Investment Conference Seeks to Expand Venture Capital Access in Biohealth Capital Region

Second annual Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference set to connect emerging biohealth companies and investors seeking quality deals

October 1, 2019

The second annual BHCR Investment Conference, which is an invitation-only event, will be held at AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg on October 15 and 16, 2019.   

BioHealth Innovation (BHI), J.P. Morgan, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), Deloitte, AstraZeneca and The Maryland Department of Commerce have worked closely to ensure the 2019 investment conference builds on the success of last year’s event.

The inaugural Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference was held on October 2018 and marked an inflection point for the Biohealth Capital Region (BHCR). Heeding the call for greater venture capital access for the region, the conference created a new opportunity for 95 companies and 25 international venture capitalists and biopharmaceutical organizations to connect and discuss potential partnerships face-to-face.

Historically, many startups in the region have relied heavily on government grant opportunities and other non-dilutive funding sources such as SBIR and STTR grants. However, when those are coupled with a developing venture capital infrastructure, it’s easy to see that access to funding is improving. 

The entire commercialization pipeline is really beginning to take shape across the region. TEDCO’s MII Program, which provides early-stage funding opportunities to move technology from academia to the market, has grown under Dr. Arti Santhanam adding several notable partnerships, including WSGR, MINTZ, Cooley and JP Morgan.  Additional pre-seed and seed-stage investors have also emerged over the past few years. Johns Hopkins University and Deerfield Management’s Bluefield Innovations, the Maryland Momentum Fund, Camden Partner’s Nexus Venture Partners and the Inova Personalized Health Accelerator are several funding sources that are really enhancing the region’s ecosystem of funding opportunities.

BHCR funding data supports this upward venture funding trend: The average round in 2018 was about $14M up from $11.5M in 2017 and the region saw overall VC funding volume rise to $700M in 2018. What’s more, there are a host of serial entrepreneurs in the region whose potential to fund biohealth companies has not been fully realized.  

Despite progress, access to venture capital remains a critical pain point for emerging companies in the BHCR, particularly in the 500K to $5M space. Improving VC funding opportunities across all stages is critical to the BHCR’s efforts to achieve its stated goal of being a top 3 biohealth cluster by 2023.

More work needs to be done and The BHCR Investment Conference is doing its part. 

“The idea first came about when I approached Chris Barrow with J.P. Morgan three years ago and said, “Why don’t we do J.P. Morgan East in the BioHealth Capital Region?,” stated Rich Bendis, CEO of BioHealth Innovation. “Charles Andres and Wilson Sonsini (WSGR) committing their support was instrumental in turning the idea into a reality. WSGR has been very involved in the BHCR Forum, and they hold investment conferences across the country but didn’t have an investor conference in the region. With three founding partners, BHI, WSGR and J.P. Morgan, onboard the Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference was born.”

The BHCR Investment Conference was created to increase the concentration of venture capital opportunities within the region’s ecosystem. In essence, BHCR biohealth companies need more VC “doors to knock on”, and the 2019 investment conference is an important part of a regional effort to bridge the gap between fund seekers and investors.

With the investor conference, early-stage companies can upload their pitch decks so the investors can review them before the event and reach out to set up one-on-one meetings that will take place during the conference.

More and more investors are getting exposed to emerging companies in the region through initiatives like The BHCR Investment Conference. 

The region has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to funding, like any Biohealth cluster. SBIR and non-dilutive opportunities abound while early-stage funding opportunities are growing but remain a challenge.

The key to improving the BHCR’s funding ecosystem is continuing to build momentum through the collaborative industry, government and financial partners that produce events like the Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference. 

“We had over 400 one-on-one meetings at the inaugural investment conference, and with increased involvement from J.P. Morgan, and AstraZeneca, Deloitte, Maryland Department of Commerce and NIST joining as sponsors, we expect to see an equally strong event. This conference is another important piece that can help the BHCR ecosystem get what it needs to grow and help it achieve its full potential, Bendis added.

Keep an eye out for follow up reporting by BioBuzz on outcomes from this and last year’s BHCR Investment Conference in the weeks and months ahead. 

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Steven Surdez

Steven Surdez

Principal at StoryCore at StoryCore
Steve has over 20 years experience in copywriting, developing brand messaging and creating marketing strategies across a wide range of industries, including the biopharmaceutical, senior living, commercial real estate, IT and renewable energy sectors, among others. He is currently the Principal/Owner of StoryCore, a Frederick, Maryland-based content creation and execution consultancy focused on telling the unique stories of Maryland organizations.

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