Pulling research out of higher ed and into a high potential commercial pathway: Q&A with Bayer’s Hanna Eilken

No matter the brilliance of the research, or researcher, life science innovation relies on a rigorous regulatory and commercialization pathway before its potential to improve lives can enter patient care, at almost any scale.


Universities rely on their technology transfer offices and commercial entities like Bayer to pull high potential research and technologies out of the academic or research environment into clinical utility.


Dr. Hanna Eilken, strategic alliance manager with Bayer, provides insights into her organization’s red flags, processes, requirements and what she wishes more researchers knew about Bayer’s methodology for pulling research out of a university setting and into your commercialization pathway in the following Q&A. 




  • What attracts you to research coming out of a higher education setting?


Drug discovery and development becomes increasingly challenging with long development times, increasing costs, growing competition, and insufficient predictability of translation of preclinical data. Thus, engaging with universities and associated research institutions, to join forces and complement competencies is an important pillar to drive innovation in pharmaceutical companies. Academic research provides access to scientific excellence, disruptive technologies and cutting-edge approaches that are a source of creative solutions which are required to successfully develop effective treatment options, and to bring innovation to patients. 


Bayer has recognized that complementing its in-house expertise with the know-how of academic scientists is mutually beneficial for both partners. We set up and execute co-operations in a collaborative fashion with shared risks and rewards. For example, Bayer has established the Joint Precision Cardiology Lab with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard which aims to combine Broad’s innovative methods for basic science discovery such as single cell sequencing and clinical expertise, with Bayer’s long experience in drug development to discover new potential therapeutics in cardiovascular diseases. Thus, we combine our expertise to jointly enable the development of new therapies for patients with cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure.


  • What are the top red flags when engaging with academic institutions?


Usually, scientists in a university setting have the same motivation as pharmaceutical companies: bringing innovative therapeutics to patients. However, bringing together academia and industry also means – for both parties – accepting different cultures, mindsets and approaches. Often, both partners have the same goals but different ways of achieving them. A red flag would be to not: be open for new ideas, willingness to adapt, constant alignment, collaboration and personal interaction on the scientist and leadership level. From my perspective, it is very important to invest time to understand each other and build a healthy relationship. 


  • Where do your interactions begin and how do they progress especially regarding the people and what you need from them? 


Interactions begin through various channels, e.g. through Bayer scientists, BD&L, Open Innovation and Leaps teams who are pro-actively scouting for technologies, assets and expertise that synergize with our in-house activities. In addition, we are often approached by academic researchers who wish to discuss their innovation with Bayer. We ask them to present their data and invite them to jointly discuss opportunities and potential challenges of the technology in non-confidential conversations. In the event there is mutual interest, we align on details of how a collaboration should look like and what partnership model we would pursue. 


  • At what point do you closely examine IP and what do you require to proceed?


Patent protection is a prerequisite for drug development in a company like Bayer, and it is essential that the patent term is sufficiently long after commercialization. We review the prospective patent portfolio early in the due diligence process. 


  • What do you wish more tech transfer officers knew about your methodology for pulling research out of a university setting and into your commercialization pathway? What do you wish more researchers in higher education knew about what’s needed to successfully transfer their work into a commercialization pipeline? 


While many scientists do have a basic understanding of the drug development process, it is important to understand how they need to tailor their program towards commercialization. Talking to investors, big pharma or other potential partners can help to resolve some of the open questions and better understand how these potential partners are thinking. Many Tech Transfer Offices possess a solid understanding of what big pharma is looking for and they work with their investigators to identify gaps and shape a program towards commercialization. 


Bayer has recently launched a few programs which are tailored to bring innovators from academia and young start-ups closer to big pharma, for example mentoring programs, Bayer-Access and the Center for Regulatory Excellence. In the Bayer Access program, Bayer offers expert guidance from multiple business and scientific perspectives, e.g. preclinical pharmacology, data science, drug discovery sciences, formulation and BD&L, and we jointly mentor the scientists, providing expertise and recommendations in a 1:1 session. 


