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A word from John Newby, CEO, Virginia Bio: This blog provides an update on upcoming events and important information that impacts our community, and spotlights industry leaders from state-of-the-art companies and research institutions driving the future of bioscience around the state, our region and our world.


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Family Funds Investing in Bioscience Innovation

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 19, 2015
Updated: Monday, November 16, 2015

Members and friends of Virginia Bio,

It was a family fund that fifteen years ago provided my startup specialty pharma company with its first capital. The scion of a wealthy East Coast family some years prior had received an experimental drug in a clinical trial that halted the progression of a deadly disease after approved therapeutics had not. From then on a percent of the fund’s investments were directed to bioscience startups with a compelling business plan to provide new treatments and cures. The investment had a financial objective, to be sure. But the investor was focused on the clinical outcome as well, and his board designee was patient and helpful in many ways as we ran the crooked road of drug discovery, development and commercialization.


Today, family funds – sometimes called “family offices”, or “home offices”, or “high net worth (HNW) individuals” worldwide are increasingly a significant direct source of funding for startups, emerging and mature bioscience companies, bypassing traditional private equity funds and snapping up opportunities left by the great VC migration. The number of funds and the dollars at their disposal are staggering.

Last Thursday we brought together experts deeply engaged in the family fund sector at our monthly Virginia Bioscience Commercialization Panel Series. If you missed this eye-opening discussion, remember we livestream these events and archive the video for Virginia Bio members to watch at their convenience at the News and Events, Video Library section of our website.

Our three panelists occupy very different vantage points. Peter Harris is a Vice President & Managing Director at Axel Johnson, the investment fund of a prominent European family. He is involved with cultivating and evaluating new investment opportunities and providing strategic and operational support to existing portfolio companies. While the family is European, the Fund has a significant investment in a Virginia medical device company and Peter and colleagues operate the funds’ investments in the US out of NYC and Charlottesville. Tom McKenzie is Senior Vice President, Membership, of Cavendish Global, as well as a principal with Capital Partners LLC, a private equity advisory firm. Cavendish Global is an innovative and relatively new organization - a community of global family funds intent on making impact investments in new and emerging biomedical companies. Tom scouts the country for companies to bring to the attention of the community. Paul Romness is Senior Advisor to McKenna & Associates in the Life Sciences and issue advocacy campaigns. McKenna is a versatile DC strategic consulting firm specializing in management and fundraising, and assists family funds with investment opportunities.

Some key points from the panel. Family funds have more flexibility than institutional private equity and VCs because they answer to themselves, not to recruited investors. This allows them greater freedom from strict investment criteria like asset grade, deal structure, sector or geography. They tend to have a longer time horizon, looking to build capital not harvest a rapid return. They may accept greater risk, in terms of sector, stage of investment and even deal structure, to accomplish other goals. And other goals they do have: perhaps a sweet spot based on family history and values, such as interest in funding solutions to a particular disease. The result – family funds operate in many different ways. Still, it’s an investment, not a philanthropic gift. The bioscience company has to evidence a strong business case to reach returns, as well as impact. And while the role of family funds making direct investments is relatively new, it’s unlikely to be a mere fad. No matter how many years pass, wealth will be accumulated, the wealthy will seek investments, families’ happiness will be bound to sickness and health of their members, the urge to impact the spread of medicine and human health will continue to call good souls, and the potential returns of innovation in the biomedical sector will draw good looks from savvy investors.

No discussion of capital formation can end without reminding you of JP Morgan Health Care Conference Week in San Francisco on January 10 - 15, 2016. There’s an exciting new development this year, and one could say it has to do with “Families”. This year we are greatly expanding our Sunday evening reception. The Virginia Reception, co-hosted with University of Virginia Darden School of Business, will be held at 5:00pm on January 10 in the Velvet Room of the Clift Hotel.

Just two weeks ago Darden was rated by The Economist as the #2 MBA school in the world. Darden is inviting its extensive family of alumni in the biotech and health care industry, and Virginia Bio is inviting the leaders of our member companies who are seeking capital and strategic deals. In San Francisco in January, these Type A Virginians act more like family, sharing connections and talking one another up to help one another succeed on the tough but important journey they walk along together.

