The LSN Story
Life Science Nation (LSN) was founded by Dennis Ford, CEO, in 2012 to bring a better sales and marketing awareness to the life science community. LSN’s goal is to educate scientists in the basic skills required to brand, message, and market their companies.
Before LSN, Dennis was the CEO of a company that pioneered a system for uncovering global institutional investors and gauging their appetite regarding investing in hedge funds, private equity funds, and venture capital (VC) funds. The methodology used to capture and curate this valuable data was developed in part by a research team that would cold call and canvass these investors. The team would conduct a one-on-one interview with each investor that uncovered any current investment mandates they had. This allowed them to identify exactly where the capital was and specifically who had the mandate to deploy it.
After working with fundraisers in the alternative finance space for six years, Dennis wanted to bring his expertise to the life sciences and channel this fundraising experience toward the goal of moving science forward. Dennis knew from his experience in the alternatives field that many institutional investors and family offices were starting to withdraw capital from funds due to a decade of sub-par returns, initiating a trend of direct investment. This dovetailed with an accelerating trend of philanthropic investment and a desire among many investors to eradicate diseases affecting their family, friends or other groups that they have an affinity towards.
Identifying who has capital and is a fit for your company is the conundrum of the life science arena. The life science industry is poised at the entryway of a new golden age. The one factor holding back the life science explosion is lack of capital. Dennis’s vision led him to believe that LSN could expedite the capital-raising problem by identifying active life science investors seeking emerging biotech and medtech companies and creating in-depth profiles that detail their specific preferences. This would allow scientist-entrepreneurs to identify investors based on fit for their stage and sector, thus greatly enhancing the results of their outbound fundraising campaigns.
Dennis sought to create a match.com-like sourcing platform for the life sciences. He knew that he needed not only current, accurate, and actionable information on both of the constituent groups who would use the platform, but also a home for the data he had started to gather on early stage life science investors.
Launching Life Science Nation Platform
Dennis needed to find a database to house the investor data he had begun to curate and he needed to find a source of data on global early stage Biotech, Medtech, HealthIT and Diagnostics companies. He spent six months searching the world for an existing, comprehensive life sciences company database based on a reliable architecture with a well-designed search ontology that facilitated quick easy search and ease of navigation based on the needs of users in the life science sector. Dennis uncovered a strategic partner that fit these criteria in Venture Valuation (VV), owner of the Biotechgate database, in Zurich, Switzerland. The two founders, Patrik Frei and Jost Renggli, had developed a methodology for tracking early stage life science companies and had 12 years of experience building a very solid data asset. Dennis believed he could add some significant value by helping to commercialize their platform in North America.
Dennis communicated his vision to the founders of Venture Valuation and formed a strategic alliance, whereby LSN would use the existing database in order to rapidly develop and house its LSN Investor Platform and resell the Biotechgate database as the LSN Company Platform. Patrik and Jost also joined the LSN board of advisors. The marriage of VV’s emerging life science company data with LSN’s early stage investor data created an unparalleled platform for sourcing key opportunities throughout the emerging global life science arena.
Sourcing the LSN Management Team
Word got out that Dennis was spinning up LSN, and interested entrepreneurs began to inquire about the new entity. Dennis re-connected with some former employees who were experts in the alternative institutional investor domain. Rick White came on board as VP of Finance and Administration, Colin Widen joined as a strategic adviser and Entrepreneur in Residence and later became CEO of Boston Innovation Capital, a broker dealer that was created as part of LSN’s tactical plan to aid life science entrepreneurs in their global funding initiatives.
Dr. Bill Kohlbrenner joined LSN as Chief Science Officer in 2014. Bill was formerly a director at AbbVie (Abbott pharma) where he was involved in identifying and pursuing external research opportunities and early-stage assets around the globe. This work included leading a global scouting team and conducting strategic assessments of early- and late-stage pipeline opportunities in multiple therapeutic areas. Earlier in his career, Bill led drug discovery research programs in several areas, including oncology, antivirals and antibacterials. As a director in the Cancer Research area, he was involved in the exploration of novel anti-cancer therapies and the identification of novel cancer targets. A major emphasis of this work was on the RNA therapy space and he led a major in-house research effort that was focused on the identification of nanotechnology-based carriers for the delivery of novel RNA cancer therapies. Bill was extensively involved in setting up and managing external collaborations with universities, research institutes and biotechs world-wide to support the projects he was leading.
