Category Archives: mike schmitt

Burnham Institute Update

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at M2Schmitt@aol.com

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 M2Schmitt@aol.com

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.

Life Science Entrepreneurs Still Shaking the MoneyTree

medtechthursday
Guest Post by:
Mike Schmitt, MD
Life Science Analyst and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase
Mike can be reached at M2Schmitt@aol.com

moneytree
Ok, enough already! Amidst all the economic “doom and gloom” from the daily news feeds—I actually do have something encouraging to share (well, at least for the moment until the Dow plunges another 10%).

The National Venture Capital Association along with Pricewaterhouse Coopers released their VC funding update in its recent Moneytree Report for Q3 2008.  PWC’s MoneyTree is a great site for info on VC investing trends on the national as well as regional levels with the capability to search by industry. Even better yet—it’s free with a simple registration.

It seems that on a national level, VC investments have remained relatively stable (naysayers look out!) through the 3Q of this year at $7.1B. The biotech industry, which had fallen to 3rd place in the 2Q (first time that had happened since 2003) once again reclaimed its top position inching out software by a narrow margin of $1.35B to $1.34B.  The medical device segment placed 4th at $864M, giving the overall life science sector (biotechnology and med device combined) a relatively strong $2.21B (and represented a 10% increase from the 2Q). This brings the 2008 total for all categories (through 3Q) to $21.6B and is on track to be in the same ballpark as 2007 when VC investments were $29.4B for the year.

The life science industries do tend to be more resilient in difficult economic conditions—after all, people don’t stop getting sick and we still need to treat their illnesses.  But in this market—anything can happen. When the ultra-conservative stock of Berkshire Hathaway moves up or down by more than 25% in a single day—you know we are not in ordinary times—and no company is immune to the current market conditions.

Can we expect more good news or will VC investing get hammered by year end?    PricewaterhouseCooper’s managing partner, Tracy Lefteroff does not expect funding to dry up. “VCs have slugged through difficult times before and this one should be no different.” Personally, I’m not so sure.  Stay tuned for the 4Q follow up in February 2009. It’s difficult to predict at this point, but I’m putting my bets on a tough market ahead.

Dan’s Note: Short answer, if you can avoid raising a VC round in 2009, do so.  Good deals will get funded, but given the increased macroeconomic and financing risks, valuations will take a hit — particularly during the next 6 months of uncertainty.  The added creative innovation to bootstrap your runway to 2010 will also pay long-term dividends for your business.

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 M2Schmitt@aol.com

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 M2Schmitt@aol.com      

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 M2Schmitt@aol.com
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 M2Schmitt@aol.com
 
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. 

Introducing Med Tech Thursdays, Like a Mini MedTechCrunch

medtechcrunch

Given the amount of medical technology being developed in and around Florida, I’ve been looking around for a “MedTechCrunch” to add to my daily reading. To be honest, I haven’t found anything really compelling; but, there should be.  Have you found one?

That led to a discussion with my good friend Mike Schmitt, an MD and Life Science Analyst who knows Florida’s medical device, diagnostic and biotech sector as well as anyone. In fact, Mike is the creator and Editor of the Florida BioDatabase, covered on FVB previously. The result of our discussion is Med Tech Thursday: a guest post each Thursday from Mike on medical technology topics, whether they involve startups, funding, research breakthroughs or Florida’s growing life science ecosystem.  I think Mike’s knowledge and relationships would provide a great foundation for an informative MedTechCrunch.com (yes, the domain is available, don’t everyone grab it at once).  

This concept of topic-specific days feels like a nice experiment to organize my blogging hobby — which regular readers know currently flows randomly wherever my mind/work flows.  Therefore, I’m also toying with a weekly schedule of New Media Monday, Info Tech Tuesday, Wildcard Wednesday, Med Tech Thursday and FAQ Friday.  Thus, each day could deliver topic-related posts.  Wednesday is designated as a wildcard day, but I don’t plan to postpone interesting nuggets when they come to me.  If you have specific questions about venture capital or entrepreneurship, share via email or comment and I’ll try answer on FAQ Fridays.  If you have a unique perspective on any of those daily topics, please join the conversation and share comments, or maybe even guest posts, whenever it makes sense.  
Without further ado, here’s an intro from Mike and his first quest post will follow this one — comment early and often!

“I happened to see Dan Rua in January of this year after being a panelist at the Florida Venture Forum in St. Petersburg. Dan told me about his Florida Venture blog along with a number of other blogging sites around the country (TechCrunch, etc.) which prompted me to check out Dan’s site (great job, Dan!). I recently proposed that I do a regular weekly posting directed at the life science industry here in Florida. After much arm twisting and the promise of a free breakfast at Denny’s—Dan agreed to let me give it a try.

By way of introduction, I am currently a life science analyst (grad. of UPenn & Johns Hopkins) and editor of the Florida BioDatabase sponsored by the University of Florida’s Sid Martin Biotech Incubator. This is a comprehensive database that follows the life science industry throughout Florida and includes each biotech company’s business and technology developments along with tracking the flow of investment dollars into Florida life science companies.

I also authored the 2008 Florida Biotech State of the Industry report which appears on the University of Florida SMBI website along with a link to the BioDatabase. I encourage interested readers (“shameless plug here”) to take a look at both of these resources as they offer a wealth of freely accessible information about our statewide life science industry. Kudos go to the University of Florida and the Sid Martin Biotech Incubator (especially David Day and Patti Breedlove) for supporting these valuable projects.

My intention for the weekly guest post is to stay focused on the Florida biomedical industry and cover a variety of topics including start-ups, investment trends, life science technology and economic development. I want to keep it brief and make it fun to read. Short interviews with some of Florida’s “movers and shakers” will be part of the postings.

Thanks Dan and see you at Denny’s.” — Mike Schmitt, MD