NYC’s Cure Innovation Labs Bridges the Gap for Pre-Series A Biotechs
Cure Innovation Labs/Courtesy of the Deerfield Foundation
Cure Innovation Labs launched in New York City in February to help biotech entrepreneurs survive the chasm between seed and series A funding by providing an ecosystem that includes networking and educational opportunities as well as 27,000 square feet of office and lab space.
Mark Veich, president of Advancium Health Network and executive director of the Deerfield Foundation, an affiliate of Deerfield Management, characterized Cure Innovation Labs as an ‘excel-erator.’ “That’s excel, with an ‘ex’,” Veich stressed.
This accelerator differentiates itself from the other incubation labs in New York City by virtue of its ecosystem and its interest in developing those from under-represented populations in the life sciences.
“There are racial and gender gaps in all the different verticals in healthcare and financial services,” Veich acknowledged. “We want to make sure we’re promoting the opportunity for founders and business executives who come from underrepresented populations to consider us.”
As Veich explained, “The ‘valley of death’ is a known issue within the drug development space. Companies there may have ideas, but limited funding and support. They may not have the regulatory or financial expertise,” to get to the next inflection point. “Cure Innovation Labs is designed to help them understand the entire landscape,” Veich said. It also plans to educate its companies about sourcing financing.
“Startups fail for a variety of reasons,” he told BioSpace. For example:
- The science doesn’t meet the regulatory requirements
- Founders don’t have access to the right expertise to mitigate regulatory resistance
- Founders lack the business expertise to move the company forward
To help young biotechs excel past such points of failure, Advancium Health Network, an independent charitable organization created by Deerfield Management) and Silicon Valley Bank, recently launched Cure Innovation Labs with the support of Deerfield Management.
“Advancium created Cure Innovation Labs as a not-for-profit organization. That allowed us to bring in founding partners from multiple verticals in the life sciences ecosystem,” Veich explained. Founding partner Silicon Valley Bank, for instance, “has great experience in the life sciences sector and has worked with many early-stage companies.”
Other partners are expected to be announced in the coming weeks and are likely to include a law firm experienced in biotech intellectual property issues, as well as a technology company and an accounting firm. “By the time the incubator opens in 2023, we will have five or six sponsor companies that can support the various needs that life sciences startups have. They will be onsite and will provide educational opportunities and support,” both formally, in seminars, and more casually through chance meetings over coffee or lunch.
Veich aims for 16 to 20 biotech companies at any one time to call Cure Innovation Labs home. To take up residence, these companies must be at the post-seed but pre-Series A financing stage. Basically, this is the pre-IND stage, when they are still developing their molecules or products and before they begin preparing for human trials.
Cure Innovation Labs is located in a 12-story building at 345 Park Avenue South, in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. Deerfield Management is redeveloping Cure “to bring stakeholders together to create value, to create innovation and to support healthcare leadership,” Veich said. “This creates unique access to people, ideas, investors, networks…in an inclusive, holistic ecosystem that promotes innovation. We understood from our research there was a real need to support pre-Series A companies, to help them grow and be successful in a more efficient, effective way.”
Convenient access to learning opportunities is important, especially for executives at young companies. Additionally, resident companies of Cure Innovation Labs will have access to regular, public seminars on each aspect of life sciences. Topics, for example, might include how to raise money and how to hire diverse talent. “Because Deerfield Management has drug development expertise, it can offer support to our resident companies using the ‘office hours’ concept.
“We want to use the Labs as a place where we can educate young people about careers in life sciences. Deerfield Management has partnered with City University in New York on an internship program. Advancium wants to expand on programs like that,” Veich said.
Another method Cure Innovation Labs uses to foster success is to build-in casual spaces – like a coffee shop – within the facility to help enable the cross-fertilization of ideas.
At this point, Veich said, “The labs are under construction and we are putting together a selection committee,” to handle applications. “The committee will identify the companies that we feel have the best chance to succeed in the Cure ecosystem. We plan to recruit companies in 2022 and have the facilities operational in the second quarter of 2023.”
Advancium has committed $13 million to subsidize the costs of Cure Innovation Labs during the next ten years. Additional funding is planned. The Cure building was redeveloped by Deerfield Management and the New York City Economic Development Corporation through the City’s LifeSci NYC initiative, which is investing $1 billion to establish New York as a global life sciences leader.