Archive for category Biotech – Medical Device – Life Science – Healthcare

New Corporate Deal Models for Medtech Companies

Often continuous internal innovation is expensive and unpredictable for medtech companies, and yet in order to continue to grow their business, they need to introduce important new products.  A panel at 2016 WSGR Medical Device Conference, discussed what large companies are looking for today and how evolving deal structures can benefit both the buyer and the seller.  The panelists discussed this in context of their own stories of deal models.  On the panel moderated by Steve Levin,  were Fred Aslan from Adavium Medical, Hanson Gifford from The Foundry, Bruce Roberts from RM Global Partners, and Thierry Thaure from Cephea Valve Technology.  

Thaure discussed Abbott’s interest in Cephea and how the milestone based deal was struck.  Mitral valve disease is highly complex and requires multiple treatment options.  Abbott’s interest in Cephea emerged from the objective to complement its own portfolio of mitral valve replacement therapies.  Cephea’s catheter based mitral valve replacement therapy seemed to fit in nicely with Abbott’s Mitraclip device, for addressing this huge market opportunity.  Initially, Abbott made an equity investment, holding the option to acquire.

The Foundry built by a group of serial entrepreneurs, do a lot of inventing but additionally also look at other outside opportunities that address dramatic clinical improvement over existing treatment models.  Thus operating as a medical device incubator, The Foundry helps the companies it takes under its wings, with fundraising, recruitment and helps them to rapidly transform their concepts into companies.  Since its inception in 1998, The Foundry has founded and financed nearly a dozen medical device companies which have generated over $2 billion of value.  Ardian came out of the Foundry and was acquired in cash plus commercial milestones based deal by Medtronic.  Foundry’s some of the other successes include Cabochon Aesthetics (acquired by Ulthera), Concentric Medical (acquired by Stryker), Emphasys Medical (sold to Pulmonx), and evalve (acquired by Abbott).

Fred Aslan said while countries like Brazil, China, and India offer huge growth opportunities, navigating those markets to develop sales and marketing is very challenging as these are highly fragmented markets with mom and pop establishments and while companies should work with local distributors, it is also hard to find distributors.  With two recent acquisitions, Advium transformed itself into the largest Brazilian medical equipment and diagnostics company as measured by sales and number of customers across both specialties.  Brazil is one of the most complex and one of the largest healthcare markets in the world, after US and China.  Aligning with the needs of the market, Advium focuses heavily on aesthetics, dermatology, plastics surgery, vascular surgery, and gynecology and on clinical diagnostics.

As a senior partner, Roberts oversees the medtech M&A practice at RM Global Partners LLC, boutique investment banking and strategic advisory firm.    “Every technology we help develop is some form of global technology arbitrage”, said Roberts.  RMG helps increase the value of their clients’ innovation pipeline while helping them account for risk and uncertainty.  Besides financial and strategic advice to its clients, RMG leverages its global network to source and execute transactions to build new opportunities for their clients, worldwide.

PS – Please check out exciting jobs offering opportunities to work with disruptive technologies in JOBS category on this blog or at link & please send leads or resume at wd_darshana at hot mail dot com.

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Medtech Emerging Models of Innovation – WSGR 2016 Medtech Conference

A breakout panel at recent Wilson Sonsini Medical Device Conference, with Scott Murano from Wilson Sonsini, Fred Toney from Lean Launchpad, Kevin Wasserstein from Neurotechnology Innovations Translator, and Ryan McGuinness from Triple Ring Tech, discussed new emerging models of innovation for medical technologies.  The panelists shared the methods they use to identify important new innovations, and how they assist in rapidly building product prototypes and help complete first-in-man cases in a cost effective manner.  

Toney, at Lean Launchpad (that was started by Steve Blank), said they cast a wide net and take several contenders through a stringent vetting process and make a final selection to invest in 6-10 companies, with fundable milestones, and clear clinical evidence.  These companies are fostered from early stage and provided guidance, teaching, and tools to understand customers in a deep way.  

