i2E https://i2e.org Innovation to Enterprise Wed, 18 Jan 2017 21:49:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Q&A with Stephen Prescott: New drug approvals slide in 2016 https://i2e.org/qa-with-stephen-prescott-new-drug-approvals-slide-in-2016/ https://i2e.org/qa-with-stephen-prescott-new-drug-approvals-slide-in-2016/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:24:43 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29714 Read more]]> By Paula Burkes
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Q: Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved 22 new drugs. How does that compare to past years?

A: It’s a sharp drop-off from 2016, when we saw twice as many new drugs reach the market. Over the previous five years, the FDA had approved an average of 36 new drugs a year, so this was a big step back. It’s the lowest number we’ve seen since 2010.

Q: What drove this plunge?

A: Drug approvals tend to swing from year to year. The class of 2015 included five drugs that weren’t supposed to receive a thumbs up or down from the FDA until 2016, but the approval process was accelerated for them. So that simultaneously inflated the numbers for 2015 and deflated the 2016 figures. We also had a decline in the number of new drug applications filed for approval, and the FDA rejected or delayed more applications than in the previous two years.

Q: What does this mean going forward?

A: I suspect this downturn is just a blip. Some of the drugs that were delayed still stand a good chance of winning approval in 2017, including new treatments for multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. We’ve seen a steady stream of new breakthroughs in using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, and our understanding of the genetics of many diseases has improved vastly. As a result, the developmental pipelines of biotech and pharmaceutical companies are filling. I hope that means we’ll experience a bounce in coming years.

Q: Were there any blockbusters that hit the market last year?

A: No. Probably the biggest new drug was Roche’s Tecentriq, a so-called immunotherapy drug that carries a price tag of about $12,500 a month. It was initially approved to treat bladder cancer, and the FDA subsequently OK’d its use for lung cancer. The drug will likely gain approval as a therapeutic for other cancers, as well, and as a result, analysts are projecting that annual revenues will reach $4 billion by 2021. Still, we didn’t see anything along the lines of Gilead’s hepatitis C treatments, Sovaldi and Harvoni, which came on the markets in 2013 and 2014 and generated $19 billion in combined sales last year.

Q: How about Alzheimer’s drugs?

A: I wish I had better news to report. The biggest development on this front came in November, when an experimental drug that had previously appeared to show promise failed a clinical trial in 2,100 patients with mild dementia. Still, Eli Lilly is continuing to test the drug, solanezumab, in hopes that it may help stave off the disease in people who are at high risk for Alzheimer’s. Trials also continue with a number of other investigational drugs, some of which target amyloid (the protein that makes up the plaques characteristic of the disease), while others try to block an enzyme known as BACE that makes a protein needed for amyloid production.

Q: Looking ahead, what’s the biggest issue facing the drug industry?

A: Pricing. A firestorm ignited over the cost of EpiPens, the lifesaving anti-allergy injector whose price rose almost sixfold from 2008 to 2016. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With some disease therapies now costing upward of a half-million dollars per year, insurers are increasingly limiting access to expensive drugs. Something has to give. Perhaps President-elect Trump, who has vowed to bring down drug prices, can strike the balance that has so far eluded us: encouraging manufacturers to continue to develop innovative new drugs while ensuring that all Americans have access to them.


Read the article at newsok.com



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Oklahoma’s economy is growing more diverse https://i2e.org/oklahomas-economy-is-growing-more-diverse/ https://i2e.org/oklahomas-economy-is-growing-more-diverse/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:07:10 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29711 Read more]]> By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

As a fourth-generation attorney, I can’t help my evidentiary mindset. I want the facts to tell the story; I look to the data to prove the case.

That’s why I feel like titling my next series of columns “Just How Much Proof Does Oklahoma Need?”

Proof of what, you might ask. Given my earlier columns, especially the pieces from about this time last year, you might think I’d be arguing about what a mistake it is for Oklahoma to reduce funding to agencies and programs that expand the innovation economy, and thereby economic diversification in this state.

And you would be right. I will ultimately again be arguing against those sorts of cuts, should the Legislature take a similar approach in the upcoming budgeting cycle.

But for now, I want to argue from the other position. I want point out the proof that Oklahoma is doing the right things when it comes to economic diversity and new advanced technology company creation — maybe not as fast or fully as we could — but we are on the right course. Oklahoma is diversifying our economy.

Thirty years ago, when legislative and business leaders first envisioned the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) as the driver of innovation to diversify and strengthen Oklahoma’s economy, one in every 11 jobs in Oklahoma was linked to oil and gas. Today that number is one in 24.

i2E Inc. has been in operation for 18 of those 30 years. We’ve provided expertise and funding to more than 675 of Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses. Now that we have $50 million of investment capital under management, we can serve these young companies in all phases of the business cycle — from concept to expansion of product and markets — and jobs.

As great as it is to have the capital to help companies grow, we all need to remember that our pipeline for wealth and job creation starts with concept-stage companies, the earliest and riskiest type of firms, not with eventual exits like we recently experienced with Selexys and WeGoLook.

Through the TBFP (Technology Business Finance Program) Concept Fund, we’ve made investment of $11.8 million in 119 startups, with repayments totaling $5.8 million — about 50 percent. The failure rate of concept-stage startups is typically about 70 percent. TBFP, wrapped with venture advisory services, at a 50 percent payback, has proved that Oklahoma can beat those odds.

Venture capitalists don’t invest in concept-stage deals, so there is another proof point that what we are doing works. With the TBFP Fund, Oklahoma stepped up to fill the gap, but TBFP by itself wouldn’t have been enough. For every TBFP dollar invested by the state, i2E clients have raised more than $45 dollars in private capital.

When angel and other accredited investors step up to help fund startups at the early stage, it has a ripple effect. i2E’s full portfolio of Oklahoma-based companies has attracted $590,762,531 in private investment from banks, venture capital funds, angel investors, and other strategic investors.

Oklahoma, how much more proof do we need?

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Read the article at newsok.com




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Humble beginnings at Moore gas station launched career of Selexys CEO Scott Rollins https://i2e.org/29662-2/ https://i2e.org/29662-2/#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:29:35 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29662 Read more]]>

Scott Rollins, CEO of Selexys Pharmaceuticals/Oklahoman photo provided by OCAST

By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

Selexys Pharmaceuticals president and CEO Scott Rollins reflected on the lessons learned in the wake of the richest transaction in the history of Oklahoma biosciences — the recent $665 million sale of Selexys to industry giant Novartis Pharmaceuticals.

“My first job was to clean the bathrooms and sweep the floors, so I did that,” Rollins said from his office on the fifth floor of the 840 building in the University of Oklahoma Research Park.

Oh, you thought Rollins was reflecting upon lessons learned from leading a life sciences company through the challenges of raising capital and taking a drug through a Phase 2 clinical trial. Selexys developed a therapeutic called SelG1 that treats painful crisis in sickle cell disease.

Rollins was actually telling me about his days as a teenager working at his dad’s gas station, Rollins Kerr-McGee, in Moore. That humble experience began the upward trajectory of his spectacular career as scientist and entrepreneur.

“At Rollins Kerr-McGee, you graduated to pumping gas, oil changes and fixing tires,” he said. “I worked from the time I was 12 all the way into college, off and on, working for my dad, Windle Rollins.”

Rollins’ career journey included stops the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a Ph.D. in immunology and microbiology. As a graduate student at the OU Health Sciences Center, he also conducted research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF).

“I performed research in the cardiovascular program at the OMRF,” he said. “That’s where I discovered the technology that led to the formation of Alexion Pharmaceuticals in 1992.”

