Ascend BioVentures keeps overhead at a minimum to focus on the science
Ascend BioVentures puts a unique spin on the concept of pharmaceutical accelerators, says Elaine Hamm, Ph.D., the company’s founding CEO.
It is a lean operation that features its own crowd-sourcing element in a diverse, 12-member advisory committee.
“I think what we are doing as a model is very innovative,” Hamm said. “Our advisory committee is made up of successful pharmaceutical entrepreneurs and members of the pharma community, as well as national life science venture capitalists.”
Ascend was founded in July 2018 as a subsidiary of i2E in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and the Presbyterian Health Foundation. As subsidiary, Ascend leverages i2E’s infrastructure and staff. It’s a concept that frees Hamm to focus on the projects she is considering rather than day-to-day management of new ventures.
“It allows me to spend more time on the actual science and evaluating the technologies and less on payroll, HR, and accounting,” she said.
Hamm came to Ascend with a long track record of work as a scientist – she was educated at OU as a microbiologist – who developed patented intellectual property in her lab. She also worked in technology transfer for OU and in executive management for several life science startups (she is currently is President and Chief Operating Officer of Otologic Pharmaceutics).
Promising technologies are brought to Ascend from any number of sources, including its partnering organizations, through Dr. Hamm’s network, bio-related conferences, or even advisory committee members themselves. Managers of federal laboratories, such as the National Cancer Institute, have also reached out to Ascend to look at some of their technologies.
Hamm takes a deep dive into the most promising discoveries and creates the scientific and business case for each technology.
For example, after reviewing 30 to 40 technologies in December, Hamm selected four to present to the advisory committee. Two were Oklahoma-based, one from Texas and the fourth was a referral from an Oklahoma entrepreneur.
“With the help of the advisory committee, Ascend makes recommendations for each of those technologies,” she said. The recommendations can range from ‘form a company’ to ‘obtain additional data.’
“Not every technology needs to become a company.”
Hamm will tell Ascend BioVenture’s story to the bioscience world in June when she accompanies the Oklahoma delegation to the annual BIO International Convention in Philadelphia.
“I will be promoting the technologies that we have taken on and I will also be looking for the next blockbuster drug that we can commercialize in Oklahoma,” she said. “In addition, I met a lot of our advisory committee members through going to events like this, which I think is an important aspect of BIO.”
For more information on Ascend and its advisory committee, visit https://ascendbioventures.com/