The Buzz From the Zino Life Sciences Forum

3/9/11

There was a great buzz yesterday at ZINO Life: Life Sciences Investment Forum where 14 biotech and life sciences companies pitched to a room full of eager investors. Many exciting technologies were on display, including Empowering Engineering Technologies‘ ExoWalk—the 2010 Zino Life fund recipient—as well as Cerevast Therapeutics’ ClotBust-ER. All presenters delivered energetic and compelling presentations that demonstrated the persistent enthusiasm and innovation that continues to propel the vibrant life sciences sector of Seattle.

Chris Rivera of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association reminded the attendees that the No. 1 challenge facing entrepreneurs today is access to capital. The event was a great example of how angel investment groups, such as ZINO Society, are diligently working to bring entrepreneurs and investors together. Following dealflow presentations this afternoon, Cathi Hatch, the CEO of the Zino Society, announced four finalists were selected by investors:

1. David Hatton of Aseptica—Aseptica’s technology prevents catheter related infections.

2. Michael Hite of Impel NeuroPharma—Impel is developing a novel drug delivery device to enable central nervous system drugs to bypass the blood-brain barrier,

3. Steve Baird of S-Ray Incorporated—S-Ray owns a unique way of using ultrasound to detect cracks and cavities in teeth, without radiation.

4. Paul Hagen of VacuPractor—VacuPractor is a revolutionary device for lower back pain.

Following due diligence, one of these companies will be awarded a $25,000 investment from the combined ZINO 2011 Annual Angel Fund.

Paul Hagen (VacuPractor) and Steve Baird (S-Ray) were also selected by the audience for Best Presentation and Best Investment Opportunity.

Optimism filled the conference room at the Pan Pacific Hotel as Rivera reflected on the trends in the Seattle life sciences industry, one of the top five job sectors that have demonstrated continued growth, even in the face of the recent economic climate. Alan Smith of Fenwick & West delved further into the current financial climate for biotech in Seattle by probing the panel of prominent faces in Seattle’s life sciences sector. The group included Rivera; John Bowers, senior vice president of SonoSite; Tom Clement, the chairman & founder of Pathway Medical Technologies; and David Schubert, president and chief business officer, Accelerator Corporation.

The dynamic discussion reflected on the difficulty to get funded and the need to ‘de-risk’ investment opportunities by demonstrating more than proof of concept to investors, in addition to the importance of maintaining realistic expectations for the timeline for return on investment following investment in life sciences companies. This pragmatic advice was, however, secondary to the panels’ confidence in the community. They reiterated that Seattle is a hotbed for innovation, cool technologies, and fantastic ideas. In reference to comparing Seattle’s innovative life sciences sector to the nation and worldwide communities, Schubert emphatically stated that, “Seattle is at the top of ANY pyramid you want to put it on.”

Sarah Nowakowski is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. Follow @

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