After earning his Ph.D. at OU, Rollins began a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. He eventually left Yale to co-found Alexion in New Haven, Conn.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals developed a drug that Rollins and Tetherex COO Russell Rother discovered called Soliris that treats a rare blood disease, and is based on the OMRF technology. Today, Alexion is a $27 billion public company.

Rollins left Alexion in 2008 to accept the CEO position with Selexys and return to his native Oklahoma. Selexys was working to advance groundbreaking technology developed by OU and OMRF researcher Dr. Rodger McEver.

Selexys’s early development was supported by funding from the state-appropriated Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund and private investors.

“Both OCAST and i2E put money into Selexys when there was very little other investment,” Rollins said. “It was critical to have that kind of solid backing such that other local investors were willing to come in. We were able to go out and raise $10 million locally from high net-worth individuals.”

Novartis, MPM Capital and a group of private investors, led by fellow Oklahoman and OU graduate Dr. Philip Jones, provided the funding to Selexys for the Phase 2 trial of SelG1 in 200 patients nationwide, in exchange for the right to purchase the company if the trial was successful.

Of course, it was.

“I think it’s very important that we developed a drug for sickle cell disease here in Oklahoma with native Oklahomans on the management and investment team,” Rollins said. “Selexys is an Oklahoma success story, and the drug will be something for many years to come that Oklahomans can be proud of.”

The Selexys success demonstrates the value of investing state dollars in Oklahoma-based science and technology, said C. Michael Carolina, OCAST executive director.

“The substantial returns earned for the Seed Capital Fund through the sale of Selexys Pharmaceuticals validate the intent of the state’s early stage investment fund and provide us with future investment dollars,” Carolina said.

For Rollins and the team of seven at Selexys, the drug development work continues with a company called Tetherex, which was spun out of Selexys before the Novartis acquisition.

“We have a second drug that is targeting the Selectin pathway, an inflammatory pathway,” Rollins said. “We are currently treating patients with Crohn’s disease.”

Tetherex is just the latest stop on Rollins’ career journey that began long ago at his father’s gas station.

“Working at Rollins Kerr-McGee taught me a great deal about how to interact with people,” Rollins said. “It created the initial work ethic that carried me all the way through college and beyond.”

And that’s a reflection on the lessons learned.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

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Creation of OCAST 30 years ago help fuel Oklahoma startup firms https://i2e.org/creation-of-ocast-30-years-ago-help-fuel-oklahoma-startup-firms/ https://i2e.org/creation-of-ocast-30-years-ago-help-fuel-oklahoma-startup-firms/#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 21:02:02 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29658 Read more]]> By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

Author, visionary, and predictor H.G. Wells has been called the father of science fiction. In his most famous book, “The Time Machine,” Wells propels his main character forward by more than 800,000 years to imagined worlds.

When Wells was drafting this best-seller (long before there were any best-seller lists), the real world was at the threshold of the 20th century. During those 100 years, the pace of invention and discovery was literally going to blast off the earth to reach the moon and beyond.

This is the 30th Anniversary of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). The Oklahoma legislators and business leaders in the late eighties who conceived of OCAST didn’t have a time machine to fast forward and see how innovation could diversify and strengthen the economy of this state, but, like H.G. Wells, they had imagination and a vision.

To appreciate that vision, think for a minute about what Oklahoma was like back then. Our economy was suffering from the devastating effects of the oil bust. At the time, one in every 11 jobs in Oklahoma was tied to oil and gas. The drain of talent to other states was substantial. Lots of our brightest didn’t see any opportunities in the state. Even if they went to school here, they relocated to Texas, California or Colorado or other states where there were the kinds of jobs that fit their education attainments and skills.

Into this environment, in the decade of shoulder pads and the Eurythmics, OCAST was born with the ambitious mission to grow and diversify the Oklahoma economy through technology.

OCAST started by awarding grants in health research and capitalizing on the talent and international reputations of the state’s biomedical institutions, including the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. OCAST helped several companies get off the ground, but because there was no early stage funding here, getting off the ground often meant looking to the east or west coast for startup capital.

A groundbreaking public/private partnership between OCAST and i2E led first to pre-seed and proof of concept funding and then in 2007 to the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, which has invested $13 million in 28 Oklahoma startups.

OCAST is in the top 10 state agencies in terms of impact and results, and in the bottom 10 when it comes to number of staff — 95 percent of its funding goes to programs, a good measure of efficiency. It is a high performing agency that creates great value for our state — its cumulative return on investment is 21 to 1 and OCAST activities have resulted in more than 13,000 jobs in just the last five years.

OCAST has the tools and the know-how to form even more meaningful collaborations and partnerships to further accelerate economic diversity. Witness the leverage that’s come with the agency’s public/private partnerships with i2E, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, and the New Product Development Center.

As the Legislature begins its budgeting process, we don’t need time travel to prove tomorrow’s value of increased funding and investment in OCAST — a good story with proven results and vital to Oklahoma’s science and technology future.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Email Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Read the article at newsok.com



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Support of tech startups could ease state’s dependence on energy https://i2e.org/support-of-tech-startups-could-ease-states-dependence-on-energy/ https://i2e.org/support-of-tech-startups-could-ease-states-dependence-on-energy/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 22:45:14 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29649 Read more]]>  

By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

I’ve been writing (and talking) a lot about the exits of WeGoLook and Selexys over the few weeks. In fact, when I sat down to work on this column, my wife even asked me if I was ever going to come up with something new.

Nope, not yet, I told her. The stories of these two companies are simply too big and too important to Oklahoma for us not to keep a front and center focus on their success — especially when in a few weeks, the Legislature will be moving into the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2017 in yet another tough budget year.

Last year, about this time, I urged the state to adopt diversification and innovation as a rallying cry and show of faith in the legislative vision from nearly three decades ago that funded the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) as a state agency whose focus is on building new companies based on technology.

This year, my message is the same — but with a much different slant. It’s no longer a matter of faith that Oklahoma’s model of innovation and diversification works. This year, with the exits of Selexys and WeGoLook, we have hard proof that Oklahoma can diversify our dependence on oil by funding and following a commercialization model that works.

It felt good to see Oklahoma’s SeedStep Angels appear (not once but twice) on the Angel Capital Association’s 2016 “wonder wall” of successful exits. It feels great to see our homegrown angel group stand so tall on a list that is dominated by angel groups from either Coast. People from across the country are hearing us now when we say that Oklahoma isn’t flyover country anymore.

Going into 2017, we can capitalize on the tail winds of the fourth quarter exits of Selexys and WeGoLook. Early stage investors and venture capitalists are starting to give Oklahoma a second look. They are beginning to recognize that we have talented serial entrepreneurs, that Oklahoma’s world-class research institutions are delivering ground-shattering technologies and that oil is not our only focus.

So, I’m not going to stop talking about the jobs created, the wealth generated or the groundbreaking technologies launched by Selexys and WeGoLook. No matter how tough the budget challenge, I’m not going to stop urging the state to put more money into funding basic and applied research so we can see more of these successes in the future and diversify our economy.

The i2E team, and our partners at OCAST are not going to take our foot off the gas when it comes to expanding our pipeline of startups that have gained the attention and investment of industry giants like Novartis.

Another thing you’ve heard me say before: success begets success. Capital begets capital. We have a winning formula here. Let’s hope everyone in the state is paying attention.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

DID YOU KNOW? According to the Angel Resource Institute’s largest study of angel investing returns, the investment holding period is 4.5 years on average; bigger wins commonly took nine or 10 years to complete.