Dennis forged a relationship with the UMass Boston where he teaches an Entrepreneurship and Sales course. This relationship created a source to recruit, hire and train LSN research and marketing staff.
As the vision became reality, LSN rapidly grew to 20 staff and signed up over 400 clients in the first 36 months of operation, launched an early stage investor conference series and spun out Boston Innovation Capital, a broker dealer to aid fundraising CEOs in raising capital. This rapid uptake of LSN’s platforms is due to the company’s emergence at the right time to capitalize on the broader transformation of the life science industry. Innovation has moved out from large global pharma and medical technology companies and into a plethora of life science startups, aided by the boom in outsourced contract research and other service providers. Global corporations seeking to source technology and new service providers hoping to grow their sales needed to target early stage life science as part of their tactical strategy. Many major corporations in these sectors have adopted the LSN Company Platform in order to identify and target these early stage entities for in-licensing and corporate development. The early stage startup entities, on the other hand, needed to find investors and strategic partners and the LSN Investor Platform has become the standout product for finding potential investor targets for a life science fundraising campaign.
The RESI Conference
LSN found itself positioned at a strategic junction, with solid relationships with both the key industry players and also many emerging Biotechs, Medtechs, Health IT and Diagnostics. LSN therefore saw that there was a clear need to create a vehicle to bring these two groups together. When visiting life science partnering conferences around the world, LSN staff noticed that these partnering conferences typically didn’t produce the volume of attending investors that was advertised. LSN decided to launch an investor-centric partnering conference series totally focused on bringing together early stage investors and emerging life science start-ups; The Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) conference series. RESI events provide early stage life science companies the chance to start, resume or close conversations with relevant investors, creating a global dialogue to bring products to market at a faster pace.
As the LSN platform gained acceptance and the RESI conference started to build momentum it became clear that helping the scientist-entrepreneur with identifying a list of investor fits and providing an investor partnering conference was in some cases still not enough to make a fundraising effort succeed. We found that lot of the scientist-entrepreneurs LSN worked with still lacked a fundamental understanding of how to brand and market themselves and their technology.
Fundraising Campaign Consulting Package
In order to support entrepreneurs seeking to go outbound and raise capital, LSN established a program for the purpose of educating scientists and entrepreneurs on the basics of raising capital in today’s competitive landscape, and packaging their technology for fundraising. This “packaging for fundraising” is usually only available to the largest biotech and pharma companies who work with top-tier investment banks, typically in preparation for an IPO. The primary offering of the program is similar to this preparation and packaging process, but is targeted towards early stage companies. LSN prepares selected life science start-ups for an outbound fundraising campaign by means of a tactically oriented program that gives entrepreneurs hands-on guidance and practical tools for raising money. LSN works with individual scientist-entrepreneurs and creates their design, branding and messaging collateral, from logo and tagline to a complete, investor-centric website that enables investors to do a deep dive on the management team and technology. This material greatly increases the ability of scientist-entrepreneurs to engage with investors, and allows investors to expedite the decision for a meeting.
UMass Boston Venture Development Center works with the LSN to bring life science start-ups through the program and prepare them for fundraising campaigns.
Boston Innovation Capital
Boston Innovation Capital is an advisory firm was spun out of LSN in 2014 to address an unmet need among early stage scientist-entrepreneurs for hands-on assistance in helping them execute fundraising campaigns in the life science arena.
Scientist-entrepreneurs raising capital to bring their assets towards commercialization are faced with few choices when seeking outside help for fundraising. In the past these choices would include small scale investment banks and former bankers or industry executives who may or may not be associated with a broker-dealer. Most cannot provide the global reach and scale of service that allows a scientist-entrepreneur to see a clear and expeditious path to capital.
Boston Innovation Capital was created to provide this global service, and help new life science technologies take the next step towards the market.
LSN was founded to help move science forward and be part of the change that is coming to the life science domain. Capital is the missing ingredient holding back the advancement of life science today. LSN remains dedicated to helping emerging life science companies identify and connect with early stage investors, and our story has just begun.