Canada is a hotbed of Biopharma innovation with world-class scientists, hospitals, and research centres. However, it is often challenging for innovators to realize their full potential and bring their products to market.

Cathy Miner and John Proffett are experts in helping Canadian Biopharma companies overcome the Biopharma growth challenges. As partners of Shadow Lake Group, a boutique Life Science advisory firm with global experience, they have outlined 3 key strategies that all Canadian innovators should implement.

One of the greatest obstacles to a Biopharma company’s success is being underfunded. For example, in 2017, 66% of Canadian firms raised less than $1 million in financing — only 12% had raised more than $10 Million. “When you are starting out it is important that you have a clear funding strategy and determine the capital required to see the company through to major value inflection points,” says John Proffett. “Repeatedly needing to go back to raise funds every year distracts from moving the science forward.”

Proffett adds, “Canadian Biopharma should aim to raise enough money to reach major inflection points and development milestones rather than just enough to get to next year. This is a win-win for both investors and companies.”

A common mistake that companies make is failing to understand the commercial relevance of their drug or innovation. From the start, it’s important to understand the competitive and commercial environment to ensure that you are headed down the right path from a development perspective. Subtle nuances in approach early on could make the difference between success or failure in raising funds or partnering down the road. “We have seen companies abandon projects that they had invested many years and millions in research funds after realizing the opportunity was not commercially viable despite positive clinical results,” says Cathy Miner.
“When you think about what’s at stake, it’s often both the innovator’s life’s work and the well-being of patients,” says Miner. “To be good stewards of this potential, Canadian Biopharma must approach both the science and the business with full force.”

It’s never too early for scientists to plan out their business strategy and build a network of potential business partners in the global Biopharma community. That way, when it’s time to seek financing or development and licensing partnerships, there will be an established network in place.

In 2017, 106 Canadian Biopharma companies raised $696 million in venture capital. While this is a significant figure, to put it in a global context, it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars just to develop a single therapy for patients. Companies must think big and look both inside and outside of Canada to source the funds and partners to advance their product. Taking a global view is not only necessary for survival and growth but provides opportunities for accessing rapidly growing international markets, such as Asia.

“At Shadow Lake, we attend global conferences and have face to face meetings with Biopharma and big pharma from all over the world,” says Miner. “As a result, Shadow Lake has closed transactions with companies from around the world including Canada, US, Europe and Asia.”

Mediaplanet: Do you have an example of a Canadian Biopharma company that was successful in thinking globally?

Shadow Lake Group: This past July, Vasomune Therapeutics, a spin-out from Sunnybrook Research Institute and MaRS Innovation, entered into a global Co-Development Agreement for the development and commercialization of a biologic therapeutic with AnGes, Inc., a Japanese Biopharma company.

MP: Why was this successful?

SLG: Together with MaRS Innovation and Sunnybrook Research Institute we formulated a strategic roadmap of why the Vasomune technology would be attractive to specific investors and which of the most compatible and well-aligned companies might be interested in this opportunity. We then presented the Vasomune technology to our targeted, global network. This, in turn, led to extensive meetings with representatives from big pharma, small Biopharma, investors, and accelerators. AnGes was pinpointed as an interesting candidate right from the beginning and a deal was signed in under 11 months from starting the process, using Shadow Lake’s expertise.

Parimal Nathwani, Vice President at MaRS Innovation and CEO of Vasomune Therapeutics, says, “At MaRS Innovation we understand the need to think globally when it comes to moving our portfolio ventures along. In fact, in the MaRS Innovation portfolio of over 50 companies that we have created and invested in since 2008, greater than 50% of the total capital raised and partnerships forged by our portfolio came from international investors. As well, all of these new companies have so far stayed in Canada. It was with this background in mind that we collaborated with the Shadow Lake Group to leverage their global network when looking for a partner for Vasomune Therapeutics.”

MP: Do you have any other Canadian life science success stories?

SLG: HLS Therapeutics Inc. (HLS:TSXV) is a particularly great example of a company that took a global view and is bold in their approach. They successfully completed one of the largest private Canadian healthcare raises by leveraging both Canadian and US investors. They are a world-class management team and are very accomplished and knowledgeable in the specialty pharmaceutical industry — they don’t hesitate to pitch their business to both Canadian and international partners. In a short time, they’ve built a business with strong cash flow, an exciting pre-registration pipeline, and recently took the company public.

Greg Gubitz, CEO of HLS says, “Our working relationship with Shadow Lake has yielded a number of successful transactions that were key in our ability to jumpstart the company and accelerate our growth prospects in 2 different therapeutic areas in the US and Canadian markets.”