Danish Biotech Firms Claim Spotlight at Annual DKBIO Conference
Within Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and particularly within the Trade Council, so much of our service, our passion, is hidden. Our work lives behind the scenes, quietly setting the stage to help a particular Danish company try to find their spotlight. That’s the nature of the job. However, sometimes we find that the stage can be a bit bigger, can draw a larger audience, and we find we are no longer behind the scenes. We find ourselves in the roles of director, playwright, and narrator all at once.
Danes, by nature, are a humble people. At least when compared to the typical American, and especially the typical New Yorker. So this quiet behind-the-scenes strategy suits the culture, most of the time. Here in the Trade Council in the New York Consulate General’s office, we often try to challenge this, as competitors for business here will not be so quiet, and will run onto that stage if given the opportunity. Danish Life Science companies have data that can shine all on its own… if given the opportunity to be seen. And in order to fund these companies, CEOs need to tell the story to investors and partners. A typical American CEO or CFO in biotech is at a specialized conference every two weeks, and most meet with investors or analysts nearly weekly. That’s a minimum of 2 conferences a month, and more private meetings per company in the US. How can we help our Danish companies compete for investors and pharmaceutical partners when they cannot realistically be in the US as often?
Danish Life Science companies have data that can shine all on its own… if given the opportunity to be seen.
We knew we needed a platform that could highlight our Danish innovators in a unique way and allow them to create a lasting impression — a platform that would pique the interest of investors, of pharma, and of course, our Danish life science executives, all while engaging the right growth partners and businesses in the US. Thus, a few years ago, in our behind-the-scenes kind of way, we put together an advisory board from our personal network, made up of top investors and business executives from the US, Danish CEOs, and Danish investors to source what they all thought would be the most impactful way to build something.
The result is DKBIO.
DKBIO is our latest effort to blend the best aspects of investor conferences, educational seminars, and partnering meetings into one intensive conference in NYC, a nexus where all these parties can conveniently meet. In 2015, we spoke to a few Danish CEOs, representing companies that already had a foothold in the US or were publicly traded, and representing smaller companies that were just getting familiar with US capital. We were told that while every CEO can think about their core business and their science, discovering the ins-and-outs of a new market, particularly a complicated one with deep pockets like the US, is a challenge. We received questions and interest in learning about the reimbursement environment, US politics, the legal implications of being in the US, how do investors really think, and so much more. Companies wanted to have one-on-one opportunities, and the Americans wanted to do one-on-ones only with companies who were of interest. Once we started asking what would make a conference stand apart, we were flooded with input. It was inspiring. Further, when we spoke to American business partners, we saw enthusiasm behind sponsoring the event, as they see opportunity in Jobs Act growth here in the US from our Danish companies.
DKBIO is our latest effort to blend the best aspects of investor conferences, educational seminars, and partnering meetings into one intensive conference in NYC, a nexus where all these parties can conveniently meet.
The concept was initially supported with a keystone American sponsor and host, McGuireWoods, a law firm who immediately saw the value in growing their network in Scandinavia. Before long, NASDAQ, Citi, BDO, and The Trout Group all joined in as American sponsors. Back home in Denmark, the investors Novo Seeds and Lunbeckfonden Emerge both joined us, and in April 2016, DKBIO16 was debuted, with a cast of approximately 10 Danish companies who came to learn and network. Our companies had 44 individual investor and partnering meetings.
We had speakers from some of the top investment firms, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and experts in FDA policy. It was such a success that Citi asked to host DKBIO17, Novo Seeds wanted to be even more involved, and the enthusiasm behind the event led to the addition of another sponsor, Bristol-Myers Squibb.
And when the curtain came up on DKBIO17, it was a standing room only affair! Hosted in one of the large conference rooms at Citi Headquarters in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood, we had nearly 20 Danish companies represented. Interest from American investors and pharma overwhelmed our 8-side meeting rooms. Over two days, we arranged 96 individual one-to-one meetings! The program included an author of a major health bill in the US, an Executive Medical Director at one of the largest American insurance companies, investors from some of the largest biotech and life science funds in the world, financial and legal experts, and heads of business development (pharma partners) from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Novo Nordisk.
The meeting nearly doubled in size within one year. Clearly, we hit a sweet spot with our audience!
In the Trade Council we have the pleasure seeing firsthand the incredible science, and the strong innovation from Denmark. It is an honor to be able to be behind the scenes helping these companies grow, to be a part of their success. But as we emerge with them on the stage, we are humbled that our platform has allowed for such a jumpstart to this growth and highlights the sector as a whole. Importantly, the feedback we have received gives us a glimpse into what the companies, American and Danish, get out of this platform, particularly as we see new relationships form, new deals being made, and plans laid out for the future for American capital to flow into Danish innovation.
We see new relationships form, new deals being made, and plans laid out for the future for American capital to flow into Danish innovation.
The life science sector back home is at the top of mind in our American network now. In short, the platform seems to be working! DKBIO17 was only a few days ago, but our inbox is already full of people asking to participate next year.
We had better get to work on the next DKBIO!
Megan M. Dow, PhD, is Senior Advisor in Life Sciences at the Danish Trade Council in the US.