At Triple Ring, the driver is to create opportunities for serendipitous events and help create a robust ecosystem and build upon the opportunities that come through the network, said McGuinness.  This model thrives best in Silicon Valley, with an existing thriving ecosystem, though they are trying to export the model to other parts of the country.  The companies are vetted through the expertise of Triple Ring staff in their specific domains.  Triple Ring invests in a small subset of companies that are incubated there but it is not a requirement of participating in the incubator.  More importantly, TRT supports interesting projects or companies with its world class R&D capability.  The focus at TRT is to move quickly to add value and reach the inflection points/ funding milestones.  When data indicates non viability of the idea, “we move quickly and kill easily and cheaply, adding value to the fail fast side of the coin”, said McGuinness.  

Neurotechnology Innovations Translator, that has come out of Ohio State, is not a VC firm but assists medtech companies by providing comprehensive clinic development resources, management and leadership expertise and helping raise investment capital.  In vetting process, Wasserstein said they look for the size of the clinical need the technology seeks to address and the market opportunity it represents.  Starting with some objective criteria, they overlay that with how the company can truly make an impact and how well it would thrive with the ecosystem they can  provide, said Wasserstein.  The Translator has access to excellent advisors, animal lab and engineers on bench for rapid testing, and onsite rapid prototyping facility to move projects forward quickly.

The panel agreed that medtech investing is not dead but companies need to stay focused on solving a problem and have the tenacity, persistence and creativity and look for out of the box resources to help them move forward.

 PS – Please check out exciting jobs offering opportunities to work with disruptive technologies in JOBS category on this blog & please send leads or resume at wd_darshana at hot mail dot com.


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2016 Wilson Sonsini Medical Device Conference Synopsis


2016 Wilson Sonsini Medical Device Conference took place in San Francisco.  While the tone of the conference was upbeat, there was also an acknowledgement of the challenges that medtech companies continue to face.  New and innovative models are emerging to help navigate medtech companies through the challenging landscape.

Considerable discussion focused around monetary challenges.  The conference started with a spotlight on venture capital with two new funds investing in early stage medical technology companies.  Given the shrinking pool of investors interested in medtech companies, it was uplifting to hear from Sante Ventures and Apple Tree Partners about their focus on early stage medtech companies.

Breakout sessions focused on a range of topics that would help them steer a startup through building it and taking it from concept to commercialization, in a cost effective manner.  A panel discussed emerging new methods of innovation to help the company through early prototypes and early first-in-man cases speedily.  Obtaining reimbursement in the changing healthcare system is one of the most significant challenges and a panel addressed the issue of the reimbursement puzzle and ways to accelerate the adoption of new but unreimbursed medical devices.  One panel focused on ways of creating win-win transactions with corporate investors, whereas another focused on new corporate deal models.   

New methods of innovation increasingly include partnerships and collaborations with players outside the US.  With growing interest from Japan in investing in US medtech companies, Japan has emerged as an important partners.  A panel of experts discussed ways in which Japan and Silicon Valley startups are collaborating to finance and develop advanced medical technologies.  Panels also discussed topics like Asian funding strategies and Israeli medtech revolution.  

There were also discussions around more specific technologies and topics.  Topics like off-label promotion and hiring and compensating CEOs were also discussed.  A panel of CEOs with success in launching new products and building sales organizations, discussed evolving commercialization strategies required for product adoption.  One panel focused specifically on the future of innovation in the area of percutaneous valve products that has recently revolutionized the heart valve market.  Another panel discussed IPOs and corporate buyouts and in yet another panel the focus was on role of IP due diligence in corporate finance.

Before the corks came off the wine bottles, with venture capitalists serving as sommeliers, the semi finalists chosen for MedTech Innovator award were spotlighted.  From 430 companies that presented their pitch to a panel of judges (a 30% increase from 2015), 20 semi finalists were selected to present a one minute pitch in a video.  The audience heard their pitch in a 20 minute video.  From these, four were selected to present longer pitchs and answer questions posed by a panel of judges.  The audience then voted to select one of these four and the winner received a $25,000 award.   By then it was time to uncork the wine and get better acquainted with those who poured the wine and who might pour much needed cash into medtech startups.

I will post a few different blogs on some of the panels, over the next few days.  So stay tuned.  Below are some highlights from venture capital spotlight discussion that started the morning.

