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. 

On “Optionality,” Exits and Giving Science the Best Chance to Save Lives

A Southeast Life Sciences Q&A with AskBio Co-Founder and CEO Sheila Mikhail


“The field of gene therapy was in a nuclear winter in 2001,” said AskBio Co-Founder and CEO Sheila Mikhail. 


Motivated by belief in the science of gene therapy in order to give the blind a chance to see or give more children a chance to live full, healthy lives, AskBio used creative financing, grants and selective scientific technology sales (or exits) to keep its vision and work alive. It would be more than 15 years later that the company took on its first round of funding, $235 million.


In October 2020, Bayer acquired AskBio in a deal worth up to $4 billion including potential milestones. As reported by BioSpace, “Under terms of the deal, Bayer will own full rights to AskBio’s pipeline of treatments for Pompe disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as therapies for neuromuscular, central nervous system, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.”


The AskBio team does a much better job telling their story and explaining their science than we ever could. We encourage you to read the pioneering story of Jude Samulski story as published on their website.


What we at Southeast Life Sciences want to share with this community are Sheila’s insights into what mature, late stage life science “startups” need to know when an IPO or exit to a large “strategic” like Bayer looks like it could be the next milestone in the company’s journey. 


Sheila graciously shared her insights with Paul Snyder, VP of Healthcare for Write2Market. We hope you find these insights in the Q&A below informative and useful.


Q: How long had potential acquirers been looking closely at AskBio?


A: “We had long standing connections with large life science companies through collaboration or colleagues. Pfizer’s acquisition of Bamboo Therapeutics was a significant moment for us, and for gene therapy’s maturation into a new pillar of medicine.”


Editor’s note: Bamboo is an AskBio spinout focused on gene therapies for four severe diseases: 


  • Giant axonal neuropathy, a disorder of neurofilaments, the structural framework that helps define the shape and size of nerve cells.
  • Friedreich’s ataxia, a progressive degeneration of nervous tissue in the spinal cord.
  • Canavan’s disease, a progressive deterioration of nerve cells in the brains of infants.
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive degeneration of muscles.


“We realized in 2020 that we had to take more cash for the tools we needed to address the myriad varieties of complex diseases with the synergy of small molecules and gene therapy. Things heated up at JPMorgan 2020 because acquiring our technology and pipeline was almost certainly going to have a higher ROI before an IPO than after.”


Q: What can other innovators, including those that look like AskBio just prior to 2020, learn from your experience as Bayer closed in on acquisition?


A: “Investment bankers talk a lot about ‘optionality.’ It’s a key driver of transaction completion. You are more attractive with multiple options available like an IPO, multiple bidders, the ability to continue to go it alone if needed, or investors willing to put more money into the company.


“If you’re backed into a corner, desperately seeking an exit partner or seven-figure or greater investment, the transaction probably won’t happen. But if you do find yourself in a corner, learn how to bluff really well and never let them see you sweat.”


Q: What, if anything, do you wish you had known before?


A: “I wish I’d had a better idea of just how hard it would be. I kept thinking I might have been making a mistake, that I wasn’t experienced enough, that I wasn’t good or capable enough. But I believed in the technology’s life saving potential and had to give these transformative therapeutics a chance to make lives so much better.”


Q: What advice would you give aspiring women in life sciences, including students at almost any level or clinician innovators with ‘an idea?’


A: “Try to not spend time worrying about other people’s opinions. You will find yourself alone more often than you might like. Continue to advance your science, your therapies. Get them to the clinicians, watch the impact and keep your eyes on the objective. Be true to who you are and do the best you can by the science, by the patients, by the employees and by the science and technology.”


Southeast Life Sciences thanks Sheila for sharing her insights with us. We hope to see you 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

The Frontier of Precision Based Behavioral Health: SE Color Winner Spotlight: Polaris Genomics

Improving the antiquated,  inadequate “Gold Standard” for PTSD diagnosis and treatment


Charles Cathlin wanted to be a pilot. With a sister serving in the U.S. Air Force and a predisposition for science and technology, Colorado Springs was calling. But…


“It seemed like everyone knew I was color blind except me,” he said. 