Read the article at The Oklahoman’s website (subscription required)





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2017 Love’s Cup Official Application Form https://i2e.org/2017-loves-cup-official-application-form/ https://i2e.org/2017-loves-cup-official-application-form/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 21:07:45 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29646 Read more]]>

Official Application Form

  • First NameLast NamePhone Number 
  • First NameLast NamePhone NumberGraduate/ Undergraduate 
  • First NameLast NameE-mail AddressPhone NumberGraduate/ Undergraduate 
    Add a new row
  • Accepted file types: pdf.
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2017 Love’s Cup Intent to Compete https://i2e.org/2017-loves-cup-intent-to-compete/ https://i2e.org/2017-loves-cup-intent-to-compete/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 19:50:18 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29638 Read more]]>

Intent to Compete Form

  • First NameLast NamePhone Number 
  • First NameLast NamePhone NumberGraduate/ Undergraduate 
  • First NameLast NameE-mail AddressPhone NumberGraduate/ Undergraduate 
    Add a new row
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OMRF receives $1.74 million to investigate cell death https://i2e.org/omrf-receives-1-74-million-to-investigate-cell-death/ https://i2e.org/omrf-receives-1-74-million-to-investigate-cell-death/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:47:06 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29625 Read more]]> Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

An Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist has received a four-year federal grant to investigate the biological process of cell death.

Courtney Griffin/The Oklahoman

The grant, awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, will provide $1.74 million to OMRF scientist Courtney Griffin to study what triggers a form of cell death called necroptosis in the vascular system.

The body uses programmed cell death to carry out specific biological purposes. “It’s an important and essential part of some phases of human development,” Griffin said in a news release. “For example, as embryos, our hands look like little round paddles until programmed cell death kills off the cells between our fingers.”

This type of cell death that destroys the cells between our fingers is called apoptosis, and it has been studied for decades. However, a newer form of cell death called necroptosis has been identified recently, and Griffin is interested in identifying the causes and effects of necroptosis in blood vessels.

While apoptosis is often seen as beneficial and orderly, necroptosis appears to be a much uglier form of cell death. In apoptosis, cells die neatly, and other cells come along to clean up behind them, Griffin said. But necroptosis results in a messy sort of cell death, which can cause inflammation and damage to nearby cells in the surrounding tissue.

One way to compare apoptosis with necroptosis is to imagine two types of building demolition, said Griffin, who joined OMRF’s scientific staff in 2008 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Apoptosis is like an implosion, where the building’s walls fall inward onto themselves in a nice, controlled way,” she said. “But in necroptosis, it’s more like when a gas main blows and the building explodes outward. The damage is far greater and more widespread. Both buildings come down, but the resulting damage is vastly different.”

Griffin’s lab will study the rapidly growing blood vessels in mouse embryos to investigate not only what triggers necroptosis, but also to learn about the secondary effects of the damage imposed by this form of programmed cell death.

“Understanding the causes and effects of necroptosis on the embryonic vascular system is only the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “We hope our findings may also provide insight into how necroptosis contributes to adult vascular diseases like atherosclerosis and aneurysms.”

The grant, 1 R01 HL134778-01, is funded through the NHLBI, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

Read the article at newsok.com






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Business of Health: Major deals, Innovation District top local health stories for 2016 https://i2e.org/business-of-health-major-deals-innovation-district-top-local-health-stories-for-2016/ https://i2e.org/business-of-health-major-deals-innovation-district-top-local-health-stories-for-2016/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 00:12:11 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29619 Read more]]> By Stephen Prescott, M.D.
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

Happy New Year!

In the world of health and business, 2016 brought its share of headlines. But many of those stories read like the ghosts of Christmases past.

There was outrage over a massive price hike for an old drug (EpiPen). Health insurance costs (most notably the plans offered through Obamacare) skyrocketed. And a major American drugmaker (Pfizer) nearly moved its headquarters overseas as a tax dodge.

Locally, though, the leading stories were fresh and new. Plus, in contrast to their national counterparts, these developments were decidedly upbeat, heralding exciting things to come in 2017 and beyond in Oklahoma City.

Novartis acquires local biotech firm

Dr. Rod McEver is a long-time member of OMRF’s scientific staff, and he’s led their cardiovascular biology research program for a decade. McEver was recently named OMRF’s new vice president of research. He is photographed in a research laboratory at OMRF offices on NE 13 Street on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. [Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman]

When the world’s second largest drug company purchased Selexys Pharmaceuticals in November in a deal that could ultimately reach $665 million, it was the first many had heard of this Oklahoma City biotech company. But it’s a success story that’s been three decades in the making.

In the 1980s, Dr. Rod McEver led a team of researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center that made a series of findings about a protein known as P-selectin. The protein, they found, plays an important role in allowing white blood cells to stick at the sites of injury or infection to promote healing. But in certain people, it can also cause excessive accumulation of the cells, leading to tissue injury and even organ damage.

In 2002, with Dr. Richard Cummings, McEver co-founded Selexys around that research. They ran the company for a half-dozen years until 2008, when the pair recruited Dr. Scott Rollins as CEO. Rollins, an Oklahoma native who’d done graduate work at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, had played a key role in building Alexion Pharmaceuticals from a startup to a $20-billion-plus biotech powerhouse.

Over the next eight years, Rollins raised capital, licensed important discoveries from OMRF — where McEver had moved his lab — and spearheaded the creation and testing of an experimental drug to treat sickle cell disease. Just before Selexys unveiled the results of an extremely promising clinical trial of the drug, Novartis acquired the company.

The Selexys story is a huge win for Oklahoma City. Unlike most of the city’s previous biotech successes, this one had a slate of local investors, so the Novartis buyout will benefit numerous Oklahomans who backed Selexys. It’s also created a much-needed drug for a painful and life-threatening disease that affects almost 100,000 Americans. The icing on the cake is that McEver and Rollins have already spun off a new company, Tetherex, which is based in Oklahoma City and is using selectin-based technologies to develop treatments for illnesses like cancer and Crohn’s disease.

OU Medicine joins forces with Saints

After 18 years of partnership with Nashville-based HCA Corp., OU Medicine announced in October that it would be ending that agreement to team up with the parent company of St. Anthony Hospital.

Under the deal, HCA will receive a reported $750 million for its ownership stake in the OU Medical Centers in OKC and Edmond. Then OU, SSM Health Care (St. Anthony’s holding company) and the University Hospitals Authority and Trust will form a new nonprofit that will oversee the operations of what will become the Oklahoma City area’s largest health care provider and employer.

For the deal to go through, there remain a significant number of approvals: federal, the state’s Contingency Review Board and the Oklahoma Supreme Court. And integrating the practices of a Catholic health provider with OU Medicine will involve some adjustments.

Still, assuming all i’s get dotted and t’s crossed, the integrated, yet-to-be-named system will consist of OU Medical Centers in Oklahoma City and Edmond, St. Anthony’s and The Bone and Joint Hospitals in Oklahoma City, a pair of physicians networks and numerous regional health care centers. In other words, it’s going to be a health care powerhouse in the greater Oklahoma City area.

A new TIF for the Innovation District

The past few years have brought considerable discussion about creating a new “Innovation District” around the Oklahoma Health Center area just east of downtown. But 2016 delivered something more concrete for this initiative.

In December, the Oklahoma City Council voted to create the city’s 11th tax increment financing (TIF) district. The new district stretches east from Automobile Alley and encompasses OUHSC, OMRF and numerous other health-related entities. The district also includes the new GE Global Oil & Gas Research Center.

The TIF is projected to generate $52 million in new tax revenues. Those funds will now be budgeted for a variety of projects aimed at economic development, educational enhancement and neighborhood redevelopment in the Innovation District.