Venture Capital Spotlight

The Conference opened with a spotlight on venture capital, in a panel moderated by David Cassak in conversation with Joe Cunningham from Sante Ventures and David McIntyre from Apple Tree Partners in discussion with David Cassak.  Sante Ventures and Apple Tree Partners are two new funds that are actively investing in early stage medtech.

Sante Ventures go in typically at Series A round and are generally first institutional investor, said Cunningham.  David McIntyre said that he does not find two areas appealing, digital health and diagnostics, more so because he does not have deep background in investing in digital health; but things are moving in that direction and they have looked at some wearables.  Cunningham also said, “We have done more medtech than IT, and when we look at digital health, we look for profound changes”.

Emphasizing the importance of cost cutting in healthcare, Cunningham said, “if you go out on the street and ask people about the brand of hip or knee replacement they favor, they couldn’t tell you; in healthcare it is not so much about the brand, but the cost”.

PS – Please check out exciting jobs offering opportunities to work with disruptive technologies in JOBS category on this blog & please send leads or resume at wd_darshana at hot mail dot com.

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2016 Health Technology Forum (preview): tackling complex healthcare challenges with gentler focus on “Common Good”

Enabling people to have access to affordable healthcare is not only a challenge for the United States but a significant challenge in many parts of the world.  Given the current population trends, this challenge is going to become more complex and will need creative and out of the box solutions.  With aging populations, lack of clean air and water, and densely crowded mega cities, many people word-wide do not have quick and easy access to meet basic healthcare needs.  Further, rise in chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and amazing advances in diagnosing and treating diseases, people are living longer, and very likely will require medical care for longer periods.  

It is likely for instance, that in the next 30 years, the number of Alzheimer’s patients in the US can rise to 20 million.  While state of the art healthcare could be a available to a few in a Western nation like the US, there is a widening chasm between availability of healthcare to the top 1% of population and huge numbers at the bottom of the money pyramid.  According to US Census Bureau, approximately 49 million Americans lacked continuous access to basic healthcare on account of not having healthcare coverage, in 2011.  

Globally, the issues may be slightly different but the question for affordable access to healthcare is just as significant.  Nearly 2.6 billion people worldwide lack proper sanitation facilities, and almost a sixth of the world’s population don’t have access to adequate drinking water.

Health Technology Forum (HTF) attempts to tackle this complex challenge from one vantage point of connecting people worldwide, with common interest in making healthcare better, more accessible, and affordable for everyone, through the use of technology.  HTF is creating the environment for healthcare entrepreneurs, developers, regulators, and community health providers to come together for “common good”, to engage in productive dialogue for creative global solutions, for access to affordable healthcare.  By creating the space for this dialogue and for vital collaborations between healthcare innovators, providers and thought and business leaders, world takes one more tiny step forward to solving its most vexing healthcare challenge.

The 2016 HealthTech Innovation Conference will be on May 22 and 23 at Stanford University.   Pronoy Saha,
 CEO & founder of HealthTech Forum is working tirelessly to make his vision of wide access to affordable healthcare into a reality.  The conference agenda includes great panels and keynotes.  A panel on home and community innovations, will focus on technology advances that can enable people to live longer in their homes.  A panel of medical providers and other experts will discuss new business models for making precision medicine available to the masses, using genomics data, patient generated data, and social data.  A panel of leading investors in healthcare technology will discuss funding trends and will share insights on the criteria they use to determine what, when and who to fund.  This will be an exciting conference tackling hard issues and complex challenges, with soft and gentler focus on the theme of “Common Good”.  Please register at  and don’t forget to bring along business cards.  

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Enhanced Processing of Microscopy Data to Accelerate Research, Speed & Accuracy


Cassandra Boyer and Marc Bruce, Co-founders of Microvolution talked about software based technology to help accelerate medical research, at event.

The primary application of this technology is in microscopy. Traditionally, it takes several minutes to hours for microscopy images to be focused. The process of focusing digital images with mathematical algorithms is called deconvolution. Existing deconvolution technology requires researchers to wait several hours to days to know Shapeif their experiment is a success or a failure, this uses up a great deal of time and causes huge waste because the researcher does not have the proper knowledge to make adjustments to failed experiments in real time.  Because the current software on the market is slow and arduous to use, scientists often make important decisions from images that are blurry and hazy; thus, missing important details leading to low level of accuracy.


