Start-ups Meet Pharma 2021 officially kicked off in May with 8 days of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training for the 18 startups chosen to participate in this year’s cohort. We brought a diverse group of experts from across the ecosystem to support the start-ups through 13 virtual workshops with a focus on finance, pitching, clinical trial, MedTech regulation and exploration of collaborative partnerships. We hope these 8 days were truly beneficial for the 2021 cohort and they can now take advantage of our community, peer support, and collective intelligence.
The training was opened by Mathias Falcenberg, Head of Innovative Technologies in the healthcare business of Merck KGaA, who held a lecture on Finance and Fundraising & Deal and Product Valuation. Mathias provided a deeper understanding of the VC ecosystem and shared his recommendations on how to maximise product valuation and deal structuring skills in order to gain a competitive advantage when negotiating a deal. “Start-ups Meet Pharma is providing an open space to address Big-Pharma’s challenges by fresh minds. It was a great pleasure to discuss with the founder-teams the scientific and business requirements for partnering and financing, respectively”. Without a doubt, participants left the session with the confidence to calculate and negotiate the financial aspects of partnering deals in their own companies.
We started the second day with the Market Access and Basics of Regulatory Affairs for Start-ups in Medical Technology Seminar organized by Medidee. The two-day seminar gave an extensive overview of the regulatory landscape and regulatory stakeholders in MedTech, and helped the start-ups understand the major principles, concepts and processes in MedTech regulation. More importantly, the seminar built awareness of possible pitfalls when bringing a Medtech product to the market.
The day continued with a workshop led by Raj Airey, partner at Convergence Partners, where start-ups were introduced to the concept of Competitive Benchmarking, Positioning and Differentiation. Raj’s interactive session included two break-out workshops, where start-ups had the opportunity to optimize their positioning strategy, with the assistance of the expert. Lastly, the workshop presented some effective tools to perform competitive benchmarking and risk mitigation, because as Raj Airey stated himself: “The competition and innovation do not sleep, success can come if you spend enough time benchmarking your innovation and its application in the market on an ongoing basis, and avoid a few of the curveballs!”
The next day we invited Jannis Busch from Bayer to share with the start-ups some inside tips on how to approach Big Pharma. Some of the pain points when approaching the pharma industry are its huge corporate structure, thousands of employees and various areas of interest, but Jannis made sure to share some insightful tips on how to reach and win over the right person to support your startup. The main takeaway from the session: Find your champion within the company who will advocate for you on the inside.
Thursday, 20 May 2021 was reserved for Freimut Schliess & Tim Heise from Profil, who explained how to design and run the necessary clinical trials to get to the market. This challenging process, necessary to obtain certifications like the DiGA in Germany, needs to be mastered by start-ups in the healthcare sector. The experts explained everything from the clinical trial design to the dissemination of the trial outcomes.
The last day of the training started with Start-ups Meet Pharma alumni Andreas Schriefl from eMurmur and Kostas Saridakis from Collaborate Healthcare, who were invited to share their personal experience of the programme. For eMurmur, participation in the programme meant a licensing deal with one of the pharma companies. In his own words “the Start-ups Meet Pharma program was excellent, as it gives start-ups the ability to reach the right people at big organizations. These connections would otherwise be very difficult and time-consuming, and we are grateful to have benefitted from SMP’s extensive network”. On the other hand, Collaborate Healthcare was able to start a pilot project with one of the affiliates of a pharma company and Kostas shared some tips on how to turn the initial cooperation into a long-lasting fruitful relationship.
“Start-ups Meet Pharma is an amazing opportunity that not only opens doors to this industry but also prepares start-up teams for constructive and effective engagement and dialogue. We, at Collaborate, managed to get a game-changing pilot with one of the biggest pharma companies in the world that helped us increase sales and attract international investor interest. We couldn’t have achieved such a milestone without the support from EIT Health Germany”.
After that discussion, Magdalena Kempa, a Venture Manager at Blue Ribbon Partners and managing director at smartbax, helped the start-ups understand which skills are necessary to run a life-science company. It was a very interactive workshop, in which CEOs from different start-ups jumped in the conversation and shared their experience. To conclude, Jessica Lang, Associate professor at RWTH Aachen University, held a workshop on the importance of fostering mental wellbeing in a start-up environment. Initiatives to deal with stress and other factors leading to burnout were discussed, and the start-ups had the opportunity to run their own online psychosocial risk assessment. After the workshop, Prof. Jessica Lang stated: The workshop was a really fruitful exchange of thoughts and ideas across different nations and startups at different stages of development. I was thrilled about the high intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm of the individual start-ups”.
This week we are continuing with Module 2, which is designed as 1-to-1 workshops with our pharma partners: Amgen, Takeda, Merck, Abbott and AstraZeneca. During this part of the programme, the start-ups meet with the representatives from the pharma companies, according to the challenge they applied for and start exploring potential collaborations.