Posts Tagged NFocus NeuroMedical
Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking – Talk by Mir Imran
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Big Data -Cloud -IoT-Software -Mobile -Entrepreneurship, Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on August 20, 2015
Mir Imran, CEO at www.incubelabs.com, spoke on “invention, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking” at www.bio2devicegroup.org and www.eppicglaobal.org joint event at Wilson Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto.
There are many examples of innovation, in history, said Imran. However, for the most part, innovation has been left to chance. Imran said, it was important for him to think about how to turn innovation into a process, so that it can be made a daily practice inside an organization, and not be left to chance or a random occurrence.
Through examples and stories, Imran shared how innovation is practiced at Incube. Incube is an applied research lab and was found in 1995. Incube has evolved into a star incubator of companies, but is unlike other incubators, where external companies with promise, get incubated, in-house. At Incube Labs, only in-house created companies are incubated, most of them originating from one or more of Imran’s patents.
Imran said, “I am agnostic to technology”, and boasted of a world class multi-disciplinary team, at Incube Labs. He said the only way one can excel while remaining agnostic to technology, is if one is a broad thinker and can embrace all technologies, so as to apply the most optimum solution for a problem. At Incube Labs, all team members are compelled to work outside of their chosen field. All team members pick up new skills and grow in breadth and depth, in the process.
Imran has found 28 companies, to date. Twenty-six of them are in life science arena and 2 are in the area of security. Despite his 400+ US patents and about 1500 foreign patents, according to Imran, filing patents, is not a measure of success, inventions don’t always translate into innovations; and even less frequently, they translate into entrepreneurial success. Clearly, Imran has managed to translate his inventions into huge commercial success.
Some of Incube portfolio of companies
Imran discussed three different models of innovation. Technology favored innovation model is frequently found in academic institutions. The focus here is on finding applications and filing patents for a new technology that is invented, and then licensing the IP or starting a company around it. The problem with this approach is that entire focus is on specific technology and on forcing it to fit a problem, said Imran. Skill based innovation approach begins with applying a skill, and again it takes away from focusing on the problem.
Imran then discussed his own need based model of innovation. In this approach, innovation begins with identification of a poorly solved or unsolved problem. Picking the right problem to solve, and framing it appropriately, assumes that one has the requisite broad background to understand the problem, and it is the single biggest challenge of innovation, said Imran. Once the problem has been identified and defined, then one can focus on developing solutions and filing patents. However, the entrepreneur must assume that an initial solution may be a partial solution.
The entrepreneur is called upon to analyze the commercial value of the solution and be prepared to “kill”, when a solution does not meet the required criteria. Imran said, in previous models of innovation, the entire focus remains on the technology or the skill, and not on the problem. One needs to be brutally honest when assessing the commercial viability of the identified problem, said Imran.
Imran then discussed incremental vs. disruptive innovations. An incremental innovation improves upon existing product or service, resulting in an improved product or service. In this model, there is lower risk, lower possibility of failure, and one operates in a crowded IP space. Frequently large companies embrace this kind of innovation. Disruptive innovation is when one develops a NEW way of describing a big problem, which may result in a highly impactful solution. In this approach, there is higher risk, higher possibility of failure, and potential for strong IP. Together, these two models form the innovation continuum, said Imran.
At Incube, the process truly begins with finding worthy problems to solve. It involves identifying the high level attributes of the problem, including the size of the problem, costs associated with the problem, identifying attributes of current solutions, including efficacy, side effects, cost, quality of life impact, understanding the progression of the disease, various biomarkers, genotypes and phenotypes that can be used for diagnosis and monitoring, and so on. Even for viable problems, before launching a company, one must go through a focused risk analysis to identify market worthiness of solutions. It should include detailed analysis for potential IP, efficacy and cost considerations, assessment of clinical trial length and costs involved, analysis of reimbursement issues, financing requirements, and potential for corporate partnerships.
Imran proceeded to discuss Incube’s commercialization process and how vertical integration at Incube enables efficient execution. In recent years, because the cost of building life science companies has dramatically increased, there has been a compression of returns. In order to reduce cost of building companies, Imran acquired Modulus, a contract manufacturing company. This has enabled Incube companies to operate without requiring their own manufacturing capability, and has contained costs. The venture funds, InCube Ventures and a crowd funding portal, VentureHealth, have enabled financing for the companies.
Imran shared examples and lessons learned from some of his past successes and how he has applied the lessons learned to his several current companies. Neurolink is focused on new pharmacologic drug therapy for epilepsy, with repurposing of an old cardiac drug. One of his exciting new companies, Rani Therapeutics, is not focused on a specific disease, but on delivering injectable drugs (biologics) orally, via smart pills and is thus providing a breakthrough solution for delivery of therapeutic peptides, proteins, antibodies, and vaccines and has demonstrated greater than 50% bioavailability in large animal models. Imran said it is a truly disruptive, transformative technology, with strong patent position. Intrapace is built around an implantable sensor based gastric pacemaker for the treatment of obesity. Nfocus Neuromedical developed endovascular neurosurgery solutions to treat intracranial aneurysms, and was recently acquired by Covidien. Also, Spinal Modulation, which developed a novel therapy for the treatment of chronic pain, was recently acquired by St. Jude Medical.
One of Imran’s companies, Intella Interventional, a cardiology company, ran into difficulties. Imran managed to salvage it but he said he learned an important lesson, to not fall in love with the technology, and to not rely solely upon physicians to give the right answers. “Also, talk to the skeptics”, said Imran. Imran said he also learned from the failures of two of his companies. From the failure of Surface Genesis, which had a flawed licensing model, Imran said he learned that he needed to do business modeling, earlier in the process. His company, MDIsource was launched about 3-4 months before the market crash of early 2000, and it failed on account of bad timing. Sometimes events outside your control can also have an impact.