Boyer spoke of Microvolution’s deconvolution technology that enhances the speed and accuracy of medical research. Microvolution starts with the Richardson Lucy Algorithm which was originally invented by NASA to deconvolve (focus) the images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Other vendors use this algorithm, but must make mathematical shortcuts in order to achieve speed with their CPU-based software. These shortcuts result in missing data, such as thin filaments that are missing in the image. Microvolution makes no mathematical shortcuts because it harnesses the speed of the GPU, so images are deconvolved with more accuracy—all data are preserved.

Additionally, Microvolution adds unique mathematical algorithms that no other vendor offers which further enhance the accuracy of the images. Microvolution software delivers the most accurate and fastest deconvolution on the market by combining intelligent software programming with the power of a GPU, coupled with unique mathematical algorithms.

Microvolution software improves and enhances the quality of medical research in several significant ways.
* Enhances Speed: Microvolution is up to 200 times faster compared to more traditional approaches. Because Microvolution is so fast, researchers can try different settings with ease in order to optimize the settings so the best possible image is generated. Also, by capturing more images in less time—data sets improve.
* Empowers Researchers to Diminish Phototoxicity and Photobleaching: In traditional microspcopy, imaging with a high power light beam can cause significant damage to the sample. By incorporating Microvolution into your process, every image can be deconvolved in real-time, thus enabling you to dim the light intensity in real-time and realize improved outcomes. Microvolution increases signal and decreases noise in low light conditions where photon counts are limited.
* Reducing Phototoxicity and Photobleaching: Tradition microscopy methods lead to photochemical destruction of dye or flurophores (photobleaching) and cell death due to phototoxicity. Microvolution allows the researcher to turn down light intensity in real-time and diminish photobleaching. By dimming the light during long-term, time-lapse, live-cell experiments, one may diminish the effects of phototoxicity with Microvolution—cells live longer and this leads to higher success rates.
* Improved Accuracy: In addition to the fact that Microvolution does not take mathematical shortcuts, Microvolution incorporates unique mathematical algorithms for Point Spread Function Models and offers unique noise reduction models. No other vendor uses these algorithms; hence, Microvolution’s accuracy is superior. Additionally, it is important to turn off noise suppression when comparing the data from 2 different images. Microvolution is unique in the industry because it enables you to turn off regularization—this enables you to generate accurate data comparisons between 2 images.
* Deep Tissue and Organoid Imaging: Microvolution’s Blind Deconvolution Option enables researchers to achieve better results when one images thick tissues, organioids and 3-D tissue structures.
* Cost and ease of use: Microvolution is very easy to use as was demonstrated during the presentation. Additionally, GPUs cost less than CPUs and by using GPUs, this frees up the CPUs for other tasks like responding to user input.
* Can integrate real-time deconvolution into existing workflow: Seamless, integrated and instantaneous deconvolution with Microvolution technology enhances success rates and increases productivity, said Boyer.

Microvolution is unique in the industry because it offers the ability to use multiple GPU’s at once. This helps researchers deconvolve very large images in seconds instead of hours. As microscopy techniques evolve, image sizes are getting larger; thus, making it more important to implement software that can handle very large images sizes with ease. Microvolution offers instantaneous and integrated deconvolution for widefield, confocal, two-photon, light sheet, and HCA microscopes with the convenience of a MetaMorph® Drop-in or via an ImageJ/Fiji or Micro-Manager 2.0 Plugin.

Marc Bruce demonstrated the speed and accuracy of Microvolution’s software by deconvolving several raw images in seconds during the live demonstration. Clearly, Microvolution technology seems to offer superior processing of microscopy data. The event was followed by Q&A.

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Drug Development Panel Preview – EPPICon, 2016

Traditionally, the process of research and development, in the pharmaceutical industry, is very costly and time consuming, with small chance of a successful outcome.  When regulatory and reimbursement challenges and commercial realities and constraints of the business are added to the mix, it makes for a path fraught with unprecedented obstacles, with high stakes.

However, the current revolution in new technologies for biomarker testing and advances in public and private human genome projects, is revolutionizing drug development, reducing cost, and optimizing chances for success.  Exciting panel will discuss fast changing Drug Development process, at EPPICon, 2016.

