Five Questions with Megan Dow
With Denmark In New York’s premiere life science conference slated to open next month in NYC, DKBIO’s founder opens up about what makes Denmark a global leader in biotech.
A European leader for clinical research, home to one of the largest medical technology industries in the world, and birthplace of Medicon Valley, Europe’s premiere life sciences cluster, Denmark has long been a leader in global life sciences and deeply respected as an international health laboratory. So much so, in fact, that Denmark’s biotech and pharma cluster maintains its outstanding global reputation for cutting-edge research in cancer, the central nervous system (CNS), diabetes care and within inflammatory and infectious diseases.
Enter DKBIO: Denmark In New York’s annual life science showcase bridging Danish biotech excellence with US venture capital. Now in its fourth edition, the DKBIO series has redefined the Denmark-US life science connection, bringing leading Danish biotech and medtech companies center stage and building powerful networks connecting both sides of the Atlantic.
Denmark In New York sat down with Megan Dow, Ph.D., Senior Life Science Advisor at the Consulate General of Denmark in New York and DKBIO founder, to talk about her expectations for DKBIO2019 and how her highly curated life science conference has quickly transformed into one of the leading biotech events of its kind.
Denmark In New York: DKBIO2019 marks the fourth edition of the successful DKBIO series. For the uninitiated, what exactly is DKBIO and, more importantly, how do you think this year’s DKBIO will stand out from the last three conferences?
Megan Dow: All industries have partnering meetings and financially focused meetings. But a fusion between the two is not as common. We start there, but with that special twist that we highlight and focus on our content spotlighting the innovation coming from Denmark within biotechnology and medical devices for our American-based investor and partner networks. We then add topics to our agenda that are critical to both our Danish and American audiences, engagement at the highest level with our Ambassador, Consul General of Denmark in NY, and the result from this recipe is a meeting that brings business development, investors, market insight, and networking all under one roof.
This year we are focusing on patients, their needs, their wants, and their data. Each year DKBIO is the result of inspiration from our Danish companies and their collaborators, on the passions that drive their science forward, and I would like to thank them for pushing medical innovation that’s tailored to the patients in need. Today, we have twenty-one companies presenting and attending DKBIO, representing incredible strategies for patients in fields spanning rare and orphan diseases to oncology. But it’s the Danish companies that set this meeting apart, and this year, we have representation across the board, and our investors are excited! Our line-up this year for speakers is also differentiated from any other meeting, and we are thrilled to be able to put it together while providing value to our Danish portfolio.
DNY: Last year, DKBIO was in Boston and this year it returns to NYC. Is DKBIO going to continue moving around or will it remain in the Big Apple?
In Boston, we were able to learn from some of the best VCs and entrepreneurs in the world. Boston was full of inspiration and roadmaps. NYC and the Tri-State area, however, are home to many of the larger partners and investors. Perhaps the meeting will take an alternate year model and that is something we are strongly considering now that we have our Boston office with our Head of Health Trade — North America, Joan Hentze, at the helm. The synergies between the Boston innovation ecosystem and Denmark are clear and I for one am excited to see the great work to come from this growing collaboration of innovation hubs. While we are in New York, however, we are able to bring more accretive and tangible investment and partnering opportunities for our participants who have established their story and pipeline. We are fortunate to have sponsors anchored in both cities so stay tuned on DKBIO locales, and if the focus alternates bi-annually!
DNY: A hot topic in the life science community right now is how political risks and the global macroeconomic trends affect the life science sector. Why is DKBIO important for both Danish companies and American investors given these market conditions?
In our view, there are a lot of factors at play here. Global hiccups like FDA shutdowns and trade wars can have ripple effects on companies and investors. Milestones may be affected and access to cash may be prioritized over its deployment. Coming tangentially to these macro events, the life science industry, particularly in biotech, has been riding some impossible sounding valuations — valuations that are exciting for the companies involved, but that may limit the deal-making ability of the involved parties, restrict biodollars available for future deals, and set precedents that may be unrealistic for competitors. In general, European companies strike lower valuations and market caps than their US-based competitors. In our view, this is a huge opportunity for investors and partners looking for capital efficient pipeline additions and collaborations. Why? Science is not restricted to the US!
DNY: It seems like this conference is a great opportunity for both companies and investors to connect and create value for each other. How do you make it possible every year?
Nothing happens in isolation! DKBIO is the result of a massive collaboration effort. My partner in Invest in Denmark, Jannik Schmidt, together with our incredible team of associates, works tirelessly in ensuring we hit the right content notes to match the activity and energy from Denmark and the US each year. We work intimately with our sponsors each year, our co-founding sponsors, McGuireWoods LLP, Novo Holdings, Lundbeckfonden Emerge, Nasdaq, and Solebury Trout. In 2018, Back Bay Life Science Advisors, Back Bay Healthcare Capital and EY joined DKBIO as sponsors, and they are all back with us in 2019.
Put all these leaders on one project and the result is buzzing with energy focused within life science innovation and value creation. We get insight from our sponsors on what trends they are seeing, we draw from our deep networks in creating a speaker list that sets DKBIO apart, and we listen to our management teams of the participating Danish companies. And, importantly, the meeting is accretive to sponsors, companies, and investors.
DNY: DKBIO2019 will also set the stage for meaningful panel discussions on dominant trends in the biotech and life sciences sectors. What are some of the conversations and topics that you anticipate will dominate this year’s conference?
Based on all the feedback from above I think we came up with some truly unique angles this year. 2019 will focus on our industry’s original inspiration: the patients. In fact, kicking off our meeting we are honoured to hear from four patients who have participated in clinical trials. What was it like? How did it affect their lives? What can sponsors learn from these patients, our collaborators in the field? The patients are the inspiration for what this industry does, and it is thrilling to know we will hear from them. We are grateful to the Parkinson’s Foundation, JDRF, and the National Psoriasis Foundation, as well as Trialjectory for this opportunity.
Following on this theme, Wired journalist Louise Matsakis will probe her panellists on how we can functionalize all the data being generated form personalized medicine and more for healthcare, and where this data will lead our industry in the future. We will also discuss how new breakthrough technologies and discoveries change the very questions we are able to ask and the patients we can help. Ultimately, how will these innovations hit the market? Value-based pricing may be the answer for personalized medicine, and during DKBIO2019 we will hear from one of the industry’s leaders and innovators in developing these models. But, most importantly, what separates DKBIO2019 is that we have 21 companies representing Danish leadership and science!
DKBIO2019 will take place on April 10th and 11th in New York City. Register here to participate.
Ema Seferovic is the Press and Communications Intern at DenmarkInNY.