Imran said that in the course of his innovation journey, he learned several important lessons. It is important to be current with the literature, and also listen to the naysayers. However, entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. In the end, an entrepreneur must be his or her own guide, and must be willing to blaze their own trail. Despite deep knowledge and extensive literature review, successful entrepreneurs understand that published articles do not account for total truth, and they understand that 50% of scientific data is likely to be flawed or limited in some way. Entrepreneurs must be willing to take risks, be willing to fail. In the pursuit of innovation, failure is a constant companion and success an occasional visitor, said Imran. He said, “question everything, including what I have said”.
Crowdfunding – New Source of Capital for Medical Industry
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Biotech - Medical Device - Life Science - Healthcare on June 23, 2013
Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati 2013 Medical Device Conference (www.wsgr/news/medicaldevice.com) focused on understanding the challenges that Medtech startups encounter in the current environment, and the emerging strategies to respond to these challenges. It was heavily attended by industry CEOs, venture capitalists, industry strategists, investment bankers, market analysts, and life science industry professionals.
Below are some highlights from panel on crowdfunding. Crowdfunindg is emerging as a source of potential new source of capital for early stage and emerging growth companies. The panel was moderated by Phil Oettinger, partner at WSGR and the panelists included Andrew Farquharson, Managing Director at InCube Ventures, Scott Jordan, Partner at S. Jordan Associates, Greg Shearer, Managing Director at Healthios, and Ben Lee, Director of Business Development at CircleUp.
Oettinger gave a background on Crowdfunding. He also discussed impact of JOBS act that is expected to enable advertising for private investment offerings and allow unaccredited investors to participate in online equity crowdfunding. Thus far, crowdfunding has not lived up to the hype of being a startup panacea. It caps an amount an issuer can raise to $1M, in any 12-month period and caps the amount a person can invest in all crowdfundings over a one year period at 10% of annual income or net worth of the investor. Shares issued in crowdfunding transactions are subject to a one-year restriction, and there are other restrictions that render non-US companies ineligible to participating in crowdfunding. Crowdfunding also must be done through a registered broker-dealer or registered “funding portal”, who cannot solicit investments and law requires extensive due diligence, including background checks on management and large stockholders. None of the challenges however, have dampened the enthusiasm. SEC has already stated that equity crowdfunding portals are exempt from certain restrictions and more changes are on the way.
Scott Jordan is an accomplished life sciences business development and investment banking professional with over 20 years of corporate experience in negotiating strategic corporate alliances, securing international licensing agreements, building national sales teams, and contributing to successful product development, approval, and launch. In partnership with Greg Shearer, Managing Director at Healthios Capital Markets, and CrowdConnect, Jordan and Associates, launched Healthios Xchange fund, with an aim to assist emerging growth healthcare companies raise capital from accredited investors, and non-dilutive financing from foundations. It offers three large value propositions, said Shearer. Open access eliminates selection bias and does not curate the deals going on the site. “Crowd” anchors the continuum. H/X scoring based on sophisticated algorithms, makes it heavily data centric, similar to LinkedIn. Healthios charges fees to companies that raise money on its portal, except in certain cases where it offers carry-free, fee-free feature allowing investors an opportunity to directly invest in companies, eliminating transaction expenses. The fees will likely fall in the 5-10% range. The fee structure will be different for non-profits. Each company gets a company pitch page. Several features including e platform button, e signature of docs, e regulatory assessment etc., enhance ease of use.
Ben Lee, a developer of innovative teeth whitening products at GoSmile, and founder of TaskRabbit, an online services marketplace, joined CircleUp, which offers consumer companies an access to funding through passionate, sector focused investors. “Very simply, crowdfunding is a numbers game and it offers an opportunity to reach out to large number of people, who are looking to invest”, said Lee. CircleUp has launched a highly active, fast growing portal and has gained considerable credibility. Lee said, “We are 100% focused on branded consumer products” where there is little institutional investment.
Prior to his current role at Incube Ventures, Andrew Farqharson, a serial entrepreneur had co-founded Operon with no venture capital and sold it for $150M. He also had launched a company in microfludics, Innovadyne, and had held several roles in research operations at Genentech. At InCube, with Mir Imran and Talat Imran, Farqharson co-founded VentureHealth, a crowdfunding portal, to enable physicians and other accredited investors to invest in “compelling biomedical inventions”. Farqharson said, this emergence of crowdfunding is very exciting and enables entrepreneurs to be less dependent on VCs, while it unlocks a lot of latent capital, and also gives investors more degrees of freedom. Unlike other equity crowdfunding portals on the panel, VentureHealth has adopted a carried-interest business model. They do not charge fees to the companies that raise capital but charge the investors; just like a venture fund. In this model being driven by carried interest, they make money only if their investors do. Clearly, they have an incentive to only support the most promising companies, unlike many broker/dealer sites that may have lesser interest in screening for quality, as their primary incentive may be to raise capital for as many companies as they can. It will be interesting to see which approach holds more long-term promise. My initial thoughts are, if I, as a rather naive investor, were to risk my money, specifically in the complex class 2 and class 3 devices, with many regulatory, reimbursement, and marketing challenges, I would prefer to risk it where some prior due diligence is done by seasoned and serial entrepreneurs like Imrans and Farqharson. Explaining the success of InCube Ventures, Farqharson said, despite the challenging environment, they have had 3 exits this year. BodyMedia was acquired by Jawbone, NFocus Neuromedical was acquired by Covidien and most recently Spinal Modulation was acquired by St. Jude. Exists led to $700M+ in 2013, said Farqharson. They are actively screening investors.