Anil Singhal is Vice President of AbbVie and Head of AbbVie Biotherapeutics.  Prior to that he has held leadership positions at Abbott/ AbbVie and oversaw two phase 3 programs, daclizumab for multiple sclerosis and elotuzumab for multiple myeloma.  Singhal has held senior positions in various US, Japanese and German pharmaceutical and biotech companies and has led many cross-functional development teams.

Carlos Garcia, Director of Technical Operations at Gilead Sciences, leads biological program simtuzumab (GS-6624) for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.  As the Technical Operations and Regulatory Operations leader, he is also responsible for Gilead global biologics technical regulatory strategy and management.  

Trigemina, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of non-narcotic, nasally delivered, analgesic drug products.  Dr. Shashi Kori has been appointed to the position of chief medical officer.  With his extensive experience in clinical trial design, he would likely see Trigemina’s intranasal oxytocin product for migraine headaches through late stage clinical trials.  

This is an exciting panel of industry experts.  Diagnostic breakthroughs typically precede therapeutic progress, and as more progress is being made in uncovering genetic roots of diseases, better understanding of disease progression, and treatment effectiveness, and as there has also been a growing enthusiasm for more sophisticated diagnostics and monitoring tests, now the question is how all this will alter and impact innovation in drug development.  Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from these industry stalwarts.  Register today at, before early bird price expires.

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IoT Track Preview at TiEcon 2016

Internet of Things (IoT) is not a buzzword any more.  It is real, with a real ability to make a significant impact to the economy.  An estimated 50 billion devices around the globe, will be connected to the Internet, by 2020.  These newly connected devices, sensors, actuators etc. will monitor, control, analyze and optimize our world, in real time.  This kind of optimized use of technology to sense, predict, influence, and control our physical world, will not only impact the economy but will impact to the core, how we live our lives.

At TiEcon 2016, participants will get a glimpse into the future of the world where IoT will be front and center.  They will get a flavor for how IoT is causing disruptions across domains, from agriculture to healthcare, from energy to insurance; how IoT is helping create smart cities, and may help solve global world problems around water, waste, energy, transportation, and environment management.  

I am excited about TiEcon for just this one track.  But every track is exciting and features cutting edge technologies that will exert disruptive impact on the future of humankind.  Guess I will need to clone myself to enjoy all the exciting tracks and panels.  There are also plenty of opportunities to network with like minded professionals, eager to participate in how the future unfolds.  Stay tuned and feel free to follow my blog for more information on panels, tracks, topics, and speakers at TiEcon, 2016.  Friends, this is the most exciting conference on entrepreneurship that takes place each year.  I will look forward to seeing you at TiEcon, 2016.  Please register for TiEcon, as my friend, with this link .




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Digital Health – EPPICon 2016 Panel Preview

Digital Health revolution is greatly attributable to advances and miniaturization in technology.  Advances in digital health are increasingly enabling people to be CEOs of their own health.  By placing critical tools in the form of wearables and cloud-connected home devices in the hands of the people, not only makes them first line recipients of information pertaining to their health, but turns them into active participants in its management.  Impact, opportunities, and challenges in digital health will be discussed by a panel of stalwarts at EPPIC annual conference, on March 26, 2016.  Here’s a small preview.

The panelist Jack Lloyd, hardly needs an introduction.  Currently a fellow at Triple Ring Technologies, Lloyd has found and managed several medical device and drug delivery companies, including Alere Medical (focused on monitoring patients at home for heart failure – sold to Inverness), Aradigm (focusing on aerosol drug delivery company), Nellcor (anesthesia monitoring based on pulse oximeter that he developed, company now part of Covidien).  He also owned patents in digital hearing aid (licensed to ReSound and sold to Siemens).

Also on the panel is Gregg Jackson, Founder and Principal of Gershon MedTech.  Jackson, a seasoned medical project executive in the industry, assists companies with executing exceptional program management to help create transformations and breakthroughs.  He has assisted with various high-profile mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and licensing deals.  

Dollars in Digital Health totaled more than 8% of funding in 2014, and the pace continued in 2015, suggesting that it continues to remain an important segment in every venture capitalist’s portfolio.  Ben Dubin is preparing to launch a new venture capital partnership focusing on Digital Health and Optimising Human Performance.  Growth of companies in digital health has been accompanied with noise.  Too many digital health companies are competing for attention from the consumers and from investors.  Hopefully, we will get to hear from Ben Dubin, what catches the eye of the investors, in this space. 