With almost 18,000 jobs and general revenues approaching $4 billion each year, this area is a sleeping giant in Oklahoma City. Add in this new funding and the talented folks across the city now devoting their talents to this effort, the prospects are now bright for tapping the copious resources — human and otherwise — in this district to create a vibrant innovation hub.

What shape this initiative will take remains to be seen. (Put a deck on the freeway, anyone?) But now that we have some momentum and funding, I’m confident that the end product will be a live-work-eat-play area where entrepreneurship thrives.

A physician and medical researcher, Prescott is president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and can be emailed at omrf-president@omrf.org.

Read the article at newsok.com






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Oklahoma startups successful in 2016 https://i2e.org/from-i2es-scott-meacham-oklahoma-startups-successful-in-2016/ https://i2e.org/from-i2es-scott-meacham-oklahoma-startups-successful-in-2016/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 15:35:26 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29614 Read more]]> By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

As 2016 draws to a close, entrepreneurs and early stage investors in Oklahoma are ending the year with big smiles.

In the past few weeks, the exits of Selexys and WeGoLook have been strong validations that in this state we do have the talent, capital and startup know-how to create industry disruptive business from scratch, invest in them and then harvest those investments with exits that yield jobs, wealth and inspiration for entrepreneurs and early stage investors both.

Success like this takes time to build. Oklahoma’s model goes back nearly 30 years to the visionaries in our state Legislature that championed and formed the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) to create a unique agency focused exclusively on technology-based economic development.

That vision has evolved into a four-cornered alliance of OCAST, i2E, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance (OMA) and the New Product Development Center (NPDC). Together, and individually, we and the institutions, inventors, entrepreneurs and investors that we work with have accumulated a lot of experience.

The natural outcome is that we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t for startups here in Oklahoma. Add that to all the other advice that’s out there for startups — from vo-tech schools to research universities, there are programs for startups and entrepreneurs; Google “advice for entrepreneurs” and in half a second, you’ll get more than 91 million hits — making it not surprising that things can get a little foggy for entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out who the heck can help them on their path.

There is an inherent assumption, that if advice comes from an experienced and reputable source — the advice is “right.” Maybe, but maybe not.

There are lots of cheerleaders out there — well-intended people who want to encourage entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs need encouragement, but what they need more are advisers who challenge their assumptions. People who will poke holes in their deals and business plans.

Selexys and WeGoLook ended up being the successful companies that they are because they invited contrarian opinions.

Scott Rollins at Selexys was building his second successful biotechnology business. Robin Smith at WeGoLook was on her first scalable IT company — two different industries and two very different levels of experience.

Neither of these entrepreneurs wanted people telling them that they were brilliant or right — although they are so good at what they do, they were right much of the time.

Instead, they bounced ideas off others, including other entrepreneurs, investors and i2E. They asked us to apply our experience to help identify where the weak spots might be. They listened. When it was fitting for their companies, they pivoted. They held to their vision and made their business plans even stronger.

Look what happened. Two of the biggest exits Oklahoma has ever seen. Now that’s something to cheer about.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

DID YOU KNOW? If at first you don’t succeed … Founders of a previously successful business have a 30 percent chance of success in their next venture versus an 18 percent chance of success for first-time entrepreneurs. Source: Inc.

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Executive Q&A with OMRF scientist Dr. Rodger P. McEver https://i2e.org/executive-qa-with-omrf-scientist-dr-rodger-p-mcever/ https://i2e.org/executive-qa-with-omrf-scientist-dr-rodger-p-mcever/#respond Mon, 26 Dec 2016 14:03:45 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29609 Read more]]> By Paula Burkes
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

Most scientists spend a lifetime hoping their research contributes to a body of work that collectively will lead to a new drug that will treat or cure a disease.

For Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s Rodger “Rod” McEver, that body of knowledge was developed in his own laboratory and that new drug is now within sight of coming to market.

Dr. Rodger McEver with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation/photo by Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman

Last month, Switzerland-based Novartis, the world’s second largest pharmaceutical company, bought — for up to $665 million — Oklahoma City-based Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp., a biotechnology company that McEver co-founded, and its SelG1 antibody, which McEver discovered, for the reduction of pain associated with sickle cell disease. About 90,000 Americans, mostly blacks, have sickle cell, a lifelong hereditary blood disorder that causes debilitating pain, organ damage and premature death; the average age of survival is 40.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” McEver said about the fruition of the promising therapy. His journey began more than three decades ago. Who better than McEver to oversee research at OMRF, which he will, starting Jan. 1 when he becomes vice president of research and will work with the chairmen of OMRF’s five major research programs including cardiovascular biology, which he’s chaired for the past eight years.

“My goal will be to maintain high standards and encourage and reward good science,” McEver said. “Many of our 45 principal investigators are internationally renowned, and we want our young scientists to move to that level.” “This is the life for me,” McEver said, “ being paid to discover something for the first time. … to use your mind … for your curiosity to go where it wants to go. It can be wonderful. It can be hard. It’s a long-term enterprise and failure is part of it. But the upside is considerable.”

From his office in the research tower of the OMRF, 825 NE 13, McEver, 68, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I was born in New Orleans. My dad went to school at Tulane and graduated the year after I was born. He took a job with an oil field servicing company and we lived in Natchez, Miss., until I was 9, and in Lafayette, La., the following two years. We moved to Oklahoma City when I was 11; my sister was 8. When we lived in Lafayette, there still was a big Cajun/French influence. My fourth- and fifth-grade teachers were French and a lot of my friends’ grandmothers spoke only French. I played baseball, belonged to a YMCA boys club, and liked all subjects in school.

In Oklahoma City, we lived in The Village and I attended the old John Marshall. We just had our 50th class reunion. I excelled in science and math, but also loved English, history and Latin; the Latin teacher was the best teacher in school. My parents retired to California, but we convinced them to move here after my son was born. My father is deceased, but my mom still lives in Oklahoma City. My sister is president of the University of Northern Colorado.

Q: And college?

A: I went to Yale on a national merit scholarship. As an intern/Fleming scholar at the OMRF, I’d had the opportunity to work on research involving vitamin E one summer during high school, but I still wasn’t sure about science or medical school. I seriously considered pursuing history, and one summer during college, did research at the Oklahoma Historical Society for a paper on bank failures during the Depression in Oklahoma. In many ways, science and history are alike. I was learning to ask questions and evaluate evidence. In the end, I wound up getting a liberal arts degree with enough science to apply to medical school.

Q: When did you decide to pursue basic scientific research versus practice medicine?

A: Not until age 30. After graduating medical school from the University of Chicago, I spent three years at Washington University in St. Louis, completing an internship and residency in internal medicine. I stayed another year to complete a fellowship in hematology and subsequently joined the lab of my mentor, who had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. I was torn because I loved to care for patients, but I was curious about biology too. After three years in my mentor’s lab, the project on which I was working, involving platelets and blood clotting, began to take off. At age 33, I went to The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, where I started my first real job as assistant professor of medicine. I practiced medicine in the university hospital and clinics — making rounds with students, residents and fellows — and had my own lab.

Q: How did you meet your wife?

A: Through a dating service in San Antonio. This was long before online dating or even computer matchups. We completed a couple of forms that were supposed to align our interests. She opened the door — and bingo; that was it. We both are careful, thoughtful people, but within a month of meeting, we decided to marry, which we did six months later and have lived happily ever after since. Gigi grew up in the Northeast and Midwest, and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. So we have the University of Chicago in common, but weren’t there at the same time. After we had our son, she stayed home to raise him. Today, she’s a master quilter and works part-time at Oklahoma Quiltworks in Casady Square. She’s a real artist, and helps a lot of people.

Q: What brought you back to Oklahoma?

