Bind Biosciences, My IPO Prediction, and Brain Overload at MassOpps
I just got back from MassOpps—a life sciences PowerPointapalooza put on by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council—and boy my brain is tired. In conference rooms at the Logan Airport Hilton, more than 40 companies (startups and public firms both) made their pitches to the gathered venture capitalists, investment bankers, potential partners, and hangers-on. Concurrent sessions, so you couldn’t see them all even if you had the bandwidth to do so.
Winning the prize for most evidently pleased with his firm (among the pitches I caught) was Bind Biosciences CEO Glenn Batchelder, making what was purportedly the company’s first public presentation. For a hitherto stealth-ish operation, Bind has gotten a remarkable amount of press since its founding in 2006 (and personally, I’d consider an interview with the Wall Street Journal to be pretty public). Still, it was fun to hear the story straight from Batchelder, a veteran of Acceleron Pharma and Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
Batchelder said that when he first talked to Bind co-founder Robert Langer, the MIT professor and human startup machine, Langer told him, “‘It’s gonna be huge.’” Says Batchelder: “For people who know Bob, that’s his trademark—but he’s right.”
Bind’s big idea is to make exquisitely targeted drugs using tiny polymer nanoparticles as delivery vehicles. (The firm’s name comes from BioIntegrated NanoDelivery.) It’s not a new idea, but the key to being able to actually pull it off, Batchelder said, is the firm’s ability to generate huge libraries of particles with different combinations of all the key parameters that affect how well the particle evades the immune system, finds its target, and delivers its drug payload. So rather than trying to predict the right combination of particle size, charge, molecular weight, and number of targeting molecules, the company can just pluck the best particle out of its library for any given application.
And the potential applications are many, according to Batchelder’s talk. The particles can be covered with a number of different types of targeting agents to help them home in on a number of different parts of the body. And they can carry a number of different drugs, from traditional small-molecule treatments to the newest DNA- and RNA-based treatments. (Batchelder hinted awfully strongly that he thinks Bind’s technology could be the answer to the drug-delivery problem that many see as one of the biggest obstacles standing between RNAi and commercialization.)
The first application Bind is pursing on its own is a particle for targeting chemotherapy agents to cancer cells; Batchelder said he expects the company will begin clinical trials of the technology in the middle of 2009. The startup has also forged a partnership with an unnamed pharmaceutical firm to develop particles that bind to distressed vascular tissue.
That partnership is just one of the non-dilutive sources of capital that Bind has been able to tap in its short existence. Others include grants from the National Cancer Center and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. On the venture capital side, Bind closed a $2.5 million Series A round in January led by Flagship Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners, and will complete a $16 million B round in a few weeks, Batchelder said.
In other news from the conference, topping my list of most likely to file for an IPO (again, among the firms whose presentations I attended) was Cambridge, MA’s Genstruct. The firm specializes in crazy-complicated modeling of biological systems that it uses to help partners such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer understand how their drug candidates affect the body in order to, among other things, predict a drug’s efficacy and side effects before shelling out for clinical trials. Genstruct President and CEO Keith Elliston laid out a pretty impressive trajectory for the firm: founded in 2002, $6.5 million Series A round in 2003, cash flow break-even in 2006. (And no, I didn’t skip another round or two in there.) Anybody want to lay bets about 2008?
Finally, and I only mention this because I’m weirdly obsessed with schwag, the prize for most clever conference schwag. This one goes to Charles River Laboratories for their offering of a small calculator-like device, capable of translating English words into French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch, and emblazoned with the slogan “Translating your compounds into wonder drugs.” Keurig gedaan, op de markt brengend team.