The First Annual Life Tech Forum hosted by SACC NE
On Tuesday, October 13th-Thursday, October 15th, The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce New England (SACC NE), spearheaded by Stella Loven, co-founder and president of the SACC Accelerator, hosted its inaugural Life Tech Forum to introduce Swedish life science, biotech and medtech entrepreneurs to Boston’s prolific life sciences ecosystem. The three day event provided eleven Swedish startups with an insider glimpse at the inner workings of Boston’s premier life sciences/biotech community of universities, research facilities, scientists, industry executives and investors. I had the wonderful opportunity to moderate Wednesday’s programming which I will explain in more depth below, but before I do that, I wanted to take a moment to introduce the mission statements of SACC NE and the Life Tech Forum.
Intro SACC New England:
The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce New England (SACC New England) is a non-profit trade organization founded in 1998. The mission is to accelerate trade, commerce, investment relationships and promote entrepreneurship, innovation and business opportunities between Scandinavian and the New England region.
SACC New England is working with the first accelerator program for Scandinavian startups looking to enter the U.S. market. The accelerator program is hosted in Boston, USA, and through webinars. SACC New England seek to put Scandinavian startups and its product directly in front of prospective customers, and also connect the companies with an experienced team of mentors that will help evaluating the customer response and give valuable feedback as regards all questions concerning the entrance into the U.S. market. For more information about SACC NE, click here.
The Swedish-American Life Tech Forum was developed by SACC NE to help accelerate Swedish life science entrepreneurs’ and innovators’ expansion into the U.S. market. Participants had the opportunity to validate their ideas to a local audience, network and pitch to active investors in the life sciences and biotech space. For more info on the Life Tech Forum, click here.
The forum began on Tuesday with a full day of lectures and panels from industry insiders, covering everything from globalization tactics for Swedish companies to building international partnerships and diverse strategies for entering the US market as a European startup. Keynote speakers included representatives from Third Rock Ventures, Astra Zeneca, Shire Pharmaceuticals and many more local life sciences, biotech and medtech experts.
When I arrived on Wednesday at the scenic office of SACC NE sponsor WilmerHale, I did not know what to expect, being neither Swedish nor having a background in life sciences or biotech. My apprehension quickly transitioned into awe, as I had the pleasure of introducing the noteworthy speakers during the morning program. The fascinating topics included operating a US business from a legal perspective, IP validation strategy and moving drug candidates and medical devices through the FDA. Despite being an industry outsider, I was truly blown away by the informative nature of these lectures.
After lunch, the program switched its emphasis from lecture-based to an interactive investor panel on how to attract American investors, led by Johan Christenson, MD, PhD, partner at HealthCap. Included in the panel were local Healthcare/Biotech investors Jeffrey Arnold, Doug Cole and Rasmus Goksor. Instead of the panel simply talking at the audience, Johan posed a variety of open-ended topical questions about investment in the space, comparing US and European investment methodologies and what Swedish companies should be focussed on when pitching to US investors. In addition, Johan opened up the session to the audience to allow many of the entrepreneurs the opportunity to engage and ask questions regarding their respective business models. To me, the most fascinating component of the panel was comparing and contrasting the investment strategies and general philosphies of Johan and Rasmus (both Swedish) versus Jeffrey and Doug. While the panel agreed on many topics, the experience of investing as Swedes in the US versus investing as Americans in the European markets was discussed and dissected, illuminating many subtle differences in approach.
Despite being the last piece of programming on Wednesday, the Sharktank pitch competition was perhaps the most exciting event of the day as the eleven Swedish startups had the opportunity to take the limelight and present their companies to another panel of local investors, as well as a large community audience. Despite having only five minutes to pitch (I’ve found this to be an incredibly difficult endeavor) and five minutes of Q&A, each team respectfully stopped within the allotted time and all “pitchers” did a remarkable job at concisely outlining their companies, business models and market opportunities. Not only this, but each team confidently responded to each and every difficult question from the investor panel, despite being early-stage and having the inherent obstacle of minor language barriers. Bravo!
Without going into depth, here are the elevator pitches for the teams who were involved:
Adduct Analys AB — focusing on commercializing its unique and proprietary product series called TailorDose®, a product line that meets the need for personalized cancer medicine relating to drugs that are difficult to dose, such as cyclophosphamide (CPA). http://www.adductanalys.com/
AroCell AB — develops blood tests to determine cancer growth. http://www.arocell.com/
Captario SUM AB — helps increase value and limit risk in drug development projects and portfolios by combining creative design with analytic thinking. http://www.captario.com/
Emplicure AB — developing new patentable pharmaceutical products based on drug delivery platform technologies originated from the interface between the materials and pharmaceutical sciences. http://emplicure.com/
Genit Innovations AB — makes vacuum extraction safer by introducing modern sensor technology into an old tool, thus offering an intelligent device that will help prevent injuries to children. http://www.genitinnovations.com/en/
Noviga Research AB — develops small-molecule patented drugs that can extend patient life. http://www.novigaresearch.com/
Persomics AB — the mission is to improve human health by empowering companies and organizations to discover cures faster. http://www.persomics.com/news
Robyn Robotics AB — develops JustoCat® in order to cure dementia, a cat in the size ofa real cat, which behaves in many aspects like a real cat, but it is not a real cat. http://www.robynrobotics.se/
Scientific Medi Tech AB — improves the outcome of drug treatment and simplifies disease management for patients by integrating an evidence-based CE-marked m-health solution to your specific drug. http://www.scientificmed.com/
SciBase AB — has developed a unique point of care device for the accurate detection of malignant melanomas. http://scibase.se/en/
Stayble Therapeutics AB — is developing a minimally invasive injection-based treatment against chronic lower back pain. http://www.staybletherapeutics.se/about-us/
After some concluding remarks from Stella, the group headed to the aptly chosen Cafe ArtScience in Kendall Square for an incredible reception to decompress after a long day. Along with excellent, “sciency” food and drink, the highlight of the dinner was having the opportunity to meet and listen to Guest of Honor H.E. Björn Lyrvall, Ambassador of Sweden to the United States. Björn delivered an excellent speech detailing current Swedish-American commerce and his agency’s vision for the future with the many regional SACC offices around the US playing a key role in nurturing and expanding Swedish entrepreneurship and innovation.
I was quite disappointed that I was unable to join the group for the final day of the forum, as the programming for the day included visits to the MIT Despande Center and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research as well as a lecture from the esteemed Koch Institute professor, engineer, scientist and inventor, Dr. Robert Langer.
With that, the first annual Life Tech Forum concluded after a truly enjoyable and enlightening three days of programming. Needless to say, SACC NE did a wonderful job executing the event and though many of the entrepreneurs will be returning to Sweden, it is obvious they left with a changed perspective towards Boston’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.
If you are interested in learning more about SACC NE and their accelerator program, there is a can’t miss event — the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce Accelerator Pitch & Demo Night — hosted by Workbar Cambridge next Tuesday night, October 27th at 6PM. The event is free and open to the public so take advantage of the opportunity to hear SACC accelerator teams Upstain and App Universe pitch. Register here.