A: I met OMRF scientist Charles Esmon, a pioneer researcher in blood clotting who’d also been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, at a meeting in North Carolina. We hit it off and he tried to recruit me to OMRF. But it was too early; I’d only been at San Antonio two years and was trying to get my lab off the ground. Then, four years later, Phil Comp, an MD/Ph.D. with OU, gave a talk at UT-San Antonio and we had lunch afterward. He and Esmon called me again and convinced me to come. That was 1987.

Q: Tell us more about Selexys and how the potential drug to treat sickle cell anemia is coming to fruition.

A: Our journey started more than 30 years ago. Using monoclonal antibodies as tools, we discovered a protein on blood platelets and on the endothelial cells that line blood vessels. The protein is now known as P-selectin. We cloned the gene encoding P-selectin, which led us to understand its function. P-selectin allows white blood cells to stick to platelets and endothelial cells at sites of tissue injury or infection. This enables white blood cells to destroy pathogens and repair injury. But inappropriate expression of P-selectin causes excessive accumulation of white blood cells that can injure your own tissues. For example, in the genetic disease sickle cell anemia, P-selectin promotes excessive sticking of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in blood vessels. This blocks blood flow, causing debilitating painful “crises” and organ damage. So our idea was to block the function of P-selectin to prevent inappropriate adhesion of white blood cells.

In 1989, we filed our first patent application. OU licensed this and other patents to two biotech companies but later took back the technology for lack of diligence. Therefore, we decided the only way to bring our therapy from academia to the commercial sector was to start a company. OU biochemistry professor Richard Cummings and I founded Selexys Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2002. We secured a small grant, put in some money ourselves, hired two employees, operated on a shoestring budget, and kept our day jobs.

The turning point occurred in 2008, when we brought in Scott Rollins as CEO. Years earlier, Scott was an OU graduate student in a lab next to mine at OMRF. He went on to have a successful biotech career with Alexion in Connecticut. He recruited another former OU student and Alexion scientist, Russell Rother, to Selexys. They and the other members of a very talented Selexys staff genetically modified a monoclonal antibody that blocks the function of P-selectin, which we developed at OMRF. This became our drug. In our first clinical trial, we demonstrated that the drug was safe in people. This evidence attracted sufficient investment to finance a trial of the drug in patients with sickle cell disease. This trial showed that the drug significantly reduced the incidence of painful crises in patients. Since Novartis acquired Selexys in November, we hope the FDA will approve the drug within two years, which will permit Novartis to make the drug available to patients.


Position: Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, vice president of research.
Other roles: University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, adjunct professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and co-director of the MD/Ph.D. training program.
Birthday/birthplace: March 5, 1948/New Orleans.
Family: wife Gigi, married 33 years; and son Eric, 30, of Tokyo.
Education: Yale University, bachelor’s in American studies; University of Chicago, medical degree; University of Washington in St. Louis, internship/residency in internal medicine and fellowship training in hematology.
Housing addition: Nichols Hills.
Pastimes: Pilates, hourlong walks with Gigi, reading (especially European and American histories and biographies) and traveling (most recently to southern Utah on a 10-day hiking trip and Tokyo for his son’s graduation from film school).

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Infinite Composites Technologies joins space race with linerless pressure vessels https://i2e.org/infinite-composites-technologies-joins-space-race-with-linerless-pressure-vessels/ https://i2e.org/infinite-composites-technologies-joins-space-race-with-linerless-pressure-vessels/#respond Wed, 21 Dec 2016 01:37:26 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29603 Read more]]> By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

TULSA — For a first-time visitor, the eight spools of black ribbon hanging on racks inside a glass-enclosed cabinet at Tulsa’s Infinite Composites Technologies might be mistaken for giant rolls of black yarn. Or spools of wrapping tape. Or oversized bobbins of thread.

The large spools actually hold carbon fiber material, 10 times stronger than steel yet almost as light as the yarn used to make a pair of socks.

The Infinite Composites Technologies pressure vessel

Infinite Composites Technologies (ICT) uses the carbon fiber material to manufacture patented, linerless composite pressure vessels that can store all types of gasses at pressures of 3,000 pounds per square inch or higher.

Founded in 2009 by Matt Villarreal and Michael Tate, the company uses a computer program that pulls the carbon material off the spools, covers it in a special resin and wraps it in a precise design. There is no steel or plastic lining inside.

“The main problem we solve for our customers is increased usable capacity and significantly reduced weight,” Tate said as he demonstrated the computerized production process for me at the company’s Tulsa headquarters.

Their composite pressure vessels are so light that applications extend beyond storing fuel for vehicle transportation, ranging from industrial gas storage to the aerospace industry.

Their tanks are even being used in space for satellite propellants.

“We can reduce weight by up to 90 percent compared to steel pressure vessels or up to 40 percent compared to other composite pressure vessels,” Tate said. “We refer to our product as the Infinite Composite Pressure Vessel because with our interior design, we believe we can have a potentially infinite useful life with our design.”

Before there was an Infinite Composite Technologies, Villarreal and Tate were students at Oklahoma State University where they were on a collegiate race team that competed in an engineering challenge called the Formula SAE program. The OSU team built and raced a vehicle in a 24-hour endurance competition.

However, because of the fuel expense, the OSU team began looking into alternative fuels. They chose compressed natural gas and competed with the first CNG Formula SAE vehicle in the country.

“We successfully piloted that program, but the fuel tank was a major hindrance to the vehicle,” Tate said. “It was bulky, it didn’t store enough fuel and added about 10 percent of the weight to the vehicle.”

Out of that experience, an idea was born. Villarreal began engineering a linerless tank design to increase capacity and reduce weight. The Infinite Composite Pressure Vessel debuted in 2013.

Along the startup journey, the company raised $2.5 million through pilot programs, business plan competitions and an Oklahoma Applied Research Support grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). It also received early assistance from the New Product Development Center at OSU.

“We are trying to get into some launch vehicle applications for storing oxygen and hydrogen,” Tate said. “We recently received a grant from OCAST to go into cryogenic storage, which will really help us get more into the space industry.”

ICT was named a Top 50 Global Startup during the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Week and won the 2013 Tulsa Community College Startup Cup.

The path from concept to finished product to high-end market, such as the aerospace industry, has hardly been a straight line. Originally conceived as a lightweight fuel tank for vehicles, the company branched out when it saw more possibilities in other markets.

“We wanted to validate the need for this technology, and we knew it wasn’t going to be limited to compressed natural gas, so we went after multiple industries to prove our assumptions,” Villarreal said.

ICT manufactures its composite pressure vessels in sizes that range from 5 inches in diameter to up to 30 inches in diameter and 10 feet in length. After vessels are built to proper dimensions, they are then baked in an on-site industrial oven.

Tate invited me to lift an ICT pressure vessel that was about the size of a propane tank for a barbecue grill. It was feather-light in comparison to steel tanks.

Those vessels will help aerospace companies store more critical fuels onboard satellites on interstellar missions, he said.

“With all these new space clients coming in, from little satellite manufacturers to small launch companies, we’re really hoping to get into that market more heavily,” he said.

To infinity. And beyond.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

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WeGoLook is disrupting its way to success https://i2e.org/wegolook-is-disrupting-its-way-to-success/ https://i2e.org/wegolook-is-disrupting-its-way-to-success/#respond Wed, 21 Dec 2016 01:22:08 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29601 Read more]]> By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Now that the acquisition announcements of Selexys by Novartis and of WeGoLook by Crawford & Co. have been made, I’m looking forward to what happens next.

In the case of Selexys, like any biotech deal, seeing the “next” will take some time. But with WeGoLook, things could get more interesting quickly — and they are very interesting now.

