What does COI look for in an investment opportunity?

Identifying the right project for investment is fundamental to developing a successful life sciences company. What is the secret to selecting technologies and investment opportunities that become part of the COI portfolio? Jay Lichter, Ph.D., president and CEO of COI, provides some key insights into the process of selecting a COI worthy project.

Initial Screening – Medical Need and Tractable Clinical Path

 COI’s leadership team consists of veterans in the biotechnology industry that have a combined expertise in almost every life science niche.  Because of this collective knowledge, COI can rapidly evaluate and make timely decisions on the more than 250 proposals COI receives each year.

How do COI leaders sort through the prospects? Dr. Lichter reveals that about 90 percent of the proposals that reach the COI leadership team are not relevant for collaboration and do not undergo any further diligence.  The remaining ten percent are scrutinized for two key components – ability to address an unmet medical need and a tractable clinical path.

  • Medical Need
    Due to the large number of proposals received every year, our team has a firm understanding of what medical needs are being met and which are lacking the attention they require.  As such, our team looks for opportunities to make a meaningful impact on both big, life-threatening disease, such as cancer and heart disease, and disorders that are not as well-known but still have a devastating effect on patient lives, such as ALS and Niemann-Pick C Disease.
  • Tractable Path
    COI is always looking for big ideas with breakthrough science.  However, that big idea must be backed up with enough evidence to support a clear and defined path to and through clinical trials and development of a first-in-class therapeutic.  A great example of this is Silarus Therapeutics, a COI portfolio company developing a therapy to treat people with iron deficiency or iron overload disorders that cannot be managed with diet alone.  Silarus’ product candidate has the potential to offer relief to a population that currently has very few treatment options.

Types of Deals – Nonclinical Early and Late Stage Research and Disruptive Technologies

Along with a successful track record for building and executing exit plans for their companies, COI has also established a unique collaboration with leading pharmaceutical company GSK that resulted in the creation of eight portfolio companies based on licensing technology from leading academic institutions.  Under this deal, GSK has the option to acquire these companies upon the identification of a clinical candidate.  In addition to this deal, COI has established seven other companies that are also based on outstanding scientific discoveries that show significant promise.

What types of deals are a good fit for the GSK collaboration and what other kinds of deals does COI look for in a potential company? Dr. Lichter identified three main types of deals that COI pursues when creating a new company – early stage research with clinical target; nonclinical, later stage research; and disruptive technologies.

  • Early-stage, target-focused deals
    The GSK collaboration falls within this first category.  Once COI identifies potential ideas, they bring them to GSK to gauge their interest.  If both COI and GSK are interested more diligence is done, R&D plan is developed, budget, timeline, logistics.  If the project meets our standards and requirements, then both parties proceed with company creation.This type of collaboration with GSK allow COI to work on projects that, from a business standpoint, are very challenging and often too risky for potential venture returns.  This approach has worked for this collaboration as two of the COI-GSK companies reached their first milestones in 2016 and more advancements are expected throughout 2017.
  • Later stage, non-clinical deals
    These projects consist of later stage research where by putting together a syndicate and raising about $15-20 million is enough to get the product candidate into human clinical trials and begin generating data. An example of this type of company is Fortis Therapeutics.  Fortis is developing an ADC for several cancers and expects to be in the clinic in 2018. 
  • Disruptive technology deals
    These deals contain the ideas that have the potential to truly change the world. COI is always on the lookout for these kinds of deals; the ones that are not evolutionary, but revolutionary.  A great example is Synthorx, a COI portfolio company that which uses an expanded genetic code to design and develop therapeutics that are unlike anything else that exists.  Synthorx’s technology holds tremendous value for the future of drug development.

COI’s Secret Ingredient – The COI Team

The biotechnology industry could be considered one of the hardest businesses on the planet.  With billions of investment dollars needed, and only eight percent of drug candidates reaching FDA approval, this business is not for the faint of heart or the inexperienced.

Dr. Lichter credits much of COI’s aptitude for selecting promising companies to the in-house leadership team that together has about 200 years of experience in the life science industry and company development.  Where many venture firms look for outside teams to bring in as experts, COI relies on our top leadership and a seasoned research and administration team of about 70 people to support new projects and company growth.

That is not to say COI doesn’t look to work with outside talent, but rather we look for talent to bring in to bolster the existing team or to offer younger entrepreneurs and executives the mentorship and support they need as they advance their projects and careers.

If there is anything that defines COI it is the outstanding group of people that are passionate about innovative technologies and have the knowledge and skills to rapidly advance medical breakthroughs.

Have a technology that you think fits COI?  Submit a 100-word description here.