The Center for Regulatory Excellence is a novel initiative by Bayer and MassBio enabling academic scientists and young start-ups to learn from regulatory experts. We offer Think-Tank, educational sessions where we share our knowledge, expertise and experience when working with the FDA and other regulatory authorities. In addition, innovators can also apply for a selective 1:1 mentoring session with Bayer regulatory experts to discuss their project-specific questions.


In depth conversations as described above are extremely valuable for scientists and help to understand the complexity of the drug development process.


AdvanSE 2021 is fast approaching! Will you join us?

Southeast Life Sciences thanks Hanna for sharing her insights with us. Come see the best of what the southeastern U.S. life science ecosystem has to offer at the 2021 edition of our flagship event, AdvanSE, October 27 – 29 in Charleston, SC. 

Life Science Investors, Find Your Next Investable Opportunity and Network with Your Peers at AdvanSE 2021

Registration for the Charleston event, October 27-29, 2001 is free for qualified investors


Life science investors, the 2021 edition of Southeast Life Science’s flagship conference, AdvanSE, is fast approaching. It is Oct. 27-29 at the Wild Dunes Resort outside of Charleston, SC. In case you are unaware, Southeast Life Sciences was formed in 2019 from the merger of Southeast BIO and the Southeastern Medical Device Association. 


The AdvanSE conference is the premier regional conference for life science innovation. Over the course of its history this event has contributed to 790 funding transactions and $6.2 billion raised through 500 distinct investors.


We are building levels of investor and partnering opportunities you might experience at leading national events hosted by BIO and Advamed. AdvanSE is the place to find your next, de-risked investable opportunity in the life sciences.


Peer-to-peer events exclusively for investors

This year we are planning networking events exclusively for investors and large corporate attendees to ensure that you get the best experience possible. We believe this is one of the best reasons to attend. These events include: 

  • Oct. 27 morning: Golf available on the morning of October 27
  • Oct. 27 morning: SE Surge, an invitation-only event designed for large corporate attendees and research universities in the southeast. Investors are invited. 
  • Oct. 27 afternoon: Boat tour of the Charleston harbor with investors and corporate attendees 
  • Oct. 27 evening: Cocktail reception with investors and corporate attendees
  • Oct. 27 evening: Dinner with investors and corporate attendees (featuring a low-country boil)


We have the ecosystem’s health and safety front of mind for AdvanSE 2021

Last month we announced that all attendees and staff are required to be fully vaccinated* to attend the event. We determined that the AdvanSE Conference can be the most robust, productive and interactive conference possible by requiring vaccinations for entry. We have not made a decision on masks or available on-site testing, but we will continue to update our safety requirements. 


The advantage to investing in innovative southeast life science companies

The Southeast United States has all of the resources needed for, and a proven track record of, life science innovation from its infancy through development, testing, regulatory submission, entry to patient care, growth — and in some cases very high value acquisitions.


The Southeastern United States has the technical talent, clinicians, patients, connectors, collaborators, quality of life and lifestyle that creates a critical mass for efficient life science innovation and commercialization.


Registration is free for qualified life science investors

If you have any questions, or would like to request gratis registration as a qualified investor, please contact me via email: jrupp@southeastlifesciences.org

Taking shape: A look at the breakout sessions at AdvanSE 2021

Southeast Life Science’s flagship event, AdvanSE, is fast approaching; October 27-29, 2021 in Charleston, SC. Every year, it presents a powerful opportunity for life science innovators and entrepreneurs to showcase their companies to an audience of discriminating investors.

The 2021 program is taking shape. Below are the breakout sessions confirmed to date. 

Here to stay: how hybrid engagements accelerate innovation for med affairs and commercial teams. As teams adapt to a post-Covid world, how can virtual engagement increase its value provision to medical affairs and commercial teams further accelerating commercialization? What strategies and tools should leadership of life science companies embrace as a hybrid approach to medical affairs and commercial programs becomes the norm and starts to mature? Sponsored by Write2Market

Diagnostic: Moving to the forefront of Global Healthcare. The COVID virus has demonstrated the incredible power of molecular diagnostics, and global informatics, to track constantly-mutating infectious diseases, and to accelerate development of a new arsenal of vaccines and therapeutics.  This panel will discuss some of the trends, innovators, and future directions for investments that help bring about the long awaited promise of “personalized medicine.”

