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How a week in Philly may have changed the future for a medtech CEO

From Techinical.ly

Marvin Barron describes himself as a Philadelphia CEO, but his company isn’t a Philly company. Yet.

Research at Pearl Antigenics is based out of a lab at Washington State University, Barron said, but his team is now thinking about non-university homes. The Queen Village resident is considering a few cities around the country, including his hometown — which is looking more favorable after a recent event.

“I’ve got to say,” Barron told Technical.ly, “coming through the Capital Readiness Program has really moved Philadelphia up the list.”

Run by the University City Science Center, the Capital Readiness Program is a weeklong convening that provides resources and connections to companies looking to raise capital. Pearl Antigenics, which is developing a cross-gender diagnostic test for the very common STI trichomoniasis (also known as “trich”), was one of 10 medtech and digital health startups in its fourth cohort. Companies came from around the country to Philadelphia for a week in March to learn about fundraising from experts and investors.

The original goal for the program was supporting life science companies and showcasing Philadelphia’s offerings for them, Heath Naquin, VP of government and capital engagement at the Science Center, told Technical.ly. As the program has gone on, Naquin has seen word spread.

“Our goal is, of course, find good companies, support them,” Naquin said, but also to “bring new deal flow into the region, both for investors and partners, as well as maybe research and research collaborations.”

Part of showcasing the local entrepreneurship community for out-of-region companies includes hosting events with reps from places like Independence Blue Cross, or CIC at the Science Center.

Barron, the Pearl Antigenics founder, said he’d toured CIC’s lab spaces before, and has attended the networking events at Venture Cafe, but Capital Readiness gave him a better look at resources and partners.

“Really getting to spend a week in the facilities and talk to all the people at the Science Center and just see, hey, there is an emerging ecosystem here that really seems like it’s developing critical mass. It’s pretty exciting,” he said.

Keeping companies connected, wherever they are

The Capital Readiness Program’s alumni network allows the Science Center and its partners to keep in touch with companies and possibly help them in the future, which helps to retain involvement in the region. VP Naquin has also seen Capital Readiness alumni connect with academic institutions for research and clinical trials after the program ends.

His team at the Science Center is collecting data about how involved companies stay with the region, Naquin said. Anecdotally, they’ve seen a lot of engagement so far from past cohorts.

“At least half of the companies outside of the region,” he estimated, “have maintained or developed or continue to talk to some of the Philadelphia folks that they met during the cohort.”

Research collaborations and new deal flow have also come out of this program, supporting the region’s burgeoning ecosystem even if those companies don’t move their headquarters, Naquin said.

Despite living in Philly, CEO Barron hadn’t looked closely at the local life sciences ecosystem before Capital Readiness, he said. He assumed most of the resources were in the cell and gene therapy space. But he was pleasantly surprised by what he found for the diagnostics industry.

“It feels like it’s the start of something that could be sustainable,” Barron said. “I can certainly see hitching ourselves to that and growing at the same time in line with Philadelphia.”

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Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing