Category Archives: medtechthursday

Burnham Institute Update

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]

cityarts factoryI had the opportunity to once again attend the Foley Leadership Series sponsored by the Foley Lardner Law Firm meeting held a few weeks back at the CityArts Factory on South Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando. This facility is a way cool place to visit as it’s an old theater (built in 1916) renovated and converted into a number of art galleries on the first floor—complete with a working glass arts studio—and a full size theater on the 2nd floor with adaptability to hold and cater to a fairly large conference group. For those of you into interesting art and architecture—it’s a “must see” and a good reason to visit downtown Orlando.

The conference gave a nice update on current cancer research being conducted at the Burnham Research Institute along with an update of the progress on opening the Lake Nona medical complex (read more in a nice article by Robyn Shelton).

For those of you not familiar with the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, it’s a world class research center originally based out of La Jolla, California with over 600 scientists on staff on the west coast.

burnham instituteThey are currently located in a temporary 14,000 square foot space in southwest Orlando, but plan to open a 175,000 square foot facility in the Orlando Lake Nona medical research campus (located between the Orlando International Airport and the University of Central Florida in southeast Orlando).

The institute is still on track to complete “phase 1” and open this April. They currently have around 65 employees and will expand to over 300 employees as the institute goes forward. Although Burnham does research in various biomedical area, the focus here in Central Florida will be on diabetes and obesity—a field that is relatively understudied in the basic sciences. Florida will provide an excellent source of patients for clinical investigation as our State has a fairly high rate of both obesity and diabetes. Current research being done at other diabetes centers around Florida will also provide opportunities for collaboration.

Burnham is poised to become a serious player in the life sciences with easy access to just about any other biotech center in Florida along with being adjacent to a good airport.

It’s good to see the biomedical industry really taking shape here in Florida. California and Massachusetts—take note!

SEBIO Conference: Sharklet Chomps the Shootout

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]

sharklet

The annual Southeast BIO Conference (SEBIO) meeting wrapped up several weeks ago in Palm Beach on December 5th.  I was not able to attend due to prior family commitments up north…and by the way—I just returned from a foot of snow in Buffalo—an experience that jogged my memory as to why I live in Florida (I’ll take a jab at my upstate NY friends now, before they once again remind me of hurricane season in June).

Readers may remember I’ve previously written about SEBIO which is a non-profit public/private partnership to promote the development of the life sciences throughout the Southeast.

Florida had 7 companies present at the meeting in addition to having technologies from the University of Florida as well as Florida International University compete in the BIO/Plan Competition.

Of the Early-Stage conference participants (primarily those with no prior institutional funding), 4 of the best companies were selected for an Early-Stage “Shootout” where they had a chance to do a full presentation to all of the investors attending the forum.

I’m happy to say that for the second year in a row, Florida has won the “Shootout” with Sharklet Technologies.  I should also mention that both Sharklet as well as last years “Shootout” winner, Transgeneron Therapeuticsare current residents of the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotech Incubator.  Transgeneron also appeared at this years meeting as a Main-Stage presenter. Needless to say, this reflects well on Florida and the Sid Martin Incubator—congratz to David Day, Patti Breedlove and Jane Muir!

Sharklet is a biotechnology company that develops and brings to market surface technologies (inspired by the antimicrobial properties of shark skin) that are designed to inhibit or enhance microorganism growth to make the world a healthier and safer place.

“We are delighted to have been selected as the winner of the SEBIO Early-Stage Shootout as the win validates that there is significant interest in Sharklet and a pressing need for an environmentally friendly and no-kill strategy for bacterial control in the healthcare market,” said Joe Bagan, Sharklet Technologies’ chief executive officer.

The BIO/Plan Competition (which is intended to identify and support newly created venture-fundable entities in the life sciences) had 10 finalists this year with 3 involving Florida technologies (a good showing). 

This is no small deal as the winner was awarded unrestricted, non-dilutive venture funds (valued at $100,000 in cash and services) to launch the enterprise and implement their business plan.

Here are the 3 from Florida (I don’t think that any of these very early entities have websites yet).

Cardiac BioSolutionsA device company developing revolutionary percutaneous heart valve (PHV) products, such as a more durable artificial aortic valve with the beneficial properties of a natural tissue valve, and a catheter delivery system which can be used with any percutaneous valve (Florida International University).

RibotheronA discovery stage company employing hammerhead ribozymes that block replication of herpes viruses I and II as a novel anti-HSV therapy, initially for corneal infections (University of Florida).

NeuroPoetixA new drug development company that combines insights and advances in stem cell biology and knowledge about the central nervous system (CNS) to significantly progress the development of drugs to treat serious diseases of the brain (University of Florida).

The winner of the BIO/Plan competition was Cerene Biomedics, from North Carolina.

Cerene BiomedicsA device company developing an implantable device to prevent focal epileptic seizures by delivering targeted thermoelectric cooling to the neocortex, anticipated to be first line therapy for many patients suffering from uncontrolled seizures (Duke University).

For the very early stage life science entrepreneurs, it’s time to start thinking ahead as the BIO/Plan application process usually begins in February of each year.  Readers can check out further details at the SEBIO website.

Exactech, Orthopaedic Implants: Makes Top Company Lists

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]

I happened to be at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back savoring my favorite grande Starbucks (yes, “I have to have it”—being the self-admitted caffeine junkie that I am), when the October 27th edition of Forbes, caught my attention.

The cover article, “America’s 200 Best Small Public Companies” piqued my curiosity as to which companies made the list—and whether any of those selected were from the life science sector and just as important—were any from Florida?

In fact, there was one company from Florida that I recognized immediately (there may have been others, but unfortunately, they were not sorted by location) and it was even in the life science sector (what luck!).

Located in Gainesville, Exactech was ranked in the middle of the pack at # 105. The ranking was based on ROE (return on equity), sales growth and profit growth over the past 12 months and 5 years compared with industry peers. The company’s metrics are reasonable with a 5 year average ROE of 12% and an increase in sales growth of 15% (5 year average as well). Revenue in Q3 was up 27% compared to Q3 2007.

Exactech is an orthopedic company that develops, manufactures, markets, distributes and sells orthopaedic implant devices, related surgical instrumentation and biologic services to hospitals and physicians in the United States and internationally. One of the distinctive aspects of the company is their product line of engineered bone graft for reconstructive applications. Exactech is one of those unique companies that blends both biotech (use of biologics) with med device applications. This is turning out to be one of the fastest growing areas in the biomedical field (think also, coronary stents—where you have a mechanical device delivering a specific therapeutic in a targeted manner). The company was also recently ranked (by revenue) in Florida Trend at #112 in the Top 150 Florida Public Companies and at #21 in Florida’s Top High-tech Companies.

For the life science golfers out there, Peter Jacobsen (a 32-year veteran of the PGA Tour with seven wins and a five-year member of the Champions senior tour with two wins, both majors) visited the company in September to sign autographs and show off his new Optetrak knee replacement system made by Exactech. According to the October 2, 2008 Gainesville Sun , Jacobsen is ready to return to the tournament playing. Exactech seems to be showing up everywhere these days—and making a difference.

BioFlorida Conference

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]

For those involved in the Florida life science industry, if you are looking to “see and be seen”, the annual BioFlorida conference is THE place. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this years event, held on Amelia Island at the Ritz Carlton on October 19-21.

BioFlorida is the statewide trade association for the bioscience industry and provides networking opportunities, statewide industry events, educational forums and a variety of support services to biomedical companies as well as to investors, government entities, academia, tech transfer and workforce development groups.

The conference attracted over 400 attendees from not only Florida, but from throughout the Southeast and US as well. The roster of keynote speakers was impressive and included some life science “heavy hitters” including:

This years program focused on a diverse range of topics that included but was not limited to the following: early and late stage funding issues, the relevance of IPOs in today’s marketplace (difficult at best), drug discovery, marketing as a decision tool for your company, device technologies, controlling rising healthcare costs along with “a vision” for biotech innovation.

