The New Orleans BioInnovation Center is set to kick off events next week that include a two-day conference, a business pitch competition and a handful of networking functions.
The events are intended to draw attention to the city’s emerging life sciences sector and coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week, in which about 10 million people are expected to participate in events held in 160 countries.
The center, an incubator for science and technology businesses at 1441 Canal St., is hosting the events — beginning Monday — to spur networking between local entrepreneurs and investors and offer the public a glimpse into research underway across the state, by universities as well as startup companies.
In its third year, the conference includes a slate of panel discussions and keynote speakers geared largely toward innovation in the medical sector. Advance registration is $125 at www.neworleansbio.com/innovationla; $150 at the door for limited space and $85 for students.
Headliner speakers include Thomas Luby, the senior director of new ventures at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and Jon Schull, founder of e-NABLE, a global network of volunteers who use 3D printers to make free prosthetics for people in need. Schull is at 3:25 p.m. Monday and Luby at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Concurrent topics on Monday cover the future of medicine and grants, competition and other capital at 9 a.m. and intellectual property in biosciences and angel investment and seed funding at 12:15 p.m. Topics on Tuesday include innovation in hospitals and creating value-enhancing business milestones at 9 a.m. and establishing business partnerships and life science venture capital 101 at 12:15 p.m.
Two free events are scheduled Wednesday at the Joy Theater in downtown New Orleans. A panel discussion about commercializing university research is set for 9 a.m., followed by a showcase of license-ready technology from schools across the state, spanning fields such as health care and energy. Representatives of NASA’s Stennis Space Center are also expected to participate.
Conference organizers are expecting a few hundred participants, including local and regional investors.
“There’s a lot of great research that’s been coming out of the universities for many years,” said Shafin Khan, program director for the BioInnovation Center.
In the four years since the BioChallenge Pitch Competition began, Khan said that participating companies have arrived on stage better prepared. “I think what we’re seeing is they’ve been further along, more developed technologies,” he said.
The competition pits four life sciences startups against each another for the chance to win $25,000 — and to gain the notoriety that goes with it.
Finalists will compete in front of a live audience, making 10-minute pitches to a panel of judges that includes investors and industry experts.
The four companies involved were selected from 20 applicants who had submitted summaries describing their business plan and detailing the new technology under development. Judges weighed the submissions on criteria such as market analysis, product description and management team. The group was whittled to seven, then trimmed to four.
Past finalists from the competition’s three-year span already have had an impact in the local economy, having raised more than $11 million and created at least 30 jobs, according to the BioInnovation Center.
This year, the roster of finalists includes BioAesthetics, which focuses on improving reconstruction options for breast cancer patients after they undergo mastectomies; Flux Diagnostics, which develops fast, low-cost in-vitro tests to diagnose various diseases without the need for extensive training or complex equipment; InnoGenomics Technologies, which develops genetic testing solutions; and Zenopharm, a Xavier University spinoff that is researching a drug to treat and prevent the recurrence of breast cancer.
Winning last year’s pitch competition helped J. Lowry Curley, the CEO of AxoSim Technologies, hone his company’s message. It also gave him with a quick influx of cash, some of which he invested in marketing and building a new website.
AxoSim, which was founded in 2014, created a 3D cell-based model that mimics living tissue for drug development. Curley began researching on the technology at Tulane University, where he studied biomedical engineering and received his Ph.D. in 2012.
He first attended the conference in 2013. After launching the company, he saw the pitch competition as a way to gain exposure and experience.
“They identified some other areas where we could apply our technology that we hadn’t really thought of,” he said of the feedback from judges. “Just through the sophistication of them having dealt with the pharmaceutical industry, it really helped us understand how we needed to be careful but how we could proceed to get some traction there.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.