Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s 29th annual Medical Device Conference was back in-person for the first time since 2020 and better than ever.
The speakers included an impressive “who’s who” of the medtech industry, including Fogarty’s own Andrew Cleeland, who joined Karun Naga from The Foundry and Amr Salahieh of Shifamed on a panel discussing the process of nurturing a new medical device project – from identifying the right concept to funding and developing it.
Other Fogarty connections included Gabriel Sanchez, CEO of Fogarty company-in-residence Enspectra Health, who participated on an artificial intelligence (AI) panel, and a women’s networking event in which Fogarty board member Angela Macfarlane, host mentor for the Ferolyn Fellowship leadership training program, interviewed Fellowship alum and former mentee Ridhi Tariyal, CEO of NextGen Jane, Inc.
The event reception and dinner was kicked off with a welcome by Casey McGlynn, Fogarty Innovation board member and a partner at WSGR, who helped launch the event 29 years ago and is a key player in the medtech arena as a whole. Casey formed WSGR’s Life Science Group, and today continues to lead one of the largest practices in the country focused on healthtech, representing companies in their formation, funding, venture capital, licensing, M&A and IPO transactions.
We had the opportunity to speak with Casey to get his insight on the dynamics at the conference and the industry outlook gleaned from the various sessions.
Q: How would you describe the conference?
There was a huge amount of energy in the room, and I would say optimism was the keyword for the mood we saw among both the investors and the companies. It was definitely exciting to be able to meet face to face and talk with each other in person again.
As always, the conference had lots of fantastic panels on different topics and networking opportunities, including a dinner interview with Lisa Earnhardt, VC and investment panels, discussions on medical robotics and many other relevant trends in our industry critical to medtech companies. Overall, I think everybody was feeling how great it was to be back and connecting with old friends and colleagues.
Q: What do you see as the key themes in financing?
While optimism will always play a role, the key word here, unsurprisingly, is “caution.” Jon Norris from Silicon Valley Bank, and Jed Cohen, one of the leaders on the medtech side at SVB Securities, shared that last year was a fantastic year for raising late-stage money, but that’s dwindling on the public markets side. There will continue to be venture interest in the medical device industry, but we are headed into a more circumspect time.
On the other hand, angel investors will continue to be very active in investing in early-stage companies. Money is still available for promising new companies in clinical areas of interest —investors put a lot more money into startups last year than in previous ones and will continue to offer funding in 2022 —but companies will need to show they are making solid progress.
William Dai of ShangBay Capital, who continues to be one of the most active medtech investors in the country, talked about some of his investments. While he expects it to be quieter this year, he’s continuing to look for interesting new opportunities. We also heard similar feedback from Gary Gershony, who was a doctor and then started BayMed Venture Partners. Lastly, Tracy Pappas of Treo Ventures, a venture fund that has 10 or 15 corporate partners as investors, is looking for early-stage companies of interest to their various portfolio companies.
Q: Were there any noteworthy developments that stood out to you?
There were many fascinating discussions, including the panel on medtech collaborations that was moderated by Alex Key from Wilson Sonsini. The speakers discussed a company called Enable Injections, which has a very interesting technology that allows patients to do infusion therapy at home, rather than at the hospital. The company has collaborated with various pharmaceutical companies to deliver prescribed drugs. It’s a big deal to a cancer patient, for example, who can avoid a major daylong event traveling to the hospital where these infusions have historically taken place. This was just one example of a revolutionary technology that’s about to be approved, which I found to be particularly interesting.
There was also a panel on AI in healthcare that’s always well received. Gabriel Sanchez and several other panelists discussed how AI can help identify disease earlier than ever. The group shared the opinion that more healthtech companies, regardless of their clinical focus, are incorporating AI software into products in unique and surprising ways. AI is an area with the potential to be very transformative to our industry.
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
I’d like to circle back to my initial sense of optimism. In many ways, we can compare medtech right now to the early days of the internet, when there were so many public offerings going on, and then the market leveled off for a significant period of time. I think our industry is following a similar path, and while I suspect it’s going to be a little bit harder to get financing now, there are still a lot of venture capitalists out there with money as well as some new investors in the medtech area.
Companies have a lot of prospects they can begin to talk to, even though it may take longer to find funding and they may need to make it a little bit farther by relying longer on angel or family money. But entrepreneurs should still reach out, establish relationships and find out exactly what these funders are looking for in terms of progress as a company. In the end, medtech is all about a positive message of changing lives and helping people, and while it’s never easy to get those products into the marketplace, it’s vital to build funding relationships early on.