While technology has made major strides in the past couple of decades, healthcare sector (and primarily big pharma) have been slow to adopt these technologies.  However, in recent years, with payors adopting digital tools, changes in patient behavior, transformation of care, fast of fierce competition, and changes in healthcare laws, the healthcare sector is not only ready to embrace digital health but may experience a major transformation, as a result.  Don’t miss the opportunity to come and hear from some of stalwarts who embraced digital health fast and early.  

Besides exciting panels, EPPIC conference will also offer unique opportunity to inventors, innovators, professionals and academicians in big pharma, biotech, medtech, high tech and other technology sectors to network and participate and observe startup speed pitch sessions.  All day conference is on March 26 in Burlingame, CA.  Register before March, 15 to get early bird discount.  Please register at .

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Building Teams that deliver Results & Investors

Michael Weickert
Michael Weickert talked about “Building Teams that Deliver Results & Attract Investors” at event.  Weickert has extensive experience as CEO and entrepreneurial leadership in biotechnology, drug delivery and medical devices.  He has also raised capital and done strategic partnership deals.  Weickert has PhD in Genetics and holds numerous biotechnology and device patents and has published many scientific papers in leading journals.  Below are some interesting points from the talk.

Venture Capitalists know that the team is critical, said Weickert.  A large amount of cash and burn happens on account of people problems.  VC surveys attribute nearly 65% of failures in their portfolio companies to problems with startup management teams and 61% of problems occur on account of issues within founding members or groups.  Differences in perspectives are not the cause of the problems, and may even be beneficial, in a team.  However, not being able to work through them points to grave issues that can prove to be fatal for the company.  Investors often give up on funding a startup because they are unsure of the interpersonal capability of the founding members.  Investors may even love an idea or a product concept but may not embrace it if they feel doubts about the team, said Weickert.  Investors often mitigate risks by working with groups they have prior experience with or know others who had success with these teams.  Investors also feel higher level of comfort working with teams that have worked together before, or with people with a great deal of experience, in the hope that they will all work together better.     

Teaming needs may vary depending on the stage of product development in the company.  It is critical that the top tier understands the needs and requirements of functions and groups at various stages, and can convince investors that they have what it takes to transition the company into the next stage.  Investors care about risk involved, and entrepreneurs should be able to communicate well that they have the ability and expertise to mitigate the risk.  Some teams stuck in one phase, may not understand the risks associated with the next stage and may not be able to communicate their understanding of how the risks can be mitigated, when the company would transition into the next phase, said Weickert.  Weickert also discussed team needs based on funding requirements and funding rounds.

Speaking of teaming norms, Weickert said they are hard to define  but extremely crucial for a team’s success.  He suggested top ten characteristics of high performing teams to be as follows.

  • participative leadership where everyone contributes
  • effective decision making where decisions get made and stay made
  • open and clear communication is important but is often underdone in many places and people work better when they know the context.
  • valued for diversity where differences among roles, functionalities and people’s experiences are heard
  • mutual trust where there is a feeling of safety
  • managing conflict – not squashing conflicts, but atmosphere where it is ok to express conflicts and where they can be managed in a constructive manner
  • clear goals where people know what they are working towards
  • defined roles and responsibilities where everyone knows what they are to do and how it would impact others
  • coordinative relationship where checking in and touching base happens frequently
  • positive and enjoyable atmosphere

Companies like Google have learned from their quest to build perfect teams, that psychological safety is one of the most critical attributes, for a team’s success.  Some of the best teams have members who speak in roughly the same proportion and members are often skilled in intuiting how others feel, based on their tone of voice, their expressions, and other non-verbal cues.  This sounds like a sort of a marriage.  Other important attributes are that teams have clear and well defined goals, and a manager creates a culture of high degree of trust.  

Companies often hire for interpersonal behavior, rather than aptitude alone, said Weickert.  Behavioral interviewing centers around asking candidates to share stories about past challenges and how they approached them and sharing examples of past behavior, as a part of a team.  Candidates are also sometimes presented hypothetical questions about scenarios that involve team dynamics, to see how they would respond to challenging situations.  Ending his talk, Weickert emphasized that a culture of trust and respect goes a long way in helping the team navigate its way through challenges, and progress towards a success.