Nevertheless, Charles served six years in the Air Force as a bioenvironmental engineer working to mitigate or eliminate environmental hazards in industrial arenas like aircraft maintenance facilities. After deployments to Albania, Mozambique and the Middle East, Charles joined the United States Public Health Service Corps’ division on emergency response and preparedness in August 2001. His department was responsible for the medical response to the terror attacks on New York and Virginia the very next month.


“We knew how to protect first responders and uniformed service members from the myriad environmental hazards they faced in response to the events of September 2001,” Charles said. “But there was no protection at all from the mental health impacts responders inevitably faced.”


In 2016, he learned of pioneering PTSD biomarkers and genomics research conducted by Dr. Rachel Yehuda at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in conjunction with Dr. Florian Holsboer at the Max Planck Institute.


An aging, inadequate “Gold Standard” for PTSD diagnosis

The current gold standard for PTSD diagnosis is a self-reporting survey, Charles stated in his winning pitch to the Southeast Life Sciences 2021 SE Color panel. Bias, stigma and the variety of symptoms are just three challenges to diagnosing PTSD. Currently, there are 22 veteran suicides daily.


“The current system lets people fall off the cliff while the ambulance waits at the bottom,” Charles said. “We’re building guardrails to intervene ahead of the tragic outcomes that come from undiagnosed, untreated behavioral health disorders.”


Charles co-founded Maryland-based Polaris Genomics to identify earlier and more effectively diagnose and treat mental health disorders. Polaris licensed the PTSD biomarker patent from Mt. Sinai and expanded its capability from 3 genes to more than 1,000 with correlating mental health conditions. The team then built the TruNorth Platform, a bioinformatics engine to ingest genomic information, analyze it and apply AI for predictive modeling and reporting for clinical use.


Editor’s note: At the end of his service with USPHS, Charles spent 10 years at the FDA including serving as the Chief of Neurology and Radiology Devices.


The frontier of precision based behavioral health 

Polaris is a veteran-owned business that remains committed to its founding mission of improving the lives of U.S. military service members and veterans living with behavioral health conditions such as PTSD. Over the last 18 months, an evolving behavioral health landscape amid the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency for advances in diagnostics and treatment for many more populations. Answering a calling to serve, Polaris officially launches with an expanded mission addressing:


  • Veterans and active-duty US military service members,
  • First responders, frontline workers, and individuals in high-risk occupations, and
  • Trauma-exposed communities at large.

Building on research into the biological basis of PTSD and other neuropsychiatric conditions, the team at Polaris is working to develop the frontier of precision behavioral health with the first objective and evidence-based diagnostics and therapeutics.


“Experiencing PTSD is not exclusive to veterans,” Charles said. “Just look at the hand that healthcare workers and first responders have been dealt in dealing with Covid-19 and the mental health repercussions they will continue to face in the foreseeable future.”


As of this publication date, Polaris is completing validation on a clinical product in partnership with Sanford Health, while laying out a Series A funding strategy for an early 2022 push. 


Charles Cathlin

“We have goals set for science and product development, finance fundraising, team building, marketing and business development,” Charles said. “We want to form a company with the right people. Failing to do so can cause a lot of chaos with the wrong people in roles necessary to move the company forward. We spend a great deal of time on team building and development because we know how important it is to get it right.”


“Scientifically, unlike cancer, you can’t see or biopsy within mental health conditions. We’re doing some of the work needed to identify the biological underpinnings of those conditions with validation and research partners at Sanford Health and Defense Research and Development Canada.”


In addition to the fundraising plan mentioned previously, Polaris’s marketing and business development efforts center around gathering as much input from their network, including KOLs, as possible to position the technology for successful commercialization.


