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New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

It’s New York in 2017, of course everyone is staring at their phones.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

A packed house settles in.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Kicking things off, John Cunningham, senior vice president of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, says to the crowd: “Let’s continue to seize the momentum that has been started here in New York City.”

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Eric Schadt (right) joked that he left sunny Palo Alto, CA, for the East Coast “kicking and screaming.” No surprise then, that even while building a new startup, Sema4, in New York, he carries a little West Coast flavor with him---hence the shorts. “I’m not gonna give up on the vibe,” he said with a smile. “So just feel it.”

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Some attendees pay close attention, others check the program, and one…sleeps.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Harold Varmus, co-chair of LifeSci NYC’s advisory council, candidly asked the crowd for any suggestions to help spur on biotech in New York. “I can be the vehicle for carrying back some of the things I hear today,” he said.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Why hasn’t Flagship Pioneering put the money it’s managing through the New York City Economic Development Corp’s $150 million biotech fund to work? Jason Park (right), a principal at Flagship Pioneering, said the firm’s sights are set extraordinarily high. “We’re not just swinging for fences, we’re literally trying to hit it out of the park to a place where nobody has actually gone before,” he said.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Guests came ready to ask questions.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Local entrepreneurs pitched in on the discussion: among them Selin Kurnaz, the CEO & co-founder of Manhattan startup Massive Bio.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Versant Ventures partner Carlo Rizzuto, who has helped start a few biotechs in New York over the past couple of years, drops in.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Nadim Shohdy, the assistant dean of NYU Langone Medical Center’s office of therapeutics alliances, a “virtual biotech” startup factory, said that his program now consists of 26 projects---seven of which are part of partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Each year the New York crowd keeps getting bigger---and more new connections are made.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

As per usual in New York, there wasn’t much space to move.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

It's no secret that affordable space for growing companies remains the local biotech sector’s biggest impediment, said Lux Capital partner Adam Goulburn (middle). “The bigger question is, how do we find that space and how do we be strategic about it?”

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Mike Foley (right), the director of the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, implored the crowd to capitalize on the opportunity New York has. “It's shame on us if we blow it,” he said.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Varmus stuck around to chat with attendees after the show.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

As did Celmatix CEO Piraye Beim.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Time to party.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Smiles all around.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Who says we’re a divided nation? Red and white wine drinkers unite.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

An attendee drinks wine while performing kung fu.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Multiple guests strike a pose in one photo.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

And our camera man hides inside the shiny silver swing.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Foley presumably listing all the reasons New York is his favorite city.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum

Right back at ya! See you next time, New York.

photos by Keith Spiro Photography

Xconomy New York — 

Mike Foley, a drug industry veteran and director of the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute, has a pointed message for the New York life sciences industry: Don’t waste the moment.

Changing the course of New York biotech has been a saga that dates back to the 1990s, and as Xconomy has detailed, progress has been made in recent years with collaborative initiatives, government programs, new venture firms, and more lab space for startups. Significant hurdles remain, but Foley, speaking at Xconomy’s “New York Biotech Seizes the Momentum” last week, tried to beat back any defeatist notion that they are insurmountable.

“This is the moment in history to capture the talent, capture the innovation, and do it in a massively capital efficient way,” he said. “It’s shame on us if we blow it.”

Foley gave attendees one of several different perspectives on the state of New York biotech, the challenges that lie ahead, and what people can take from some of the successes seen so far. A few tidbits:

—Celmatix CEO Piraye Beim said the financing environment has evolved. She “literally couch surfed for a year and a half” trying to get the seed money to start Celmatix, a women’s health startup, years ago because the angel investors she needed were in Silicon Valley, not New York. “That’s different now,” she said. “You have people who are here now who have brought that culture of angel investing to New York city.”

—Giving an update on the $150 million NYCEDC biotech fund that Flagship Pioneering co-manages, Flagship principal Jason Park said while the fund was originally meant to be a “seed-type fund,” his firm plans to put the cash into “one or two transformational companies” rather than spread small dollars around into more than a dozen. The NYCEDC told Xconomy earlier this year that the fund is looking to make its first investments by the end of 2017.

—Many years ago when he was the president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Harold Varmus helped advocate for New York biotech, and his efforts helped lead to the Alexandria Center for Life Science, which opened in 2010. Varmus is now advocating in a different role, co-chairing the advisory council for LifeSci NYC, Mayor Bill De Blasio’s $500 million plan to spur biotech in the city. The council is now formed, had its first meeting on May 5, and is just starting to work through its plan.

Varmus said the group is helping to “refine” some of the plans the mayor has laid out, like forming new business and science committees to help identify opportunities for growth, and figuring out the fate of the NYCEDC’s proposed $100 million biotech campus—itself a source of much debate given academic institutions are spread across New York City. “It’s not so easy to say this is the place where things should be developing, because you can’t make somebody happy without making somebody else unhappy,” Varmus said. “The advisory committee that we chair doesn’t have all the answers, but we have a lot of good people.”

These were just a few small takeaways, and there are more insights in the pictures above, courtesy of Keith Spiro Photography, which we hope you enjoy. In the meantime, we wanted to give a special thanks to all of our attendees for the strong turnout, our speakers, our event host Alexandria Real Estate Equities, and our sponsors WuXi AppTec, Eastman Cooke Construction, JLL, and NYU Langone Medical Center.

Thanks for making this all possible and see you again soon, New York.