This company is an original. First, it was founded by Robin Smith, a female entrepreneur, who, as part of Crawford’s acquisition, is under contract to continue to lead the company. Investors, like i2E and SeedStep angels, are seeking more female entrepreneurs because gender diverse companies oftentimes outperform their peers.

Second, WeGoLook is seriously disrupting the $500 billion property and casualty insurance industry, both through WeGoLook’s leading edge information technology, and by capitalizing on the international trend of crowdsourcing, which is creating, in Smith’s words, “a monumental shift in the way the world works.”

“Think about the way that mobile technology has evolved so rapidly in banking — using a mobile app to ‘write’ or scan checks,” she said. “The companies that adopted technology thrived; the ones that didn’t began losing customers. Some big companies were caught off guard. It’s going to be the same way for the insurance industry.”

WeGoLook has an agile technology and a field force of thousands of “Lookers” who are pre-vetted, skilled independent contractors with the experience or skill set required for the “Look.” They are at the ready to respond in person and on-demand when an insurance carrier needs inspection reports and low-complex tasks completed to assist with underwriting and claims. Meeting the policyholder at their behest ultimately leads to a faster flow of funds and better customer experience at a lower cost.

WeGoLook has evolved into a mobile technology company with a concierge mentality.

“In real time, we send a looker out on the policyholder’s schedule,” Smith said. “It’s the VIP touch while we capture the information and submit it back — all without sending a claims adjuster. Enterprise clients are utilizing our technology combined with our extensive international workforce to create new and more efficient process flows within their own organization.

More than 35 different investors and firms wanted to participate and/or partner with WeGoLook. “We were careful to choose the firm that was most closely aligned with our goals, beliefs, and culture. That was Crawford. They are the most innovative, forward thinking, and creative team we wanted to align ourselves with.”

Think about that. Almost three dozen potential investors for an Oklahoma IT startup, that’s less than six years old.

I’ve said it before — this state is not investor flyover country any more.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Read the article at newsok.com


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Recent OCAST successes highlight the payoff from long-term investment https://i2e.org/recent-ocast-successes-highlight-the-payoff-from-long-term-investment/ https://i2e.org/recent-ocast-successes-highlight-the-payoff-from-long-term-investment/#respond Sun, 18 Dec 2016 23:44:23 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29585 Read more]]> By The Oklahoman Editorial Board
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.

OKLAHOMA legislators have another tough session ahead, one in which they are expected to have perhaps $600 million less to appropriate than they did in 2016 — when there was $1.3 billion less than the year before. It will be challenging work, to put it mildly.

Yet as they go about their jobs, lawmakers would do well to note agencies that are performing at a high level, and do all they can to hold them harmless if possible. One such agency is the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, or OCAST.

The Legislature created OCAST nearly 30 years ago, with a goal of creating more innovation in Oklahoma, producing jobs and benefiting the state economically. It has performed exactly as hoped.

According to its 2015 annual report, OCAST has produced about 2,100 high-paying jobs. Its return on the state’s investment in 2015 was a remarkable 33-to-1.

One of OCAST’s strategic partners is i2E, a private, nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. Funded by OCAST, i2E has seen its work bear fruit in two high-profile transactions in the past few weeks.

The first was last month when Oklahoma City-based Selexys Pharmaceuticals was bought by Novartis for $665 million. It was i2E, OCAST and the Presbyterian Health Foundation that provided Selexys with its first institutional capital.

Earlier this month came the news that Crawford & Co., a giant insurance claims management firm, would acquire an 85 percent membership interest in Oklahoma-based IT firm WeGoLook for $36.125 million. At the outset, i2E invested in and advised WeGoLook, and helped it find other investors.

Scott Meacham, i2E’s president and CEO, points out that these deals are providing jobs in Oklahoma and financial returns for local investors, including i2E. They also “put Oklahoma solidly on the map as a state with exciting, investable startup deals,” he said in his regular column in The Oklahoman’s Business section. (Just last week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said high-tech innovation is important to the economy in all five of Oklahoma’s congressional districts.)

Finally, Meacham said, these two big deals validate i2E’s model for helping startups get off the ground and grow, as part of its partnership with OCAST.

The Legislature appropriated OCAST $15.9 million for this fiscal year, which was a cut of roughly $1.1 million from the year before. As recently as 2014, OCAST’s budget was $17.8 million. As Meacham noted in an op-ed in this paper in June, OCAST’s budget has been cut more than 44 percent since fiscal year 2008.

Many state agencies have felt similar pain, no doubt. However, OCAST has regularly had to fight to keep its budget from shrinking even when the state’s finances were in much better shape.

When they get their red pencils out next session, state budget writers should recall these most recent success stories and OCAST’s long history of success. Oklahoma needs more, not less, of what OCAST and its partners are producing.

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Oklahoma startups are cashing in https://i2e.org/oklahoma-startups-are-cashing-in/ https://i2e.org/oklahoma-startups-are-cashing-in/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 12:52:17 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29575 Read more]]> Oklahoma startups are cashing in

By Jack Money
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Chalk up WeGoLook, LLC’s deal with Crawford & Co. as another success story for i2E and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

On Dec. 6, Crawford & Co. announced it would acquire an 85 percent membership interest in Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook for $36.125 million.

Robin Smith, CEO of WeGoLook in Oklahoma City, Wednesday June, 15 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Robin Smith, CEO of WeGoLook in Oklahoma City, Wednesday June, 15 2016. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

The deal will repay i2E for its initial investment in WeGoLook, giving the not-for-profit corporation the ability to put that money into another good idea. The amount of i2E’s investment was not disclosed.

It’s the second time in recent weeks that a company i2E has helped grow and made an investment in has been able to turn a corner, take its business to a whole new level and allow i2E to exit as an initial investor. Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp. announced it had sold itself to Novartis for up to $665 million less than a month ago.

“We started with WeGoLook early in its process,” said Scott Meacham, i2E’s CEO, noting that it worked with the firm to help it build by encouraging it to begin marketing its services to businesses as well as individuals.

i2E also helped it find capital to grow its business, and invested in the company, too.

What makes the WeGoLook deal particularly cool, he added, is that the company’s headquarters will stay in Oklahoma City as it continues to grow.

“This validates our model that OCAST and i2E created to try to grow jobs in Oklahoma,” Meacham said.

“They are good, high-paying jobs, in a high-growth industry, that, in this case, attracted the interest of the second-largest insurance claims processing company in the world.

“Crawford will use that (WeGoLook’s business) as a platform to help grow its business even more.

“It is a big win for Oklahoma.”

Making an impact

Meacham said i2E grew from OCAST’s tasking to develop innovative businesses from within the state after the oil bust of the 1980s.

Their goal is ultimately to make a positive impact on the state’s economy.

During its 18-year history, i2E has provided business expertise and funding to nearly 680 of Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses.

It has more than $50 million of investment capital under management, and it works with Oklahoma companies in all phases of their business life cycles, including startups looking for a first round of capital and established businesses seeking dollars to expand their markets or products.

Simply put, it seeks to help Oklahomans create more high-paying jobs that diversifies the state’s economy.

“WeGoLook went through that entire process,” he said.

The WeGoLook deal with Crawford is good for all concerned.

The deal gives Crawford the ability to use WeGoLook’s technology to further automate and expedite insurance claim processes offered by its clients using WeGoLook’s nationwide, mobile workforce for automotive and property inspections.

WeGoLook benefits from the deal, meanwhile, because it will allow it to dramatically expand its network of independent contractors who will be doing the work, including into overseas markets where Crawford already has relationships with insurers.

