We're building an advisor network to provide world-class support to emerging biopharma companies. These providers have agreed to provide free consultations to startups on a limited basis.
We will continually add to this list. If there are any particular areas where you'd want advice, or if you are interested in meeting with an advisor, let us know.
IP office hours, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati: WSGR is one of the leading life sciences IP firms in the world and has agreed to provide biweekly half-hour consultations with an IP attorney to select startups for up to 6 months.
Legal office hours, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati: Meet with WSGR's corporate law team for feedback on incorporation, employee equity, fundraising and technology licensing matters.
Drug discovery and chemistry, Andrei Konradi, PhD: Dr. Konradi has 25 years of industrial drug discovery experience and has conceived compound classes that include seven drug candidates that have been tested in humans. Dr. Konradi provides virtualized medicinal chemistry for several startup drug discovery companies including Cortexyme and Vivace Therapeutics and has experience with peripheral and CNS targets, autoimmune disease, and cancer.
Startup funding database
We maintain a database of venture investment into biopharma startups as well as exits (M&A and IPOs). Below are a few tools we've built to allow you to interact with the data. We use the database primarily for internal purposes but have a limited API for a few specific queries. If you are interested in learning more about the database, contact us.
Who will fund your startup?
See which investors fund companies like yours. This is best for Series A rounds and beyond, data for seed rounds is more sparse. All of these investors have funded at least one therapeutics company since January 2018.
Which startups might be hiring?
Search for recently funded startups (have raised venture money since January 2018). These companies may or may not be hiring, but typically companies hire aggressively after a fundraise.
Our data has good coverage of Series A rounds and beyond, but it is harder to find data on seed funding. Most of the active Series A investors in biotech do seed investing as well, but often in companies they create in-house. In the last few years, tech VCs have become more active seed investors in biotech. A tech fund called Nfx has a decent list of tech seed investors who have done some biotech, although it is not therapeutics focused and their coverage of Series A and later rounds is a bit sparse.
The interviews on the history of Genentech are amazing. They have aged very well -- many of the business strategies pioneered by Genentech are still relevant today.
I particularly like the interviews with Bob Swanson and David Goeddel. Bob founded Genentech as its CEO when he was just 29. Even today, Bob Swanson's playbook is a helpful guide to starting biotech companies. David Goeddel, the first key scientist hired, embodied Genentech's determined and hard-working culture and is a model for scientific founders (though he technically wasn't a founder).
Learning about biotech venture capital
If you are a biotech startup, you'll likely have to invest significant capital in R&D before you can generate revenue. To fund this work, you'll probably need venture capital.
But venture capitalists only invest in specific types of companies, and they expect companies they invest in to grow very aggressively. To understand whether raising venture capital is the right move for your company, it helps to understand how VCs work.
Much has been written about tech venture capital, but there is not nearly as much public info on biotech VC. I've tried to curate some of the best info here.
This is a blog post I wrote on the basics of how VCs work, who they serve, and how they make money
VC economics (Scott Kupor, Andreessen Horowitz) provides a slightly more detailed look into the structure of a venture capital fund
Getting a job in venture capital
This is a common question and one that we used to ask VCs during our VC visits. The short answer is that there's no structured path, it involves lots of networking and serendipity. The panel discussions below touch on this, and here are some other good articles.
This is a bit older and covers tech rather than biotech, but has a good overview of the different roles in VC. He talks about an MBA program being a good entry point for VC; in biotech, a PhD or postdoc is the analog to an MBA.
Panel discussions / presentations with VCs: getting a job in VC, what VC is like, what VCs look for in companies
The Babe Ruth Effect in venture capital (Chris Dixon) discusses the importance of investing in outlier companies. In the last decade, biotech VCs have not subscribed to the "Babe Ruth" strategy, although this may be changing somewhat in today's more bullish environment.
There is a ton of information online about how to start a tech company. But there is very little on how to start biotech companies. Some of the advice on starting tech companies is relevant for biotech, but some of it can actually be harmful. Here I'll highlight some resources I find relevant for biotech startups.
Main takeaway: according to Facebook cofounder / Asana founder Dustin Moskovitz, the best reason to start a company is "you can't not do it". The wrong reasons are:
It's glamorous (it's not)
You'll be the boss (you will answer to the demands of a dizzying array of stakeholders)
Flexibility (you will have to work very hard)
You'll make more money and have more impact (you'd make more money by being the 100th employee at a "rocketship" like Facebook than starting your own company -- though this is less true in biotech, where you will get less equity as an employee than in tech, and you can't make $300-500K as a 30-year old at Genentech, while you can at Google)
Before the startup, Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator (video and essay). This is focused on tech startups, but a lot is relevant, except perhaps the section about coming up with ideas (finding ideas in biotech is different than tech).
This post discusses some common business model and strategy pitfalls that first-time founders experience in bio. It is geared towards computational therapeutics companies but many of the points are relevant for all first-time founders of biology-based companies.
See the VC panel discussion above for an idea of the types of companies VCs like to fund
Note that this reflects what traditional biotech VCs look for. If you are a young biotech founder, you may be more likely to raise from a tech VC (like 8VC, Andreessen Horowitz, Charles River Ventures, DCVC, Founders' Fund, etc) that is expanding into biotech, and these VCs may have a different perspective on some of these issues.
This template is a good guideline if you are pitching non-biotech VCs
If you are pitching biotech VCs, you'll want to spend most of your time on 1) the specific, patient-level unmet need you're addressing (focus on patient outcomes rather than general market stats), 2) your science and key data (why will it work) and 3) your development plan (how will you derisk your idea, create value and grow the company).
This post is aimed at big pharma employees considering entrepreneurship, but has helpful suggestions for any aspiring biotech entrepreneur, such as 1) primacy of science over anything else, 2) focus on team and 3) importance of execution
Basic sources for information about companies include their websites, Google Finance / Yahoo Finance, and general googling.
One of the best ways to quickly learn about a business is by reviewing their investor presentation. For public companies, google "[company name] + investor presentation", or go on their website to the Investor Relations (or similar name) tab and look for "presentations".
If you have access to a university library, equity research reports are a good way to learn more about a publicly traded company or for industry overviews. Ask your library how to access equity research.
For more technical financial resources, look at a company's SEC filings in the EDGAR database. These documents are the primary source for public company financial info. Key documents are 10K reports (annual report), 10Q (quarterly report), and S1/424B4 (documents related to stock offerings like IPOs).
Clinical and Regulatory Resources
Clinicaltrials.gov: public database of clinical trials with summary protocols, study aims, inclusion / exclusion criteria, investigators, sites, endpoints, enrollment targets, etc. (unfortunately usually not results!).
FDA Orange Book has a list of FDA-approved drugs and patents related to the drugs.
FDA website contains guidance documents for IND submissions, study design, development plans, manufacturing and quality, etc. for a variety of drug types. Also contains review documents for many drugs and other important info.
Prescribing information / drug labels contain useful information about a drug including the indications it is approved to treat. When FDA approves a drug it issues a label that outlines the characteristics of the drug and approved uses. To find these, just google "[drug name] + prescribing information".
FDA Advisory Committee meetings are public meetings where FDA convenes a panel of experts to provide guidance related to an important issue. Minutes of the meeting are published, as well as the FDA's presentation. These are not available for every drug or indication, but contain a lot of great background info, detailed technical info and can provide insight into how FDA makes decisions.