects for large pharmaceutical companies supporting due diligence of in-/out-licensing opportunities, analyzing competitive landscapes of emerging classes of therapeutics, and formulating go-to-market strategies for Asian markets. Carolyn was also a molecular oncology research scientist in YLL School of Medicine, the National University of Singapore. She was a recipient of the NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering PhD scholarship, and holds the patent of a novel small molecule nuclear receptor activator indicated for the treatment of neuroblastoma.
Carolyn holds a PhD in Cancer Molecular Biology from the NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Technology, and also holds a BS (Pharmacy) (Honours) degree from the National University of Singapore.
Stefan Hart, Ph.D.
Dr Stefan Hart is Director, New Ventures Singapore/SEA/India at Johnson & Johnson Innovation. In this role he deepens Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s network with innovators and entrepreneurs in the regional life science ecosystem, and sources and establishes collaboration and investment opportunities for the pharma, medical devices and diagnostics, and consumer sector of J&J.
Previously Stefan worked at Roche as the Manager of Pre-clinical Academic Alliance. In this role, he directed key external collaborations. Prior to that, Stefan was a Senior Scientist at S*BIO Pte Ltd. In this role, Stefan acted as a core member of Pracritinib drug development team. He led the pre-clinical development and successfully implemented the clinical biomarker strategy.
Stefan trained as an engineer in biotechnology at the University for Applied Sciences Weihenstephan (Freising, Germany). He received his Ph.D. research at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, where his work focused on the transactivation of the EGFR by G protein-coupled receptors in human cancer, and resulted in significant publications that led to the MPIB Junior Research Award in 2004. Stefan did his postdoctoral research at the Institute for Medical Biology (IMB), Singapore where he launched the Singapore OncoGenome Project. Stefan is also the author of 25 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals and of 2 patents.
Chik Wai Chiew, MBA
As Executive Vice President, Commercialisation at ETPL, Wai Chiew leads an experienced team of licensing and business development professionals to originate and manage an impactful portfolio of deep science projects based on A*STAR’s technologies and funding.
Prior to assuming his current position at ETPL, Wai Chiew has enjoyed various public and private sector positions including Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), Temasek Holdings and Tembusu Partners. He has extensive global experience in strategic planning; business development; corporate governance; organisational transformation; venture incubation; and investment management. Wai Chiew has also mentored business founders and served on multiple corporate boards across Asia.
Wai Chiew holds a BA (Economics) from Cambridge University; MA (International and Development Economics) from Yale University and EMBA from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.
Sridhar Gopal has a wealth of experience in Business Development, M&A, and Licensing across international markets. Currently Sridhar leads Business Development and New Product Planning for AbbVie for JAPAC. Prior to AbbVie, Sridhar spent close to a decade in Astra Zeneca, in US and Asia, in Global & Regional roles in Business Development including Evaluations, Transactions and Alliance Management.
Sridhar has successfully closed several varied deals including Acquisitions, licensing’s, co-marketing, co promotions, divestments across markets. Among Sridhar’s experiences, he has led teams pursuing diverse Global Strategic projects like Branded Generics, Biosimilars, and Orphan Drugs.