“Raw Potential” And Three Other Takeaways from NY’s Life Science Disruptors

Xconomy New York — 

The Alexandria Center for Life Science currently houses some of the most ambitious biotech startups in New York, not to mention some outposts for pharma companies like Roche and Pfizer. Not bad for something that, as Alexandria Real Estate Equities CEO Joel Marcus said, “was a contaminated laundry site” just a short time ago.

The change Marcus described as he kicked things off last night at our latest annual New York biotech event, “New York’s Life Science Disruptors,” was symbolic of what’s happened in New York over the past few years. This is a biotech community being built from the ground up by institutions, entrepreneurs, and, of late, early-stage investors. It’s nowhere close to the biotech startup hubs of Boston and San Francisco. Change like that could take decades, and for it to happen, New York needs, as Flagship Ventures partner Doug Cole said, its own Biogen, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, or Genentech—companies that grow, succeed, and contribute important drugs.

“Once people start seeing some reference companies, they will gravitate towards wanting to do the next ones,” he said. “And those companies will spawn the people who will do the ones [after that].”

That type of productive ecosystem is a long way off, and New York biotech has a lot to figure out first. It needs to overcome the looming losses of community leaders Marc Tessier-Lavigne (president of Rockefeller University) and Laurie Glimcher (dean of Weill Cornell Medical College), solve its seemingly never-ending lab space problem, and find affordable housing for its employees—particularly those coming right out of school—in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But the difference now in New York is that there are potential candidates to become big biotech companies in the future that, in turn, could breed more biotechs the way they do in Boston and San Francisco. Startups like Kallyope, Petra Pharma, and Lodo Therapeutics—companies spun out of New York institutions, backed by big venture rounds, with aspirations to stay in the city—have emerged. Their fates will help determine what happens to the momentum that’s gained in New York.

Thanks to our speakers: Marcus at Alexandria; IBM’s Prasad Kodali; Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell; Sean Brady of Rockefeller; Accelerator Corp. chief operating officer David Schubert; Flagship partner Doug Cole; Kallyope CEO Nancy Thornberry; Charles Zuker of Columbia University; and Adam Goulburn of Lux Capital. Also thanks to our event host Alexandria, and sponsors IBM, Kenyon & Kenyon, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and ALT, and to Keith Spiro of Keith Spiro Photography for the photos (more of those coming soon).

And a special thank you to all who came out last night, packed the house, and stayed late to chat. For those that couldn’t make it, here’s a look at some of the action.

Why New York? A chance to move the needle. Sean Brady formed Lodo Therapeutics in January with the help of $17 million from Accelerator Corp. and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—and truth be told, he says, “I should’ve done it about three or four years ago,” given how fast the competition moves in science. But Brady was adamant that … Next Page »

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