Episode 32: Stephanie Wisner, Author, Co-Founder at Centivax

Episode 32 August 17, 2023 00:37:05
Episode 32: Stephanie Wisner, Author, Co-Founder at Centivax
Few & Far Between
Episode 32: Stephanie Wisner, Author, Co-Founder at Centivax

Aug 17 2023 | 00:37:05


Show Notes

"In research or in biotech, time is expensive. Time is the most expensive thing that you have." - Stephanie Wisner, Author, Co-Founder at Centivax

Biorasi is excited to welcome Stephanie Wisner to the Few & Far Between podcast. Stephanie is the author of "Building Backwards to Biotech: The Power of Entrepreneurship to Drive Cutting-Edge Science to Market." Join host Chris O'Brien as we explore the multitude of opportunities and pitfalls in today's biotech industry.

Stephanie's book is availabe on Amazaon at https://a.co/d/4afgMpR 

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04.100] - Chris O'Brien Okay. I am delighted to be joined today by Stephanie Wisner. Stephanie is the author of Building Backwards to Biotech the Power of Entrepreneurship to drive cutting edge science to market. This is a theme that is near and dear to my heart, and I'm delighted to welcome you to the podcast. [00:00:20.650] - Stephanie Wisner Stephanie, thank you so much for having me. Really excited to be here. [00:00:24.980] - Chris O'Brien So what made you decide to write the book? [00:00:27.980] - Stephanie Wisner Well, that's a great question. One that I get a lot. I would say there are two major reasons. Reason number one was when I was getting into the industry, from being a bench scientist, there were just so many things that I knew absolutely nothing about, whether that was intellectual property, clinical trials, or fundraising. All of those categories are completely separate from science. But in biotech, they're fundamental, and they're interlinked with the science. And I realized very quickly that there were books about startups, and there were books about drug development, but there were no books about biotech and just the fundamentals of how it worked. And so I wrote the book that I wanted to help other scientists get into the industry, because I believe that if we want more new medicines in the future, we have to empower the scientists who are the innovators to make that transition into biotech if they want to. So that was the first reason. The second reason is that as I worked with various biotechnology companies through my consulting business, and also, I guess, Centivax is another example, which is my full time role at the moment, and through the venture capital firm seeing lots and lots of companies, what I realized is that not all founders are created equal. [00:01:46.540] - Stephanie Wisner Not all scientific founders specifically are created equal. What I mean by that is every scientist is brought up in academia. We're all trained with similar methods in academia, and there's methods that work really well in academia that just don't translate to biotech, specifically in academia. This is an oversimplification, but mostly true. The end goal is learning. The end goal is winning grants and publishing papers. And if there is kind of an interesting question that comes up, you're actually encouraged to ask more questions and go further down, I guess, the rabbit hole that that question created, because that's a good thing. The purpose is learning. However, in a biotech, you're making a product, and that's totally different. That means that there is a very specific end goal, and there's a very focused kind of methodology that you have to be able to take. And I called it building backwards because I saw, as I worked with many different companies, that the ones that succeeded tended to be able to have this building backwards mindset and pivot it out of academia in the context of the biotech and the ones that couldn't shake their academic mindset as much in terms of just specifically of seeing the clear end goal and building backwards from that. [00:03:06.060] - Stephanie Wisner They struggled, and I saw lots of companies struggle. So I wanted to publish that to help more new medicines that had solid science. Because our industry is already hard enough just focused on the science, and a lot of drugs fail just based on the science. But what I realized is there are a lot of companies where the science succeeded, but the business failed, and those are the companies I wanted to help. [00:03:28.100] - Chris O'Brien Stephanie so are you saying that if you return to your venture investors and you say, well, we didn't come up with a product, but boy, we learned a lot, that they wouldn't be happy with that answer? Is that what you're suggesting? [00:03:38.960] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, I'm not sure they would like that very much. Something I also touched on in the book is, of course, your specific end goal is the product, but there's also intermediate end goals. And for venture investors, often that immediate end goal is how did you increase the value of the company with the data you collected? And so if you're going down a bunch of little interesting, but not necessarily focused research rabbit holes, they probably won't be happy with that. When you show up after they give you their money and you're like, okay, I have all these really interesting data points, but they weren't the milestones that were going to increase the value of the company. There's a balance, of course. I'm kind of painting it in a black and white way. Sometimes those fundamental research questions are the value inflection point, but you have to think very critically. You can't just run any question that comes to mind. And I think I've heard someone else say this, and I think it's very true. In academia, time is plentiful and money is short. So it's better and often encouraged to take a long time and do it cheaply or do it yourself or ask lots of questions and be really thorough. [00:04:51.110] - Stephanie Wisner In research or in biotech, time is expensive. Time is the most