Also, it will allow WeGoLook to continue to bolster its efforts to market services offered by its network of lookers to businesses that need them.

“I don’t think it has really sunk in yet all the way,” said Robin Smith, WeGoLook’s CEO, said of the deal.

Smith said WeGoLook has made more than half its money by providing its services to insurance companies, and said it had been attracting the attention of major players in the insurance industry for about the past year.

She said the deal with Crawford will require WeGoLook to add more “Lookers” (independent contractors who get paid by the job) to its community in North America and Canada, and also throughout the world, noting that an exciting aspect of its deal is that Crawford is in more than 70 countries.

“We already have had positive response and inquiries from various parties in those countries, just based off the initial news release,” she said. “So, we’ve been very, very, busy. No time to celebrate yet.”

Smith said WeGoLook’s goal is to help very large companies redesign their workflows and create cost-effective processes to obtain low-tech services provided by its Lookers.

These could range from simple inspection tasks to providing notary services for financial institutions across the globe, among many others.

“Using our Lookers is very, very fast, cost effective, and the customer’s experience is a lot better that way.”

Smith said she expects WeGoLook also will be able to help other Gig economy companies compete in traditional marketplaces, such as insurance, because they won’t need to hire and train large staffs to provide basic services the Lookers can provide.

“Instead of paying someone a high salary or drive a fleet vehicle, we can send someone out very quickly to provide a service” in a cost effective way, she said.

“So, our Lookers are starting to become part of the process.”

The deal between Crawford and WeGoLook establishes the latter as the first company to become part of Crawford’s new innovation arm, Crawford Innovative Ventures LLC.

Crawford formed the company to make strategic acquisitions and partnership to catalyze innovation within its business.

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Two major acquisitions of local firms good news in several ways https://i2e.org/two-major-acquisitions-of-local-firms-good-news-in-several-ways/ https://i2e.org/two-major-acquisitions-of-local-firms-good-news-in-several-ways/#respond Tue, 13 Dec 2016 12:35:09 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29571 Read more]]> Two major acquisitions of local firms good news in several ways

By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

I had an amazing Friday a couple of weeks ago. Literally, in one day, I found out that two of i2E’s portfolio companies were being acquired by major corporations — the two biggest exits i2E has ever had.

The first deal was acquisition of Selexys Pharmaceuticals by Novartis, the No. 2 ranking pharmaceutical company in the world. The second acquisition is the purchase of majority control of Oklahoma-based WeGoLook by Crawford & Co. Crawford is one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities.

Sometimes in big acquisitions like these, the deal engulfs the narrative, so I want to call out three things that we all need to recognize and celebrate.

First, these acquisitions are providing financial returns to Oklahoma investors and jobs to Oklahoma residents. This is the reason that the state puts money into seed-stage deals.

Many people will benefit. Members of SeedStep Angels, individual angel investors, and investors in other i2E managed funds, including the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund, the Accelerate Oklahoma Fund, and the Oklahoma Angel Fund I, will see their faith in investing in Oklahoma startups rewarded.

There will be jobs created as well as jobs retained. The management team of Selexys has moved on to its next deal with Tetherex Pharmaceuticals, another Oklahoma-based therapeutic company.

WeGoLook and its jobs will remain in Oklahoma while receiving the support to grow even further from its new majority owner, Crawford & Co.

Second, these two big exits in the two dominant sectors of innovation — information technology and biotech — put Oklahoma solidly on the map as a state with exciting, investable startup deals.

We’ve delivered on homegrown, breakthrough, disruptive technologies. We’ve built our own continuum of early stage and seed capital when VCs were hard pressed to bring their money here. We’ve proven that Oklahoma entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists have the talent to solve big problems for big markets.

Third, these exits validate the Oklahoma model of helping build and support startup businesses developed by i2E as part of its partnership with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

Selexys achieved an exit in less than 10 years, with the first institutional capital provided by OCAST, i2E, and the Presbyterian Health Foundation.

WeGoLook leveraged i2E’s model and services from the beginning finding, with i2E’s assistance, a path to a broader commercial market attractive to strategic acquirers. WeGoLook exited in less than three years, with i2E, once again, being its first institutional investor as well as leading each of its investment rounds.

Before that amazing Friday, i2E had accomplished a lot of important things — including providing funding and business expertise to more than 650 of Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses as well as achieving great results in terms of jobs created and investment attracted into Oklahoma-based startups — but we hadn’t had a big portfolio exit.

The exit is the ultimate goal and measure of success for any early stage venture investor like i2E. Now we — and Oklahoma — have two.

This is so much more than just the start of something big.

Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.

Read the article at news.com




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Crawford & Company acquires majority interest in WeGoLook, LLC. https://i2e.org/crawford-company-acquires-majority-interest-in-wegolook-llc-2/ https://i2e.org/crawford-company-acquires-majority-interest-in-wegolook-llc-2/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:17:48 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29566 Read more]]> CRAWFORD & COMPANY® ACQUIRES MAJORITY INTEREST IN WEGOLOOK®, LLC

Acquisition gives Crawford® the potential to transform the insurance industry

Oklahoma City, Okla. – December 8, 2016 – WeGoLook® today announced that Crawford & Company® (NYSE: CRD-A and CRD-B), one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to the risk management and insurance industry, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, will acquire 85% membership interest in WeGoLook. This strategic investment in WeGoLook will enable Crawford to revolutionize, automate and expedite the insurance claim-handling process by using a nationwide mobile workforce for automotive and property inspections. This acquisition, subject to certain conditions, has been approved by the Board of Directors for both companies, and is expected to close in early January 2017.

Bringing an on-demand workforce to the insurance industry

WeGoLook is an online and mobile app, designed to capture requests for low-complexity inspections. Creation of custom inspection requests and orders for inspections can now be made in real-time. Once an order is placed, a WeGoLook agent, a “Looker®”, can be dispatched via the mobile app. When the inspection has been completed to Crawford’s standards, the collected data is safely and securely captured in the WeGoLook system and shared with the appropriate parties. All logistics—the scheduling, the dispatching, the Looker—is handled by WeGoLook, cutting the hassle out of the inspection process while enhancing the policyholder experience.

WeGoLook is among the fastest-growing and most innovative gig economy companies in the U.S., with an experienced leadership team led by co-founder and CEO Robin Smith and COO Kenneth Knoll. In 2016, WeGoLook was cited as one of America’s 500 fastest-growing companies by Inc. Magazine. And in 2015, WeGoLook was named Innovator of the Year by Oklahoma’s Journal Record.

“This acquisition has the potential to transform the insurance industry,” said Robin Smith. “Crawford will be able to respond to claims faster than ever and streamline costs, while WeGoLook will have the opportunity for global expansion.”

“This is a game changer,” commented Ken Fraser, Crawford’s executive vice president and chief strategy and development officer. “Technological advances, such as WeGoLook’s mobile platform, will change the way we work. We’ll be positioned to deliver exceptional, innovative services to our clients worldwide.”

WeGoLook will be the first company established in Crawford’s new innovation arm, Crawford Innovative Ventures, LLC, an entity formed to invest in strategic acquisitions and partnerships that will serve as a catalyst for innovation within Crawford.

Expediting the claims process and delivering exceptional value

The acquisition solves one of the most persistent challenges in the insurance industry: how to get claims processed faster. Today, insurance inspections may take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. With the acquisition of WeGoLook, Crawford is fast-tracking the entire process and streamlining the claim process workflow by leveraging “gig economy” workers, already in the field.