MRNA: Transformational technology. mRNA has become a widely-known term after Moderna and Pfizer developed vaccines using the technology, but there is much more potential than that. This panel will cover the background on how the vaccines were created so quickly using MRNA and examine the potential of the technology in the future.

FDA update. The pandemic created a situation where the FDA needed to move more quickly than any time in its history. This panel will cover what the FDA did to move quickly on covid-related products, while exploring what long-term changes might result from the successes. Sponsored by MRC Global 

Business Opportunities for Small Companies in Telemedicine. Telemedicine took a dramatic leap forward during the pandemic, going from a tool to an integral part of the entire process. This panel will discuss these changes and the implications for topics such as clinical research, precision medicine, pharmacogenomics, and orphan disease treatment. 

AI and Applications in Life Sciences. The FDA has put out guidance on how to put together change management and specific protocols to help companies using AI. This panel will discuss topics as the next frontier in AI – apps that – and the convergence between industries in healthcare. The panel will also look at the trends in investment – where is money being deployed and what technologies are receiving new investment as a result of covid. 

Judo and Life Science Investing. The Smart Money in Life Science Investing is Smart Everywhere, In Every Phase Including the Supply Chain and Manufacturing. The Pandemic taught us that “just in time” and “lean” processes are easily and thoroughly disrupted when multiple environmental changes take place. How do you reduce that risk? Make sure your team has the right expertise in manufacturing and supply chain then learn to play Judo with suppliers.

Successful Implementation of Remote Working Models. This interactive panel and discussion will cover the increasingly prevalent “virtual” work environment and how it may positively impact life science companies. Leveraging national and international resources is more viable now than ever, and can be a more efficient way to accelerate business growth. We will explore models and implementation strategies for remote and fractional executive management, as well as preclinical and clinical research.

Stay tuned for keynote updates as we confirm them.

Southeast Life mission is to cultivate, convene, and connect the Southeast entrepreneurial ecosystem to foster life science innovation & investment across the region for the greater good. We facilitate connections, conversations and capital investments through continuous networking, education and funding opportunities for life-science innovators of all shapes and sizes.

Note: After careful consideration and consultation with internal and external health and safety experts, Southeast Life Sciences has decided to require all attendees and staff to be fully vaccinated* to attend the event. We determined that the AdvanSE Conference can be the most robust, productive, and interactive conference possible by requiring vaccinations for entry.

Learn more.

Five reasons you can’t afford to miss the 2021 AdvanSE Conference

southeast life sciences pitchrounds

The opportunity to attend the premier event for life science professionals in the Southeast is on for October 27-29 in Charleston, SC! 

Here are five reasons you should attend:


The SEBIO and SEMDA Conferences were always highly rated by attendees for value, information, and logistics, but the item that receives the most attention is the excellent networking that occurs throughout the conference. After nearly two years of few in-person events, we are preparing the best networking opportunities available. We will host receptions for both SE Color and Women@SLS, have two high-quality receptions on Wednesday and Thursday, and a (tentative) reception on Friday, so there will be plenty of time to connect with old friends and colleagues and make new connections. 

1:1 Partnering.

SE Connect, the one-on-one partnering system at the AdvanSE Conference, is one of our most popular features. Throughout the two days of the conference, we expect to host hundreds of meetings. Even if you register for the virtual event, SE Connect facilitates live partnering, so you’ll get the same experience. We’ll launch the app well ahead of the conference, so the sooner you sign up, the better your chances of scheduling time with the people and companies you want to meet!

Presenting Companies.

The AdvanSE Conference is the premier regional event for life science innovation. We expect to host the top companies in the region for presentations that are open to everyone on October 28. Later-stage companies will present during breakout sessions later in the day. 

Keynote Speakers & Panels, and More.

There’s so much going on at this year’s conference that you’ll be hard-pressed to take it all in. Our keynotes include a presentation from Silicon Valley Bank on the investment landscape in the region, top investors speaking to the SVB data and how it compares to “on the ground,” a former Walmart executive, and more.  

