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A flurry of conference activity; summarized.

November 10, 2011

Hit a few conferences/events over the past three weeks.  Which I will now comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon.

First up, Computing in the Age of the $1,000 Genome, October 24 in San Francisco.  Extremely well done Xconomy event moderated by Luke Timmerman, rock star.  I was there as Intrepid Bioinformatics, one of our portfolio companies.  Super-targeted event for Intrepid.  You can read Luke’s linked summary and get a flavor for the content.  I’ll comment on other aspects.  Speakers included; Hugh Martin, CEO of Pacific Biosciences of California, Inc. [NSDQ: PACB], Cliff Reid, CEO of Complete Genomics Incorporated [NSDQ: GNOM] and Sue Siegel, general partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures.  In the audience attending were Risa Stack, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and David Lowe with Skyline Ventures.  San Francisco, not Louisville, people.  The difference in dynamics is amazing.  And a bit frustrating, too.  It made me take pause to ponder, “how much easier would this be in the Bay Area?”  The guys with Intrepid parlayed that event into some great meetings while out there.  I went with them to meet Mike Hunkapiller and Craig Taylor at Alloy Ventures in Palo Alto.  They were gracious with their time.  [Indulge me with a tangent:  back in 2000 when I was even more naive, Intrepid's CEO Tom McMahon and I got sent to Palo Alto to meet with David Pidwell at Alloy.  Long story Louisville connection, but he was nice to the two stooges from Louisville.  That's when we first met Craig.  And he still talks to us!].

What’s the closest Louisville could come to an event like that?  I’d argue it’s not long-term care.  Maybe fast-casual food, including pizza?  We’ve got some mass and net worth in that sector.  Yum Brands, Incorporated [NYSE: YUM], Papa John’s International, Inc. [NSDQ: PZZA]. Jim Patterson started Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant and Rally’s Hamburgers.  Kent Taylor started Texas Roadhouse, Inc. [NSDQ: TXRH]. Circling back to John Y. Brown, Jr.  Get my drift?  To a lesser extent, perhaps, energy trading?  Summit Energy Services founded by James Headlee.  Genscape, Inc.  Dennis Crum is the CEO of ICAP Energy LLC and founded APB Energy Inc.  But what do I know?

Rolled into The 10th Annual BIO Investor Forum, October 25-26, also in San Francisco.  Also attended by Luke Timmerman.  Seriously, Luke is solid.  We got to chat live over lunch one day.  I was principally ApoVax, Inc. at this event, although I had a few general MetaCyte meetings.  In several discussions I said, “it’s hard to do life science start-ups in Louisville.  It’s really hard to do an immunotherapy company in Louisville.”  I kept hoping someone would at least placate me with a “you can do it!”  No.  Everyone said, “yeah, that’s tough.”  Thanks.  Anyway, I don’t expect short-term wins from a meeting like this, but long-term this will probably, hopefully have been productive.

Next up, the 13th Annual Southeast BIO Investor Forum, November 2-3, in Durham, NC.  First of all, props to Informed Horizons, LLC–they run a good event.  This is a good event, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just not a smörgåsbord of investors and industry.  I get to see my man Mike Gutch, now with MedImmune Ventures.  Mike’s all right in my book.  Met Art Pappas of Pappas Ventures.  I always sort of feel a bit like an outsider.  Well, not me individually, but me being from Kentucky.  The Commonwealth just really doesn’t run in those circles.  Geographically and historically (In 1966, Kentucky became the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to pass its own civil rights law.) of course we’re in the Southeast.  I don’t know what it is.  Within BIO we’re apparently generally Midwest, only sometimes Southeast.  Maybe that’s part of it.  We don’t have a home.

And finally, the 9th Annual MidAmerica Healthcare Venture Forum,  November 8-9, right here in beautiful Louisville, KY.  This is Midwest oriented and done in conjunction with the Mid-America Healthcare Investors Network.  Four MetaCyte companies presented; AllTranz Inc., ApoVax, Inc., Intrepid Bioinformatics Solutions, Inc. and RhinoCyte, Inc.  It was good exposure for Louisville.  And I’ll leave it at that.

Realistically, funding for our companies is going to have to come from outside of Kentucky.  For most, it’s also going to have to come from outside the middle third of the United States.  Not all, but most.  Meaning, dollars will have to come from the coasts.  And that’s going to be somewhat tough.  It means I’ll need to be on the coasts more often.  And it may mean that Louisville has to “lose” a few companies to the coasts.  More on that topic at some other point.

Adios!

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