OBN’s BioTrinity 2022 took place in-person on 26–27 April. The London conference brought together innovative life science companies, investors, and key opinion leaders to facilitate growth and engagement across the industry. Through a series of focused tracks, expert speakers shared their insight and vision on core therapy areas, scientific investment, and regulatory strategy. Our Investment Analyst, Oliver Sims, gives his thoughts on this year’s event.
This year’s BioTrinity, for many, marked the long-awaited return to in-person conferences, and there was a great feeling of excitement over the two days. The event was well attended by a broad spectrum of delegates from all over the life sciences, providing the opportunity to meet with early-stage companies working on exciting new technologies and investors of various stages. Being able to establish those connections and relationships is particularly important to us.
Across the Scientific Tracks, companies were given a 10-minute presentation to showcase their technology which, in my opinion, worked very well. Though challenging, being able to condense company information to concisely introduce your work is a critical skill. The delivery and substance of the pitch can reveal a lot about the journey that company has been on so far. The best approach to this is to not say too much, the purpose of such presentations is to pique the interest of relevant partners or investors, and then further discussions can fill in the gaps. As an early stage investor we are not expecting perfection.
Supporting early stage and emerging companies
For companies that are starting out, there is a lot to gain from attending conferences like BioTrinity. Events are often attended by experts that cover all bases of life science company creation and growth. The investors in the room at this years’ event, at least that I was aware of, could comfortably support a company from its spin out to Series B funding, and an early introduction into this network is hugely valuable.
At the same time, members of the CRO and CDMO communities are normally in attendance, to advise on their service offerings. A good proportion of early stage companies choose to retain some level of virtual operations, which holds several operational benefits, namely reducing the large capital expenditure on laboratory equipment, but also providing expertise in operating it. Supplementing in-house knowledge and research activities with that of external providers very often opens opportunities by reducing costs and time; timesaving perhaps being one of the most valuable reasons for outsourcing work.
You will also see the business support community present, ready with expert advice on IP/Legal, Office and Lab rental spaces and PR and Media Communications; all of whom are very willing to provide you with ideas on how to develop those parts of the business.
Probably the most exciting opportunity, from an early-stage company perspective, is to connect with other companies working in the life science space. Gaining advice on which investors are most relevant, sharing experiences and, no doubt, challenges! There are also plenty of different presenting styles and techniques to be observed, delivered by a variety of C-suite and other senior leaders.
Tackling the next health crisis
The dedicated Scientific Tracks at BioTrinity focused on seven core therapy areas: Oncology, CNS, Microbiome, Inflammation, Rare Disease, Infectious Diseases, and AI & Data.
The keynote from Helen Fletcher, Innovation Lead for Global Public Health R&D at Johnson & Johnson, in the Infectious Disease track was especially thought-provoking for me. Whilst we are all recovering from COVID-related fatigue and looking to move in to a more positive, post-pandemic world, the potential for a more serious health crisis is ever present. Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), which is estimated to result in a higher death toll than COVID-19 over the next few decades, is not to be overlooked. The danger with AMR is that it won't strike the public as quickly and as obviously as a respiratory virus, but it will slowly disrupt all areas of healthcare by decreasing the efficacy of antibiotic treatments. Some may argue that has already begun.
As morbid as that may seem, there are many companies and investors approaching this problem, with plenty of work to be excited about. Imophoron’s CEO, Frédéric Garzoni, gave an insightful presentation on the potential of its novel nanoparticle vaccine platform, ADDomer, to deliver the next generation of highly immunogenic therapeutics for infectious disease. We are also seeing huge changes in the approach to payment for antibiotics with the NHS subscription model recently announced in the UK, which could mark an exciting beginning to global action, as well as the re-emergence of big pharma into the sector.
There were several interesting companies focused on CNS and Inflammatory Diseases, areas where new approaches to diagnostics and an improved understanding of biochemical pathways are beginning to improve patient outcomes. Dr Jenny Barnett, CEO of Monument Therapeutics, gave a great talk on how the company is bringing its proprietary digital biomarkers to neuroscience drug development, providing a precision medicine approach in clinical areas of high unmet need. Both fields coalesce in fighting the general disease of life, aging, which is slowly being disassembled into many constituent parts as research unveils new ways to prolong ‘healthspan’.
Expanding the life sciences ecosystem
There was a good quality to the debate and discussion in the Business Track, providing guidance on a range of considerations for business success and growth, from science and regulatory strategy to investment to team and Board.
I always enjoy hearing from Start Codon's Jason Mellad and it was nice to see Harry Destecroix, Co-founder of Science Creates Ventures, share the stage in an interview with The Oxford Science Park’s Emma Palmer Foster, to divulge his perspectives on the start-ups and spin outs working in an ecosystem outside the usual suspects of the Golden Triangle. Whilst the quality of the Golden Triangle's scientific endeavours continues to deliver, there is a lot of exciting science around the UK that lacks the commercialisation support that somewhere like Cambridge has developed so strongly. Access to talent, advice, and capital to translate these innovative ideas will change this, and it is happening.
BioTrinity was a great opportunity to meet with both known and unknown faces, to get industry updates and to have those short 5-minute conversations that can spark innovation and ideas. The event provided a very interesting snapshot of what is happening across the life science sectors, facilitating engagement and, ultimately, growth throughout the industry.