Education Programming. 

With more than dozen breakout sessions, there’s sure to be a topic that will enhance your knowledge and provide lasting value. Although there is no theme for the conference, many of our sessions will explore a post-covid world from the perspectives of the FDA, Artificial Intelligence, Telehealth, and more! Plus, we will have presentations for Women@SLS and SE Color. Visit the main event page for more information.


Southeast Life Sciences AdvanSE Safety Protocol Update

Coronavirus header

As announced last week, we are following the situation with the Delta variant of Covid closely and remain optimistic in our ability to safely host the 2021 AdvanSE Conference in October as planned. Today we would like to update you on our safety protocol for the event. 

After careful consideration and consultation with internal and external health and safety experts, Southeast Life Sciences has decided to require all attendees and staff to be fully vaccinated* to attend the event. We determined that the AdvanSE Conference can be the most robust, productive and interactive conference possible by requiring vaccinations for entry.

We have not made a decision on masks or available on-site testing, but we will continue to update you on our safety requirements as soon as possible. 

We are working with Destination South, our conference planning team, on protocols, such as uploading your vaccination card, to make the process as simple as possible for you. There will be multiple ways to confirm your vaccination status. 

If you are not comfortable with an in-person event, please consider registering for the virtual component. We plan to have all conference sessions available virtually starting on the morning of October 28.

Naturally, we can’t wait to see you.

*For the purposes of right of entry to AdvanSE 2021, a person is considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

About Southeast Life Sciences

SLS cultivates, convenes, and connects the Southeast entrepreneurial ecosystem to foster life science innovation & investment across the region for the greater good.

We’re the network that brings all southern life science innovation together in one place: for investors, we bring your next investable opportunity; for young companies, we introduce you to your investors and potential partners; universities & corporations, move your research or innovation into the commercialization pathway; for solution providers, we bring your next clients.

We are the proud creator and producer of the AdvanSE Life Sciences Conference, an annual gathering of the most innovative life sciences companies, researchers and discriminating, accomplished investors and corporations that want to do business with them. 

The 2021 AdvanSE Life Science Conference, Southeast Life Science’s flagship event, will be October 27-29, 2020 in Charleston, SC. 

In 48 hours at AdvanSE, investors can see the very best of what the southeast life sciences innovation ecosystem has to offer.


Seeking the Best in the Southeast Life Science Innovation Ecosystem

SE PitchRounds is Southeast Life Sciences’ presentation program held during the AdvanSE Life Sciences Conference, October 27-29 in Isle of Palms, SC (just outside Charleston). 


According to pitchbook data accumulated by our leadership committee more than 400 late and early stage companies have participated in previous SE BIO and SEMDA forums. To date, they have raised more than $6 billion in public and private funding. 


Companies from seed stage to those looking for expansion capital are encouraged to apply to present. It is not only a way for innovative early and later stage life science companies to highlight their technologies and interact with investors, successful applicants enjoy access to the following:


  • Mentoring to refine your pitches leading up to the event,
  • The opportunity to present to the full conference on October 28 (startup and seed stage),
  • The opportunity to present to breakout session attendees (later stage companies, which we define as those with Series A rounds complete or institutional investors),
  • In depth workshops on topics such as Your 100 Day Plan, interactive Persuasive Pitch Coaching, and more.
  • Networking opportunities with investors, prospective partners, and solutions providers. 


We tell our investor colleagues, in 48 hours at AdvanSE, you can see the very best of what the southeast life sciences innovation ecosystem has to offer. If that’s you, apply today.


Successful applicants qualify for two deeply discounted full conference registrations. 


Three weeks before [the conference], SweetBio wasn’t even incorporated. Six months later, Innova and MB Venture Partners co-led a $900,000 seed round to support FDA 510(k) clearance and commercialization of the company’s Guided Tissue Regeneration Membrane (GTR).” – Kayla Rodriguez, COO, SweetBio. Read more


Only applications from southeastern United States-based businesses in the life sciences will be considered.  Please do not apply if you do not fit the criteria. If you have a question, please direct inquiries to Jason Rupp at jrupp@southeastlifesciences.org.