12 Apr Partner program is highlight of BIO for Wisconsin firm
Chicago — Deven McGlenn kept busy at the BIO Chicago industry show this week. Rather than walk the show floor to pick up a laser-pointer pen or kangaroo lapel pin, he met with more than three dozen people who could help his business grow – mostly in prearranged sessions designed to help attendees make the most productive use of their time.
McGlenn is CEO of NeoClone, which manufactures monoclonal antibodies. It was founded in 1999 in Madison based on University of Wisconsin technology. This week, he participated in BIO’s Business Forum Partnering Program.
The forum was held all three full days of the conference, and its partnering segment accommodated thousands of one-on-one meetings.
Many veteran attendees at BIO said it’s critical to set up meetings at advance to make the best of the event, and at the business forum, NeoClone set up about 25. Then they held about 15 more, McGlenn said, as a result of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce’s international partnering program. At least two led to some serious collaboration potential in McGlenn’s eyes, though the results will be down the road.
“It’s not like I walk into the meeting and I’ve got a deal done that day,” he said. “It’s the life sciences.”
It’s just the kind of connections that companies hoped to forge at BIO that helped NeoClone close its latest round of investment, $390,000 from Milwaukee-area angel group Silicon Pastures.
Before that boost, NeoClone had already received a total of about $600,000 in funding, McGlenn said. The main early investor was Wisconsin Investment Partners, run by Dick Leazer in Madison, whose involvement helped bring the company from a WARF license to a company with revenue. But a piece was still missing for Silicon Pastures, which typically invests $300,000 to $500,000 per deal.
Pehr Anderson, Silicon Pastures’ managing director, first met McGlenn at a High Tech Happy Hour, a regular mixer for Madison’s tech business community. NeoClone’s pitch needed more work before Anderson could be convinced the business model would scale up, bringing in more sales and more partnerships.
In general, Anderson cautions life-science companies against going to investors before they’ve done their homework on how science will translate into business. “We could call up all the customers you should be selling to and ask, ‘would you buy this?'” he said. “But shouldn’t you be doing that?”
That’s just what NeoClone did when they presented the winning pitch to Silicon Pastures, which showed off the company’s existing base of customers and partners as well as strategies for ongoing growth.
Part of its broad base comes from the firm’s ability to reach out to multiple market sectors. “We potentially play in all the sectors of the biotech industry,” said Michael Zwick, vice president of business development. That includes the areas of research reagents, diagnostics and, recently, theraputics.