Finding the right, ripe markets for early commercialization, while building a path to providers

“Commercialization is a top area of focus at the moment,” Charles said. “We are talking to potential customers for feedback and input. There are some interesting therapeutic products being developed by the pharmaceutical companies. But identifying patients for clinical trials is proving difficult for them. Adding a genomic component to the PTSD diagnosis pathway could provide a significant boost for their recruitment efforts.”


“The provider community in the PTSD arena will be slower to adopt this technology,” Charles said. “Shifting from self-reported surveys, observation and conversation to utilization of genomic, bioinformatic data and AI will be a heavy lift in the clinical community. The research market and potential pharmaceutical market will support our work while we continue to educate clinicians.”


We applaud Charles and his team’s noble, novel approach to an unmet need that may well save thousands of lives and improve the lives of millions more that suffer PTSD. From their own story, “The team has garnered numerous awards, ranks, titles, and accomplishments, ranging from captain to engineer, Purple Heart recipient to medical doctor, virologist and immunologist, 9/11 responder to Iraq War veteran, and PhD to Homeland Security Public Health Officer amid the threats of SARS and anthrax.”


Watch Charles’s winning pitch here.


About Southeast Life Sciences

Southeast Life Sciences 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.



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.

Here are the Highlights from the Virtual 2021 SE Color Pitches/Women@SLS Conference

On Thursday, June 24, Southeast Life Sciences hosted the virtual SE Color Pitches and Women@SLS Conference that featured a dynamic group of presenters and speakers discussing some of the biggest challenges that women and minorities continue to face in the industry today. 

Here are some of the key insights and takeaways from this year’s event. 


SE Color Pitches Summary

Keynote with Dr. Melanie Ivarsson 

Dr. Melanie Ivarsson, Senior Vice President & Chief Development Officer with Moderna, kicked off the SE Color Pitch event in a fireside chat with Dr. Jayne Morgan, Executive Director of the Covid Task Force at Piedmont Healthcare. 

Melanie and Jayne started with an overview of Melanie’s career, spanning her childhood to her current position at Moderna. Melania recounts her childhood through her PhD and path to Moderna. She makes a note to compare her parent’s education opportunities, particularly for her mother, stating that education for women has moved “from a luxury, to being in the room but the minority, to where we are today.” 

The discussion then turned to Moderna’s path from a relative start up to creating one of the most important products in our lifetimes. When Melanie first started at Moderna she was told that she would work on a “side project” on Covid, but within three weeks it would become the focus of the company. 

Moving on, Melanie and Jayne discussed Moderna’s leadership role in health equity in their Covid vaccine clinical trial, finishing with the highest percentage of minority enrollment of any company. Melanie noted, “ you don’t have to be one of the big giants to be the one who changes the way we do things” 

There was much more to the fireside chat, so be sure to watch it all here

SE Color Pitches 

The meeting continued with seven presentations from minority-led organizations based in the southeast. The winner of the event and the $10,000 prize was TruGenomix, led by Charles Cathlin. You can see the TruGenomix pitch here

To view all of the presentations, check out our YouTube page



Mentorship vs. Championship

Deanne Kasim, Executive Director of Health Policy for Change Healthcare, touched on the key differences between having a mentor and having a champion in the workplace during her opening keynote. While mentors are always good to have, champions go above and beyond when it comes to your success. In addition to sharing advice and giving guidance as a mentor, champions are there to open doors for you and put your name in the running, playing a much more active role in your success. 

“Men have evolved into natural champions and I feel like they’ve had more opportunity to do so, while women have become aces at mentoring each other,” Deanne explained. 

So, how do we cross-pollinate these roles and connections between men and women? Deanne’s number one answer was networking, whether it be in-person or online. Opportunities are increasing for women in the life sciences despite the fact that it’s still a male dominated industry, so it’s crucial to continue moving forward and challenging biases by building a community of allies for the current and future generation of leaders. You can watch the opening keynote here. 

Finding the right seat at the table 

Tiffany Wilson, President & CEO of The Science Center, moderated the panel discussion on expanding the representation of women in the boardroom. Although there is some room for improvement in the number of women on life sciences boards, there are opportunities out there.

