Entrepreneurs offer advice on benefits of biotech start-ups

By Jan Jarvis

Stock photo with text overlay: "Investing in Biotech: What if you could change the future?"

Investing in Biotech: What If You Could Change the Future?

  • May 16
  • 8 a.m.to 5 p.m.
  • MET building on the UNTHSC campus

Investing in a biotech or life science start-up promises benefits that go beyond the substantial financial rewards.

Such investments offer the chance to make an extraordinary difference in the world, said Cameron Cushman, Director, Innovation Ecosystems at UNT Health Science Center.

When some invests in real estate, oil or another business, they might bring something new to the marketplace or provide a service.

“But with a life science or biotech start-up, you’re investing in something that could potentially cure a disease,” he said. “You have the added benefit of helping humanity and not just making big returns.”

Entrepreneurs who have done exactly that will be among the speakers at the “Investing in Biotech: What If You Could Change the Future” event on May 16 at UNT Health Science Center.

While investing in biotech offers the opportunity to be part of potentially life-giving, lucrative technologies, there are challenges, said Les Kreis, Managing partner and co-founder of Bios Partners, a venture capital firm that makes its entrepreneurial expertise available on a monthly basis to all UNTHSC students, staff and faculty members.

“It is highly technical in nature and requires significant subject matter expertise,” he said.

Potential investors will get insight into the impact life science and biotech start-ups can make during the free event from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. at the MET building on the UNTHSC campus.

Zspharma Web
Jeff Keyser and Alvaro Guillem, co-founders of ZS Pharma

Among the speakers are the co-founders of ZS Pharma, who developed a drug that treats hyperkalemia, a potentially life-threatening disease caused by excess potassium. In 2015, ZS Pharma made headlines when AstraZeneca purchased the start-up for $2.7 billion.

Joe Cunningham, MD, from Sante Ventures, a $700 million fund that invests in early stage biotech and life sciences companies, will give the lunch presentation.

Early-stage investing is risky in general and early-stage biotech startups are among the riskiest kind of investments, but they can also be incredibly profitable and the opportunities keep growing, said David Chappell, co-manager of BC Collaborations.

“We know that over the past 20 years, high-end new jobs created in American have been in small businesses,” he said. “Couple that with what is happening in technology and it is imperative that Fort Worth investors have an opportunity to invest in these fields and learn from the people who are having phenomenal success.”

Cushman, Cameron
Cameron Cushman

Getting the medications, medical devices and other therapies from biotech and life science start-ups is very expensive, Cushman said.

“Investors need to be prepared for a lot of different hurdles they might face, such as the cost of doing clinical trials,” he said.

Since 2006, UNT Health Science Center’s Office of Research Development & Commercialization, and TECH Fort Worth, a non-profit technology incubator, have played a part in bringing these new technologies to the market.

There are plenty of opportunities in biotech and life science investments with many exceptional advances occurring in health care every day from the use of robotics to artificial intelligence, Chappell said.

“These start-ups are playing a major role in delivering health care better, faster and cheaper,” he said.

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