Why Evidence-Based Innovation is Great News for STL Biotech

On November 3rd, from 6:30 – 8:30pm, the second floor of [email protected] will become the location of a unique gathering of people looking to elevate St. Louis healthcare.

On November 3rd, from 6:30 – 8:30pm, the second floor of [email protected] will become the location of a unique gathering of people looking to elevate St. Louis healthcare. iSelect Fund is hosting Evidence-Based Innovation 1.0, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to mingle with forward-thinking medicinal chemists, CEO’s and creative disruptors in St. Louis healthcare all while sharing hors d’oeuvres & cocktails.

Photo courtesy of iSelect.

We spoke with Carter Williams, iSelect‘s President and CEO and Investment Committee, about the push for more Biotech business in St. Louis and how this event aims to get that ball rolling.

How do you think entrepreneurs can change the healthcare landscape?

As far as I’m concerned, the only people that bring innovation in the market place is entrepreneurs. Even solving polio came from someone working in a different way, developing a new technique that all of the experts thought was impossible.

The reason we don’t have more innovation is because there are way too many barriers to finding and tracking down entrepreneurs and getting them moving. They succeed best when they have access to investment capital, when they have a network of talent that understands the market and when they have access to customers.

From an investment perspective, how does St. Louis rank in terms of healthcare innovation? 

If you go outside of St. Louis, and say “Where is the world’s best healthcare researchers and body’s of knowledge in healthcare?” St. Louis is top 10 of that list. If you’re in St. Louis, nobody seems to know that.

On the world stage, if you go to Beijing or London or Moscow, everywhere, Wash U is known and on that list. So first and foremost, we have the raw materials, which is to say some of the best healthcare in the world.

Then we have customers here. Wash U, Barnes, SLU, they all attract patients and doctors and there is a very dense network of people. With Cortex right at the backdoor of Wash U with world-class wet lab facilities, with John Talley, the inventor or Celebrex, the raw talent of people who used to be part of Pfizer, a long legacy in St. Louis in medical therapeutics, some of the best experts of genomics, amazing medical IT and services, and look at Express Scripts.

Twenty years ago they didn’t even exist, and now they are one of the largest companies in the world. So we have a wide range of experts who understand all aspects of healthcare whether that’s the next generation cancer drug or a better way to treat patients in the best reliable way.

Lastly, we have the pressure, entrepreneurs can get problems solved faster than any policy. They run on the fuel of delivering better quality and a lower cost to their customers.

That’s true if they’re running Uber, that’s true if they’re at Apple and that’s true in healthcare. So we want to energize that community with the capital, because frankly, we have all of the other elements, and the capital is sitting on the sidelines.

How did the idea for the Evidence-Based Innovation event come about?

Every startup needs a customer. So we identified that doctors love to adopt new, innovative things and they love to educate people in the best products that they need.

But we discovered in talking to them that none of them really knew Cortex existed or that St. Louis had these startups around. All of our companies need customers, and the customers are doctors.

So we thought, why don’t we figure out if we can get the doctors to come over and meet the companies. Why don’t we set up that kind of event?

What are some of your goals for the event?

We observed that for our portfolio companies to do better, we needed to connect them closer to doctors so that brought IDEA Labs. IDEA Labs is out talking to doctors asking, “What do you need? We’ll invent it for you.” So we are really the connection between the customers and inventors.

And then doctors like to invest in new technology so we are the conduit by which they invest. It just seemed logical the entrepreneurs, iSelect as capital, and doctors as customers, should all get together.

It was quickly recognized by folks like Express Scripts, and the other companies involved and then people who live in the ecosystem, who work with doctors on regular basis, so it becomes a nice solid collaboration. It’s a way for 20 startups who want to understand what customers need better, who want to get better connected with doctors to do so, and a way to let doctors know Cortex exists and have them wander this way more.

Then, merging that ecosystem together with some nice wine and fun. That’s where the magic will happen, it always does when people start talking.

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