Tara Kochis-Stach, Slone Partners President, shared that networking is critical to find these kinds of opportunities. Being bold about what you want to do and reaching out to the people that can help you get there will create opportunities for yourself. However, making sure you’re joining the right board for you is just as crucial. 

“Don’t pick whatever board offers you a position just because you want to be on a board,” stated Valerie Darling, CEO & Chief Business Officer of Life Science Management Consultants. “It needs to match with your lifestyle and current job in terms of time commitment.” 

Arlene Morris, Board of Director Member for the MUSC Foundation for Research & Development, also suggested, “Interview with everyone on the board to make sure you gel with them and get along. If you know people on the board already, reach out to them to see what the environment is like.” 

Watch the full panel here. 

Identify the champions of your technology, and fast  

The panel discussion on what early-stage companies should know as they begin sourcing their first customers, moderated by Jesse Goodwin, PhD, featured insights from Vice President of Client Success at Pieces Technologies Lehanne Doyle, Senior Director of Clinical Operations at Moterum Technologies Lauren Rashford and ASKBio CEO Sheila Mikhail

Lehanne stressed the importance of finding several key champions in the facility to help support the change in process when your new technology is implemented. Identifying the procurement or IT personnel is also critical, as projects can easily fail because they weren’t involved early on. 

Lauren agreed that relationship management is key during this process. Finding these individuals that will be doing the day-to-day tasks and having their support will help leverage and drive your technology through the system smoothly. Click here to watch the full panel. 

Breast cancer treatment has come a long way, but there is always room for improvement 

This year’s conference ended with a closing keynote on the evolution of care and opportunities for improvement in breast cancer, featuring presentations from Regina Hampton, MD, FACS, Medical Director of Breast Center at Doctors Community Hospital, and Nikki Jensen, Vice President at Essentially Women. 

While Dr. Hampton illustrated the progress made in breast cancer treatment with the shift to patient-centered care and the passing of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act in 1998, Nikki touched on some of the necessary steps that have not yet been taken when it comes to fully protecting and accommodating breast cancer patients and survivors. This includes breast prostheses and how they have not yet gotten the same treatment from the CMS that other breast cancer treatments have received. Watch the closing keynote in its entirety here. 

Southeast Life Sciences would like to thank everyone who participated in or attended this year’s SE Color Pitch/Women@SLS Conference, and the event sponsors who made it all possible. If you were unable to attend the live event, visit our YouTube channel to watch the recordings.

Southeast Life Sciences Announces the winner of the SE Color Pitch


July 6, 2021 – The first SE Color Pitch event, hosted by Southeast Life Sciences, was held on June 24, 2021, featuring top minority-led, early-stage life science companies from the southeast United States.

We’d like to congratulate the winner of the SE Color Pitch event, TruGenomix, which will receive the $10,000 prize, sponsored by Moderna. Presenting for TruGenomix was Charles Cathlin. CEO & Founder.

TruGenomix is a precision behavioral health company focused on advancing the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our behavioral health platform incorporates our core products, TruGen-1and TruBase. TruGen-1 is a 1000 gene neuropsychiatric panel, designed in collaboration with Illumina, that includes our patented markers for PTSD predisposition. TruBase is our custom-built machine learning and bioinformatics engine, which is designed to support behavioral health research, clinical decision-making, and biomarker discovery.

See the presentation HERE

Congratulations Charles & TruGenomix!

About SE Color

SE Color, a division of Southeast Life Sciences, was established in 2020. SE Color is an organization designed to support minority life science entrepreneurship, increase investment in minority-owned life science businesses, and improve minority access to information and clinical opportunities. 


About Southeast Life Sciences

In 2019, the Southeastern Medical Device Association (SEMDA) and Southeast BIO (SEBIO) officially merged to form Southeast Life Sciences. The merger created a single, unified platform for medtech and bioscience innovation, partnering and investor relations.