  • Crawford will be able to send out claim requests in real-time, tapping into WeGoLook’s 30,000 and growing Looker workforce.
  • Crawford will be able to assign experienced agents to high-priority tasks, allowing Lookers to handle simple inspection requests and at the same time reduce costs.
  • Crawford will experience extensive data capture efficiencies. All inspections sent through WeGoLook will be funneled through a secure, mobile platform. No more paper trails, and no confusion over what an inspection does or does not entail.
  • Crawford can leverage WeGoLook’s custom inspections capabilities. For special requests, such as needing an agent who is proficient in a specific language, Crawford can include that request in the order to the WeGoLook’s workforce.

About WeGoLook
Founded in 2009, Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook (WeGoLook.com) is pioneering on-demand field inspection and verification services. With its web and mobile platform, the company empowers a 30,000+ mobile workforce, known as Lookers, to collect and verify information and fulfill custom tasks for businesses and consumers alike. WeGoLook is led by CEO Robin Smith, with Lookers located across the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. The WeGoLook app is available for download in both iOS and Android. Stay up-to-date with WeGoLook news by following WeGoLook on Twitter, Facebook and the blog.

About Crawford
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Crawford & Company (crawfordandcompany.com) is one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to the risk management and insurance industry, as well as to self-insured entities, with an expansive global network serving clients in more than 70 countries. The Crawford Solution® offers comprehensive, integrated claims services, business process outsourcing and consulting services for major product lines including property and casualty claims management, workers’ compensation claims and medical management, and legal settlement administration.

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WeGoLook sells majority interest https://i2e.org/wegolook-sells-majority-interest/ https://i2e.org/wegolook-sells-majority-interest/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2016 14:05:19 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29552 Read more]]> WeGoLook sells majority interest

By: Journal Record Staff
Copyright © 2016 The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY (JR) – WeGoLook, the 7-year-old company headed by CEO Robin Smith, sold an 85-percent interest to Crawford & Company for more than $36 million.

The acquisition was approved by the directors of both companies for $36.125 million and will close in early January.

WeGoLook won the overall award at The Journal Record’s Innovator of the Year event in 2015.

Read the entire article at the Journal Record website (subscription required)


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Company moves ahead with WeGoLook deal https://i2e.org/company-moves-ahead-with-wegolook-deal/ https://i2e.org/company-moves-ahead-with-wegolook-deal/#respond Wed, 07 Dec 2016 13:56:24 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29548 Read more]]> Company moves ahead with WeGoLook deal
Copyright © 2016, The Oklahoma Publishing Company

Atlanta-based Crawford & Co. has agreed to buy 85 percent of the membership interest in Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook for $36.1 million, the companies announced Tuesday. The deal is expected to close next month.

Crawford & Co. provides claims management for insurance companies and self-insured entities. WeGoLook provides on-site inspections and other field services. The company uses about 26,000 “Lookers” nationwide for services ranging from vehicle inspections services to collecting field data for insurance companies.

“I am very pleased to welcome WeGoLook’s employees, contractors and customers to Crawford given the tremendous potential that I see as we combine WeGoLook’s innovative technology with Crawford’s global reach and client relationships,” Crawford CEO Harsha V. Agadi said. “Their cost-effective services will allow Crawford to unlock the large, underserved market for high-frequency claims, reduce claim handling fees, and help guard against fraud.”

Read the article at newsok.com



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CRAWFORD & COMPANY® ACQUIRES MAJORITY INTEREST IN WEGOLOOK®, LLC https://i2e.org/crawford-company-acquires-majority-interest-in-wegolook-llc/ https://i2e.org/crawford-company-acquires-majority-interest-in-wegolook-llc/#respond Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:32:05 +0000 http://i2e.org/?p=29546 Read more]]> CRAWFORD & COMPANY® ACQUIRES MAJORITY INTEREST IN WEGOLOOK®, LLC

Atlanta, GA – December 6, 2016 – Crawford & Company® (www.crawfordandcompany.com) (NYSE: CRD-A and CRD-B), one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities, today announced the acquisition of a majority interest in WeGoLook®, LLC (WGL(TM) or WeGoLook), an online and mobile collaborative economy platform headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This strategic investment in WeGoLook will enable Crawford® to revolutionize, automate and expedite the claim handling process by utilizing a large mobile workforce for automotive and property inspections. The acquisition of 85% of the membership interests of WeGoLook by Crawford, which is subject to certain conditions, has been approved by the Board of Directors of both companies for $36.125 million and is expected to close in early January 2017.

“I am very pleased to welcome WeGoLook’s employees, contractors, and customers to Crawford given the tremendous potential that I see as we combine WeGoLook’s innovative technology with Crawford’s global reach and client relationships,” commented Harsha V. Agadi, president and chief executive officer of Crawford & Company. “WeGoLook handles anything from automotive and property inspections to support the insurance industry as well as a broad range of general commerce transactions and verification of internet-based purchases. Their cost-effective services will allow Crawford to unlock the large, underserved market for high frequency claims, reduce claim handling fees, and help guard against fraud.”

Mr. Agadi continued, “Looking forward, our industry will continue to experience rapid change which will require innovative thinking and further investment. To ensure that Crawford stays at the forefront of this change, we have created Crawford Innovative Ventures, LLC, which will be led by Ken Fraser, EVP, chief strategy and development officer of Crawford. This entity has been formed to invest in strategic acquisitions and partnerships that will support the Crawford strategic plan. This arm will be a catalyst for change across the property and casualty industry and Crawford worldwide, bringing about new thinking, innovation and adding to our growing entrepreneurial culture. WeGoLook is the first such strategic acquisition.”

Robin Smith, chief executive officer of WeGoLook commented, “I am very proud of the company that our team has built, as WeGoLook is among the fastest growing and most innovative gig economy companies in the U.S. We are excited about our new partnership as Crawford’s global brand recognition and client relationships will be invaluable as we grow our business. I could not be more excited with what the future holds, and I remain committed to the combined company.”

Mr. Fraser commented, “WeGoLook is a forward thinking, technological company that dispatches over 30,000 ‘Lookers®’ to collect or verify information at the click of a button. A company like this gives us the mobility and manpower to serve as your feet on the street, delivering real-time efficient customized solutions needed to make informed decisions. WeGoLook fits perfectly into our global strategy of utilizing technology to become faster and more efficient as we strive to better serve our clients and grow our company. To that end, we plan to expand this business around the world, using our worldwide footprint and strong global property & casualty and TPA client relationships.”

Mr. Agadi concluded, “We are thrilled to be working with WeGoLook as the combination of our two companies will infuse Crawford with fresh ideas and expertise, as well as add an attractive brand with a business model for the future. Importantly, WGL will play a critical role in making Crawford grow at a much faster rate.”

About WeGoLook
Founded in 2009, Oklahoma City-based WeGoLook (wegolook.com) is a pioneering on-demand field inspection and verification services. With its web and mobile platform, the company empowers a 30,000+ mobile workforce, known as Lookers, to collect and verify information and fulfill custom tasks for businesses and consumers alike.

About Crawford
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Crawford & Company (www.crawfordandcompany.com) is one of the world’s largest independent providers of claims management solutions to the risk management and insurance industry, as well as to self-insured entities, with an expansive global network serving clients in more than 70 countries. The Crawford Solution® offers comprehensive, integrated claims services, business process outsourcing and consulting services for major product lines including property and casualty claims management, workers’ compensation claims and medical management, and legal settlement administration.

This press release contains forward-looking statements, including statements about the expected future financial condition, results of operations and earnings outlook of Crawford & Company. Statements, both qualitative and quantitative, that are not historical facts may be “forward-looking statements” as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other federal securities laws. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical experience or Crawford & Company’s present expectations. Accordingly, no one should place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date on which they are made. Crawford & Company does not undertake to update.

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