We’re also expanding the number of slots we will make available free to Virginia Bio members in our hotel room overlooking Union Square for private and semi-private meetings. See you there!

If your organization is not a member of Virginia Bio yet, give us a call.

Best Regards,

Jeff Gallagher

Tags:  Axel Johnson  Cavendish Global  Darden  Family Funding  funding  JP Morgan Healthcare Conference  McKenna & Associates  Virginia bio  virginia bioscience 

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VA BIO At JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Members and friends of Virginia Bio,

A sage once noted that “ ’luck’ is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Start preparing now for the tremendous opportunity in San Francisco during JP Morgan Healthcare Conference week, January 12-16, 2015.

Virginia Bio will be there to help you.

One frequently voiced concern about developing and commercializing bioscience innovation in Virginia is distance from a critical mass of investors and business development VPs. Think Boston. Well, for one week we know where they will be, and you can be there too.

Many thousands of bioscience industry movers and shakers from around the world will encamp around Union Square to do deals, make new contacts, and keep old contacts alive. They’ll be anchored by the invitation-only 33rd annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference at the Westin St. Francis, San Francisco, and attend other high powered industry conferences that have sprung up around the fringe.

The annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference brings together global industry leaders, emerging fast-growth companies, innovative technology creators and members of the investment community. Each year hundreds of organizations, both public and private companies as well as academic institutions, deliver presentations to over 4,000 investors. While originally the exclusive domain of large pharma and large money, small startups helping fill their pipelines were welcomed. The participants are evolving as the industry evolves, and increasingly reflects the new community of health-insurance companies, software developers, big-data analytics, digital health, and a range of other information technologies.

For many dealmakers, investors and life science companies looking for funds and partners, the “luck” they have that week in San Francisco will set the tone, etch the to-do list, and determine whether this year they will move ahead or tread water.

In addition, thousands in biotech descend upon San Francisco to network, attend meetings and gain an inside view even if they are unable to secure an official conference invite. Industry veterans say that much of the activity takes place in the hotel rooms, coffee shops and street corners. Some of these one on one encounters are scheduled months in advance, while others are the product of on-site introductions or simply the high pressure and temperature Brownian motion.

If you have never before made the big show, consider doing so this year. If you are going, start preparing now. In either case, let Virginia Bio help you make the most of the conference. Virginia Bio for the second year in a row will stake out a presence in San Francisco for that week to help its members take maximum advantage of this unique opportunity.

We’ve reserved a classy small suite in the boutique Handlery Union Square hotel overlooking Union Square, continually furnished with Wi-Fi, meeting amenities and light refreshments. Virginia Bio members can reserve this semi-private meeting space in advance in half hour blocks at no charge. Our members who used this opportunity last year were delighted, and found it extremely convenient, comfortable and impressive to their guests.

To start the week off on the right foot, join us on Sunday, January 11 for a reception from 4:00 - 7:00 pm across the street from the hotel at the Uno Wine Bar. The reception is open to Virginians and their guests, whether or not members of VirginiaBio. Last year those who attended the jammed reception found it a great way to compare notes, get tips, leads and encouragement from their Virginia colleagues.

This year, our ten person event Steering Committee is extending personal invitations to out-of-staters they know in the industry who have a personal connection to the Commonwealth (school, hometown, previous job) to attend the reception, meet folks and get a look at the great opportunities being developed in Virginia. All of us know industry colleagues who remember their time and ties in Virginia fondly and are looking for a way to get back in some way. We plan to work long term to convert this untapped resource into a leveraging resource for our companies and researchers. At the reception we will have simple but impactful material on the breadth and depth of bioscience commercialization in Virginia.

We are still looking for financial sponsors for the room and the reception. It’s a great opportunity to get yourself and your message in the middle of a small critical concentrated group within the Virginia bioscience industry, to learn what they need and let them know how you can serve their needs.

It’s important work you are doing. I wish you the best of “luck”.

Best Regards,

Jeff Gallagher

Tags:  funding  JP Morgan Healthcare Conference  Virginia bio  virginia bioscience 

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