Second Annual BioHealth Capital Investment Conference Expands With International Participation from New investors and Companies 

The second annual Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference attracted 108 companies and 47 participating investors—both conference records—and has already resulted in an investment deal for Gaithersburg’s MiRecule, an early-stage biotech focused on microRNA-based cancer therapy development.

The conference, which was held at AstraZeneca in Gaithersburg on October 15 and 16, was designed to increase the concentration of venture capital opportunities within the region’s ecosystem. BioHealth Innovation (BHI), J.P. Morgan, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), Deloitte, AstraZeneca, NIST and The Maryland Department of Commerce all played critical roles in the conference’s success. 

Of the 47 investors, 35 attended in person and for 15 of them, it was their very first visit to the BHCR. All investors were able to review the pitch decks from the 108 early-stage companies and set up one-on-one meetings at the conference with companies of interest. 

The 2019 conference not only set attendance records but also illustrated the BHCR’s growing national and international reputation as a vibrant biohealth cluster. The event attracted investors from 11 states and Taiwan, and companies from 14 states and the United Kingdom, Norway and Taipei.

By comparison, the 2018 conference included 95 companies and 25 investors, a heavy percentage of which were located within the region.

“I attended the conference as an individual investor and I went through the list of companies here and they were all terrific. We set meetings with 7 companies. You’d never know the quality of deals we have here unless you come and see what’s happening. I went from meeting with a one-person shop to a company that’s gone through multiple financing rounds and are way into their clinical process, so there’s not just a single type of opportunity you can find at the investor conference,” stated Dr. Murat Kalayoglu, MD, PhD, who is not only an investor but also the President and CEO of Maryland-based Cartesian Therapeutics.

The conference generated approximately 238 formal meetings and about 50% more informal meetings happening across the two-day conference.

“We did an informal survey of investors, and they expressed that the quality of the deal flow and companies they met or were introduced to was very high. They viewed the investment deal opportunities here in the BHCR as comparable to what they are seeing nationally in other clusters like Boston and Silicon Valley,” stated Rich Bendis, President, and CEO of BioHealth Innovation (BHI).

“The majority of investors felt that they were introduced to at least one or several companies they would follow up with. One Boston investor requested meetings with 23 companies and a few others had requested 16 and 17 meetings,” added Bendis. “That gives you some indication of the quality of the deal flow at the conference. Our host AZ and our other sponsors provided unbelievable support to make this conference a great experience for the attendees and the region.” 

Generally, investment deals have a long time horizon for getting finalized, so many of the connections made at the conference won’t yield results for a year or more.

However, there is a notable exception from this year’s investment conference. One informal meeting, which occurred on Wednesday, October 16th, resulted in MiRecule securing an investment deal with several angel investors just a few days later. 

“Access to investors and capital is critical for all startups and is an area that requires extra effort for companies in the BHCR. The investment conference was incredibly helpful for us, bringing a host of world-class investors to the region. We met our lead, Alexandria Venture Investments, the #1 early-stage investor in the country, last year at the first BHCR investment conference. Then with their support, closed the final 10% of our seed round at the second conference,” stated Anthony D. Saleh, CEO of miRecule. “I want to extend my gratitude to AstraZeneca and especially BioHealth Innovation for making the event possible and supporting and elevating companies like ours in the region.”

Bendis noted that the BHCR is making steady progress in attracting more investment capital to the ecosystem. Viela Bio’s recent $150M IPO, NextCure’s $75M IPO, Thrive’s $110M Series A round and Arcellx’s $85M Series B raise are just a few examples of the 100 deals totaling $1.2B that have been done in the last 18 months within the region. 

“We have the BHCR Forum every year, and one of the biggest needs that has emerged is the need for capital. And investors from outside the region have been impressed that there is a leadership group in the region that is willing to take action on gaps that need to be filled in the BHCR. At the end of the day, leadership has identified a need and this need for capital is being partially addressed by this conference,” stated Bendis. 

“It’s clear from this year’s conference that we’ve gained greater national and global awareness for the region and the quality of the deals that are here,” added Bendis. 

Building on this investment momentum is critical to the region’s efforts to become “Top 3 in 2023.” The Biohealth Capital Region Investment Conference and its sponsors will continue to grow to meet the capital investment needs of the emerging companies that call the BHCR home.

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