Sunday, July 27, 2014

Launch Opportunities for Biotech Startups in Surviving and Conquering Disease

I attended two recent public lectures that opened my eyes to disruptive opportunities in the health care sector.  The first was Dr. Diana Schwarzbein's presentation at the Commonwealth Club on the "Survival of the Smartest," where she expounded on her findings in The Schwarzbein Principle linking nutrition and endocrinology.  The second was Dr. Nevan Krogan's talk at the local Umpqua Bank branch on mapping the human genome.  Their wisdom can drive capital into enterprises that benefit human health.

The common link between the two talks was the relationship between diseases and the body's natural pathways.  Dr. Schwarzbein's work has identified the chemical building blocks in foods that enable the body's "building" hormones.  Dietary changes that support the body's cell repair ability can mitigate long-term diseases.  Dr. Krogan described the large-scale data collection effort for disease as the next health care revolution.  Malfunctioning protein complexes occur in disease states, and mapping the mutations in cell function pathways enables precision medicine.

I am not a physician, biochemist, or nutritionist.  It is beyond my professional skill as a financial analyst to describe how chemical changes affect cells.  The medical community's attention to the interaction of chemistry and genetics is enough to signal that biotech entrepreneurs should offer disruptive solutions.  The channels for these solutions abound.  The Silicon Valley Health Institute's speaker series is probably a good forum for startups to show early adopters their latest ideas.  The Gladstone Institutes link scientific investigators to emerging research; startups should look there for research validating their business models.  The California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) operates Bay Area incubators for promising startups.  I believe venture investors would look very favorably on a startup with a QB3 pedigree.

The combined effect of these two talks reminded me that the San Francisco Bay Area is ground zero for biotech innovation.  Scaling entrepreneurs need to hang out with endocrinologists, biochemists, and gene therapy specialists at major medical research centers.  I once connected with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on behalf of a health care startup in my own portfolio.  I would do so more often with other entrepreneurs who seek my wisdom, if I owned an equity stake in their enterprises.