By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
BOSTON — Craig Shimasaki, Ph.D., commanded the attention of an audience of biotech investors and industry onlookers here Tuesday as he pitched the potential of Oklahoma City’s Moleculera Labs.
Shimasaki, co-founder and CEO of Moleculera Labs, made his presentation as one of about 50 up-and-coming new businesses invited to participate in a Startup Stadium competition at the 2018 BIO International Convention.
The BIO show is the industry’s largest annual convention, with more than 15,000 people from around the world expected to attend before the show concludes on Thursday.
Shimasaki had all of six minutes to hit the high points of his company before facing questions and sometimes pointed commentary at the conclusion.
“You needed to get to the ‘ask’ a lot faster in your presentation,” a judge told Shimasaki said in his critique at the conclusion.
Afterward, Shimasaki described it as a “great experience” that brought his company credibility in the investment community on the biotech industry’s biggest stage.
“I wanted to get the exposure,” Shimasaki said. “With a small company and a limited budget, getting the exposure at a national meeting with international people, with investors of all types, it provides credibility because there is a selection process. The other is the opportunity to be able to get in front of people and exposure.”
Moleculera Labs is a clinical diagnostic laboratory focusing on an underlying autoimmune problem for all neuropsychiatric and behavioral disorders. It offers a series of diagnostic tests developed by co-founder and University of Oklahoma researcher Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D.
Moleculera Labs was one of two Oklahoma companies invited to make short pitches to potential investors in the BIO Startup Stadium competition. On Monday, Blake Hopiavuori, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Lipid Biologics, another spin-out from OU, pitched his startup.
Lipid Biologics is developing a novel molecule that will reinforce the skin resulting in improved hydration, tautness, and skin barrier function for dermatological, medical, and cosmetic applications.
“We’re an early stage company looking to partner with people who can help us build a team and a life science company,” Hopiavuori said. “I thought that was a great place to start. It was my first time giving a pitch in that kind of forum. It was very well received. I thought the questions were appropriate and addressable.”
On Tuesday, Hopiavuori joined about 50 of his fellow Oklahomans staffing an exhibition space that overflowed with meetings with potential business or research partners from around the world.
Among those Oklahomans was Daniel Pullin, dean of the Price College of Business at OU.
“We have so many great opportunities in the biotech sector,” Pullin said. “That’s an area of thriving research for us, certainly at the University of Oklahoma, but also OMRF and all the other institutions that are represented here. It’s a critical pathway for us to diversify Oklahoma’s economy.
Oklahoma Faces in the BIO crowd
Kirsten Jeffreys, project engineer with University of Oklahoma, Stephenson Biomedical Engineering
“I’m here to understand the local industry that is in Oklahoma, as well as to branch out maybe to Kansas or Missouri. I’ve been reaching out, trying to make those connections, trying to understand the industry that is going on that’s really close to OU and Oklahoma so I can be a better resource.”
Eldon Jupe, Ph.D., Clinical Laboratory Director at Progentec Diagnostics
“We have a lot of investor meetings here, and a lot of it is to just broaden our base of contacts. We have a couple of potential partnerships that (CEO) Mohan (Purushothaman) will be looking at.”
Ryan Downing, intellectual property associate at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation“We’re trying to bring in the industry and research collaborations to Oklahoma. Just build the relationships because you never know what’s going to come out of it.”