Roy Zwahlen took a long shot when he requested a meeting with an investment firm at the 2017 BIO International Convention in San Diego. As Assistant Dean for Innovation and Strategy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, Zwahlen was in search of a partnership that could help bring the University’s science to the marketplace. He was aware of the firm’s interest in unique partnerships with leading academic research institutions and discovered, to his delight, the firm was participating in BIO One-on-One Partnering™.
BIO One-on-One Partnering facilitates upwards of 45,000 one-on-one meetings among 7,000 partnering delegates during the four days of the Convention. It has an intuitive interface that allows participants to search company and investor profiles to identify the right prospects and begin a direct dialogue with potential partners. The impressive database includes biopharma and medical technology companies, in-licensors, investors, and others across the life sciences. The program will automatically add scheduled meetings to Outlook calendars and retains meeting histories across multiple conferences.
So Zwahlen took his shot. “I didn’t actually think it would be a good place to connect with them. I presumed the VCs get a lot of requests at these meetings and have limited capacity to field meeting requests. However, I was pleasantly surprised that they were available and interested in meeting.
Zwahlen was strategic in his use of the partnering system. He sent his meeting requests early on (participants can sign up as early as February!) and he made sure his pitch to the firm aligned with what they were interested in.“UNC was looking for unique public-private partnership models that could both increase our chances of taking research from the bench to the bedside and accelerate the process. When we learned that the investment firm was exploring unique partnerships with leading research institutions and that they were in the BIO partnering system, we hoped BIO would be the perfect place to begin discussions about a potential partnership and we were pleasantly surprised.”
The rest, as they say, is history. In October of last year, UNC-Chapel Hill and the investment firm announced a $65 million commitment promising new drug research at UNC-Chapel Hill across a wide range of therapeutic areas through the creation of a company called Pinnacle Hill. Profits from successful projects will be shared by the firm and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Preparation, planning and research were the keys to Zwahlen’s success. Getting started early allowed him to evaluate the partnering database and meet those with mutual interests. BIO provides guidance for using the partnering system with webinars like this every year and a team is available to answer questions anytime.
As Zwahlen noted, “The Convention was really the critical starting point for the relationship. The process took several phone calls, several onsite visits by the investment firm to evaluate our science, a process of learning how the other partner works and how best to streamline our efforts…”
UNC-Chapel Hill can attest to the BIO 2019 theme—It Starts with One. A promising partnership “started with one” meeting and blossomed into a solid collaboration.