W3 Meeting Summary

Overcoming Startup Challenges

On February 16, 2012, SoCalBio’s Women Work & Wisdom (W3) group hosted their first mixer at the Alfred Mann Institute in Santa Clarita, featuring insightful presentations on Startup Challenges by female biotech executives, Shenda Baker, PhD, President and COO of Synedgen and Elena Medo, Chairman and CEO of Neolac, Inc. 

SoCalBio W3 extends its thanks to Neelima Firth, Diane Palumbo and the entire Alfred Mann Institute for hosting the meeting. The event was well attended, and the presentations were thought-provoking and valuable to all those currently involved in start-up and emerging company projects as well as those who aspire to become biotech entrepreneurs.

The evening started with a warm welcome from John Petrovich, Senior Vice President of Business Development at the Alfred Mann Foundation (AMF). Mr. Petrovich gave an overview of AMF and its affiliated companies and research partners, and talked about some of the clinical projects in the areas of neurology and diabetes in which the Foundation is currently involved.

Dr. Baker presented on her company’s start-up challenges, funding through NIH grants, current pipeline, and partnering opportunities. She highlighted the orphan drug products Synedgen is developing for treating patients with cystic fibrosis and head and neck cancer. She also shared the company’s products for the veterinarian market, which have moved this start-up into the category of a revenue-generating company. Synedgen’s assets include a fully operational GMP manufacturing facility, an in-house scientific team for drug development, a solid toxicology profile for agents in the pipeline and a strong IP protection portfolio. The company is open to partnering opportunities including marketing, distribution, licensing, outright sale of field of use and co-development with other companies. 

Elena Taggart Medo, who described herself as a serial entrepreneur talked about her twenty-five years of experience founding and raising funds in excess of $31 million dollars for various companies. Among other companies, Ms. Medo founded White River Concepts, Prolacta Bioscience, North American Instruments, and Neolac. She presently focuses her entrepreneurial talents at Neolac, which is developing a first sterile, freeze-dried biologically-active human milk formula for pre-term babies. Ms. Medo encouraged fledgling entrepreneurs in the bioscience realm to consider a range of things in dealing with start-up challenges, including: identifying and achieving milestones to build value and thinking long and hard about the different funding philosophies in choosing the type of company and investor partners.  Among other things, she discussed establishing proof of concept, developing a strong IP portfolio, setting defined goals and steps in the path to commercialization, and determining the type of business entity that is most suitable (lifestyle model, small business, Silicon-Valley style start-up, buyable startup, or social startup). She also outlined the pros and cons of the different avenues of funding available to start-ups, such as angel funding, friends-and-family, foundations, corporate alliance funding, and venture capital funding.

For those who missed the February program, we hope you are able to join SoCalBio W3’s Mixer on May 10, 2012 in Irvine, California. The keynote speakers will be France Dixon Helfer, President & CEO, Epic Medical Inc. and Sharon Stevenson, DVM, PHD, Managing Director, Okapi Venture Capital.

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