This event is certainly one of the best networking opportunities to “meet & greet” all the movers and shakers involved in the Florida life science scene. I did hear from Patti Breedlove, Associate Director of the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator who said, “ A small dinner hosted by the Burnham Institute gave me a chance to talk to the key Burnham people as well as the head of Max Planck Florida Institute about UF’s Biotechnology Incubator along with the Florida BioDatabase and how it can be effectively utilized to develop our life science industry.”

Hopefully, I’ll make it to the conference in 2009…

Free Money for Life Science Entrepreneurs

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]

sebio

“Free Money” for life science entrepreneurs with up to $100,000 in cash and services!

Now that I have your full attention (I had to get a “hook” in there somewhere—the money may not be totally “free”, but it’s a great deal as start ups go), I’d like to tell you about the SEBIO sponsored annual “Bio/Plan Competition.”

Last post I mentioned the upcoming Southeast BIO (SEBIO) Conference to be held on December 4-5, 2008 in Palm Beach. For those not familiar with this organization, SEBIO is a non-profit public/private partnership to promote the development of the life sciences throughout the Southeast.

One of the exciting events at this conference is the announcement of the winner of the annual Bio/Plan Competition.

This is intended to identify and support newly created venture-fundable entities in the life sciences (the majority of the applicants are from research universities and research labs throughout the Southeast).

Here is how it works…(from the SEBIO website):

  1. The principal investigator/entrepreneur completes a short application outlining their concept and the associated opportunity in broad terms. There is no application fee.
  2. A selection committee chooses 10 semifinalists and pairs each with a team of seasoned professionals who will serve as mentors to the principals. The group’s goal will be to further develop the concept and surround it with a first-class business plan.
  3. Following a period of 5 to 6 months with the assigned mentoring team, a finished business plan will be submitted by the principals to a panel of experts and 4 finalists will be selected. These finalists will present their opportunity to the broader life science investment community at the annual SEBIO Investor Forum held each fall.
  4. The winner of the BIO/Plan Competition will be selected at this Conference and will be awarded unrestricted, non-dilutive venture funds (valued at $100,000 in cash and services) to launch the enterprise and implement their business plan.

In the past, the application process began in February. It’s not too early to start thinking ahead. Readers can check out further details at the SEBIO website (www.sebio.org/bioplan).

SEBIO Update: Florida Catches North Carolina

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]      

Florida is ready to make a good impression at the upcoming Southeast BIO (SEBIO) Conference to be held on December 4-5, 2008 in Palm Beach.  SEBIO is a non-profit public/private partnership to promote the development of the life sciences throughout the Southeast.

Our State has tied North Carolina (this has not happened in recent years that I’m  aware of) with each State having 8 companies selected for the conference (actually, Florida shares an additional company in that NC based Pique Therapeutics has R&D activities in Miami).  Overall, SEBIO has selected 29 companies to participate in this year’s forum.

The conference offers an “early stage” event focused on newly emerging companies along with a “presenting” companies event for those ventures that have completed at least one round of institutional funding.  Public companies are not included in the forum.

This can be an excellent learning opportunity as early stage participants receive direct feed back from venture capitalists and business advisors as they go through the conference process.  Ultimately, 4 of the best are selected for an “Early-Stage Shootout” where they will have a chance to do a full presentation to all of the investors attending the forum.

Selected Presenting Companies of interest to Florida are:

 Selected Early-Stage Florida Companies are:

Since 2005, there have been 15 Florida life science companies that have presented at SEBIO with over $117M raised among this group alone during the past 3 years (this does not include the 2008 participants).  This is an excellent opportunity to gain visibility as well as making a possible connection for VC funding (VC firms from throughout the US have attended including the Southeast, Midwest, West Coast as well as the Northeast regions).

Burnham Institute

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]
As a follow up to last week’s post (Neurodegenerative Disease Treatment) I wanted to mention that the meeting gave me a chance to meet some of the Florida Burnham staff and get acquainted with the Institute’s activities in Central Florida.