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Strategies to protect Intellectual Property

Image result for bio2device

George Willman
, Partner at Reed Smith LLP, in areas of technology, transactions, patents, and IP conseling and Nina Borders, associate in the firm’s IP litigation group, focusing on patent and trademark prosecution and litigation, talked on Intellectual Property Protection Strategy at event.

Companies approach IP protection with twin goals of building value and creating an asset and avoiding infringement, said Willman. Willman and Borders spoke about the four major categories of IP, each protected differently with different body of law.

** Trade Secrets: Trade secrets help protect secret information and examples include secret formula, source code, manufacturing process, customer list and so on. The types of information that can be protected are broad, and trade secret protection may be available before a patent is filed and published. Also, unlike other forms of IP, there is no trade secret “application.” Most states require that you use reasonable measures to protect the trade secret in order for the trade secrets to be legally protected. Reasonable measures include – marking documents confidential, ensuring secure access to the building, and using NDAs and confidentiality provisions in agreements. Trade secrets can be reverse engineered or independently developed (assuming this is not breaching a confidentiality agreement or obligation or using other intellectual property such as a patent). In fact, the law encourages reverse engineering of trade secrets.

Venture capitalists do not typically sign NDAs. However, a presenting company should mark as confidential any slides, try not to leave material behind and not reveal entire secret sauce, said Willman. Whenever possible, the presenting company should file patent application prior to public presentations.

** Patents – Patents protect the right of the patent owner by excluding others from making, using, or selling the invention claimed in the patent without prior permission, said Borders. The most common patents are design and utility patents. Patents last for 20 years from the date filed and then the invention is in the public domain. The Patent’s subject matter is important. Utility patent for instance, protects the structure and function of the apparatus or system, the process of making or using something in an original way, or the composition of the matter. Design patent protects the ornamental or aesthetic features of a new or original design but does not cover the functional aspects of the design. Patents may be filed in the United States and in the respective patent offices of other countries if international patent protection is sought. There is no such thing as a world wide patent, said Borders.

Patent application filing must include white paper-like description of the invention plus all drawings and claims which set forth the key aspects of the invention. In order for an invention to be patentable, it must meet the requirements of novelty, utility and nonobviousness, said Borders. Also inventor can file a provisional patent as a placeholder and would have a year to convert and file a full application for examination. What may not be patentable are laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas like algorithms.

** Trademarks: Trademarks are any word, design, slogan, tagline, color or sound that serves as a source identifier for the company and where a consumer may see it and identify it with the company may be a trademark. It can be a word, name, phrase, symbol design or combination, and it may identify and distinguish the source of the product or service. Trade dress, which is the look and feel of something such as package design or the motif of a restaurant or retail store may also serve as a trademark, said Borders. Common law rights, arising from use, allow the owner to accrue trademark rights and enforce the mark against someone using a similar mark solely based on the use of the mark, however there are definitely benefits to registration too, said Borders. Trademark can be registered at the federal level for protection in all 50 states or it can be filed in a particular state or states. Trademark filing is different in different countries and most countries, outside US, don’t recognize rights in use. A trademark can last as long as the trademark is in use and, for a registered trademark, as long as the trademark registration continues to get renewed. With proper use, trademarks can last indefinitely, said Borders. Inventor can licence all IP or trademarks to others to use and they should control and monitor the propriety of use.

** Copyrights: Copyrights give the owner legal protection for works of authorship, including things like books, movies, paintings and so on, and important for technology companies, softwareThe bar for copyright protection is very low and requires originality. One cannot get copyright protection on ideas, or the underlying processes of software. However, copyright can protect source code from copying. If you can get it, a patent can provide broader protection than a copyright, since patent claims can cover broad classes of solutions.. However, in certain industries like the movie world, copyright is the standard form of protection.

Recaping different strategies for protection, Willman said that a patent costs the most and can offer the highest level of protection whereas the cost for copyright can be relatively low but generally may offer less protection. On the other hand, trade secrets and trademarks offer mid range protection and cost in the mid range as well, said Willman.

The session was followed by Q & A.

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