The 2023 CABS Investor Forum has been successfully held on Jan 11, 2023, in the 2023 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Week. This annual forum was resumed after a hiatus of three years due to the COVID pandemic. The Forum was held in a hybrid format for the first time. Nearly 140 attended the in-person event held in the San Francisco office of Morrison Foerster, and more than 60 people joined through Zoom meeting.
Attentive audience of the Forum
The Forum was kick started by Carrie Wang, the President of CABS, with her opening remarks. She introduced CABS to the audience and highlighted some of the CABS activities in 2022.
Carrie Wang, the President of CABS, giving opening remarks
The Forum consists of two panel discussions. The first panel was moderated by Janet Xiao, Partner of Morrison Foerster, and its theme was Trends, Opportunities, and Outlook for Biotech Investment. Five panelists brought in extensive and diverse backgrounds and insights into this panel discussion.
Moderator and panelists of the 1st Panel Discussion
Christian Grondahl, Co-Founder and CEO of SNIPR Biome, is a veteran entrepreneur. He has built and supported many successful companies, including taking one company, Zealand Pharma, to IPO. Grondahl suggested being in focus in 2023. He believes spending the minimum money a company needs and focusing on the core experiments are the ways to survive. He also emphasized making therapies cheaper in the long run with new technologies.
Jim Krenn, Partner of Morrison Foerster, shared his insights as a lawyer that terms in the investment agreement have shifted as deals are more favorable to investors. As a result, there is more emphasis on control terms in addition to economic terms. He suggested several routes for capital, including existing investors, debt, and licensing & partnership.
Arthur Kuan, CEO of CG Oncology, is a very young and successful entrepreneur of his age. Having raised $120M in a recent round, he said CG Oncology still needs to cut pipelines and be more focused. He suggested that entrepreneurs think in the way investors do: make sure the return and valuation of the company make sense to investors.
Cheni Kwok, Managing Partner and Founder of Linear Dreams, is a very experienced consultant who has served over 60 clients in the past ten years. She saw in the past fundraising was too easy, and companies were not “smart” enough to use money. For example, some companies may have generated insufficient clinical data. She suggested that even it may be a hard time for the majority, opportunities still exist. For example, now may be the best time to recruit as many companies are laying off top talents.
Sean Kendall, Partner of ARHC Venture, shared his opinion and observation from an investor’s standpoint. As innovation continues and research breaks through, the underlying philosophy for investment has not changed. Existing portfolio companies may take a longer time to revive. However, some companies ARCH met before may need money, which will be a good time for investors. ARCH invests in both problems solving-driven and opportunistic ways. It believes in people and may invest in the same people in different projects.
The 2nd panel was moderated by Alex J. Zhang, Managing Director of Lifespan Biolabs, and its theme was about Growing Opportunities and Strategies for Biopharma Companies in a Changing World. Again, we had panelists representing a diverse spectrum of biotechs: John Adamou, CBO of CSPC Pharmaceutical Group; Oliver Kong, CMO of IASO Biotherapeutics; Neela Patel, CBO of Bonum Therapeutics; Eugene Wang, Founder and CEO of Help Therapeutics; and Allen Jiang, CSO of Xtalpi.
Moderator and panelists of the 2nd Panel Discussion
The panelists discussed the keys to surviving and thriving under the current stock market and geopolitical environment, partnering trends, and promising technologies. The panelists expressed an opinion similar to that of the previous panel: companies over-raised and over-built in the past few years. It is a challenging environment but not a terrible market, as MNCs are still spending. The panelists all noted and echoed the following topics: managing cash flow, driving down costs through automation and technology innovation, creating value, and emphasizing the importance of assets rather than platforms.
Patel brought up a fascinating but rarely discussed topic. When Roche acquired Good Therapeutics, she decided to spin off the technology platform to Bonum and left the asset in Good to be tax efficient for its stakeholders. This tax strategy helped investors to make more money and invest in Bonum Therapeutics confidently.
Adamou mentioned two ecosystems relevant to all biopharma in China: Global to China and China to Global. China has an extensive healthcare market challenging to navigate. Companies like CSPC have vast on-the-ground sales teams and manufacturing capabilities. It is looking for new therapeutics to complement its existing generic catalogs. On the other hand, CSPC doesn’t have a solid ability to commercialize drugs in ex-China markets as MNCs do. It is also looking to out-license drugs and find partners in ex-China rights that it is developing.
Both panels stirred warm discussions in the audience.
Same as the past Forums, complimentary breakfast and lunch were generously provided by Morrison Foerster. The times at meals and coffee break provided ample opportunities for attendees to network and interact with themselves and the moderators/panelists. The successful continuation of the Forum is yet another example attesting the vision and mission of CABS to connect and serve the biopharmaceutical community.
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