One of the first people that I met at the conference was Greg Roth, Ph.D., director of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology.  If Greg is any indication of the Burnham staff, then the Institute is off to an excellent start.  Greg is bright and outgoing and makes you feel instantly at ease.  It also turned out that we had some “geography” in common as we both have connections to western upstate New York.

For those of you not familiar with the Burnham Institute for Medical Research (www.burnham.org), it is a world class research center originally based out of La Jolla, California with over 600 scientists on staff on the west coast. (Yes, this is where the Scripps Institute is from as well…Florida is finally being discovered as a destination for activities other than Disney, fishing and swimming with the dolphins.)

Burnham is one of the top 10 research centers in receiving grant funding (ranked #4 in 2006) and was recently awarded a $97.9 M NIH grant to expand their Small-Molecule Screening and Discovery Center.

The Institute is committed to both basic science as well as translational research—which brings the results of scientific work done in the laboratory to be used to develop new ways to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases.

They are currently located in a temporary 14,000 square foot space in southwest Orlando, but plan to open a 175,000 square foot facility in mid-2009 in the Orlando Lake Nona medical research campus (located between the Orlando International Airport and the University of Central Florida in southeast Orlando). They are a key part of the expansion of the Florida life science industry as they will ultimately employ over 300 people in our State to be involved in various aspects of cutting edge biomedical research.

Some of this excitement is evident as the Burnham website (www.burnham.org) contains the following quote, “Prior to Burnham’s commitment, we had five or six inquiries from biomedical companies,” says John Fremstad, Vice President of Technology Development for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC). “We’ve had more than 100 since.”

For interested Gator fans, I also hear that UF will be doing a collaborative partnership with Burnham and hopes to have a presence on the Lake Nona campus.

It’s great to see that the State of Florida is continuing to establish its “life science” brand!

Neurodegenerative Disease Treatment

medtechthursday
Guest Post by: 
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at [email protected]
 
On Wednesday, September 10th, I had the opportunity to attend the Foley Lardner Leadership Education Series in Orlando. It was held in the law firm’s board room on the 18th floor of the Regions Bank building with breathtaking views of downtown—it was nice to see first hand the amazing economic development taking place in the metro Orlando area.
The conference was an update on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc) presented by Stuart Lipton, MD., PhD, who is the Director of the Burnham Institute’s Center for Neuroscience Research in La Jolla, California. 
Dr. Lipton presented some cutting-edge data on how a drug that he has already developed (Memantine) may be useful for not only treating existing Alzheimer’s disease, but for preventing it in high-risk individuals. The drug is FDA approved (has relatively minimal side effects) and is currently on the market. Dr. Lipton is hoping it gains wider usage among the neurology community to benefit Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr. Lipton indicated that if left unstopped, dementia-related diseases will consume over half of the US GNP by 2050. I think this reflects on not only our aging population, but on the ever-increasing costs of health care as well (good topic for another post).
I’ll remind folks that Dan mentioned the upcoming Alzheimer’s Memory Walk event in his blog on August 7th—be sure to take a look at the link as this is an awesome event to raise awareness of this disabling illness. In fact, the Gainesville “Walk” will be taking place on 10/4, Jacksonville on 9/20, and Orlando on 10/11.
On another note of importance to Florida life sciences—Ed Baxa, partner and member of Foley’s Management Committee, and chair of the firm’s National Pro Bono Committee announced that the firm will be contributing pro bono legal services (IP, regulatory, health law, etc.) relating to the development of therapies in the “orphan drug” space. The term “orphan drug” refers to a product that treats a rare disease affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans. Pharma companies are often reluctant to take on these illnesses as they perceive the potential market as being too small to justify R&D costs.
These services will be offered primarily to Burnham, university programs, and other non-profit 501(c)(3)’s. Thanks goes out to Foley Lardner’s commitment to being involved in our biomedical community on a research level as well as for patient care.