expensive thing that you have. And money is cheaper actually than time because you're burning money every month that you take to complete an experiment. So that's the difference. [00:05:09.220] - Chris O'Brien That's sort of the fundamental insight that drove the book, I guess. And you're saying, is this true, that it almost sounds like scientists coming out of academia and into a biotech setting almost need to reorient their perspective in order to maximize their chances for success? Is that overstating it, or is that how you see the world? [00:05:32.640] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, that's exactly right. I think for an academic scientist to be successful in biotech, they have to learn how to make that mindset pivot in the biotech setting, not necessarily in the academic setting. [00:05:45.050] - Chris O'Brien So tell us a little bit about how you came to realize this. I guess you like most other scientists coming into business. Did you feel that you started out with more of a meandering approach to how to seek answers, or do you feel that you kind of came with that perspective? What was the sort of process of you coming to this conclusion? [00:06:07.560] - Stephanie Wisner That's a really interesting question. I think it's perhaps a bit of both. So, by background, I was raised by two PhD scientists. Both of my parents have their PhDs in chemistry and postdocs and whatever else they did. And I've known inherently ever since I was little, that a PhD scientist is a personality type right. [00:06:35.520] - Chris O'Brien An N of two right in the household. [00:06:37.260] - Stephanie Wisner N of two right in the household. So I, of course, just naturally learned growing up that there were certain ways my parents tended to think about the world. And of course, I'm painting with broad brushstrokes. My parents are more from industry, so they didn't go into academia. But generally speaking, they are extremely detail oriented people. They think very carefully about every tiny, detailed question of anything. That's a really good trait. But I realized once I started working with companies that other people who were PhDs also had that trait and oftentimes would go a little too far in the biotech setting. So that was one experience. And then the other experience that I had early is that I spent a lot of time doing academic research myself and of course, realized how incredibly slow things often were. Not necessarily always in a bad way, but I am someone who loves progress. I love going moving fast. I love working really hard and seeing the fruits of my labor. And that's just not how academic science works. And part of that is just inherently the way it works. But I also did an internship in college at Pfizer, and I was completely shocked by how much faster everything moved in an industry setting that wasn't biotech. [00:08:04.130] - Stephanie Wisner It was pharma. But I just realized very quickly that industry operates so much differently than academia. And why is that? And so to answer your question, I think I probably had some baseline for the building backwards sort of thesis, probably even as a child. But I think it wasn't until I started working with lots and lots of companies that I want. And also in the process of writing the book, I was trying to crystallize kind of my insight about what makes companies succeed. And I hadn't quite come to that phrase building backwards yet. And as I interviewed people, industry experts, for hundreds of hours, whether they were telling me about how to select a drug target or how to raise financing or clinical trials, the consistent theme amongst all of the interviews, even when they were specialized interviews, was start with the end in mind. And I ended up calling that building backwards. But it was amazing how often that was the key insight from a person who had no idea that that's kind of what I was already thinking. [00:09:13.860] - Chris O'Brien That's fascinating. I also love that your experience of a fast moving company was pfizer, which is an extraordinary organization, but I'd say big companies in general, big pharma, certainly not speedy is not what it's not sort of the first that comes to mind. Everything's relative, I guess. Is that right? How does that compare? Did biotech take that up a notch or two for you as well in terms of speed? [00:09:40.800] - Stephanie Wisner Oh, absolutely. I think biotech efficiency nimbleness. I think most people definitely paint that as a difference, and I am no exception to that. However, I will say when I went to Pfizer, here was like the difference. So in academia, I was doing this research on this enzyme and these various enzymatic activities. And so every time I wanted to ask a research question about this enzyme, I had to purify it myself. That took weeks, but it was cheaper than ordering it or even just little things. You want to run a protein gel? Great. Make sure you have a protein gel that you've poured yourself. And then I'm at Pfizer or western blot. You want to run a western blot? Okay. 3 hours later, you can be ready for the staining process. And then at Pfizer, they have this seven minute western blot transfer system, and they had all sorts of premade buffers that I was used to having to make myself. They had pre made protein gels, and they had a contractor that they used to I tell them I need X enzyme, and the next day x enzyme is sitting on my desk because we just ordered it. [00:10:49.990] - Stephanie Wisner So for reasons like that, even though we weren't necessarily going to get a drug from start to finish, during my internship, it was like I had this research project, and in only three months, the amount of progress that I was able to make on some of these fundamental questions was incredibly fast. As opposed to my academic experience. And a part of that is just the money and the resources that a company like Pfizer has versus academia. But I did notice that when a company is focused on building a specific product, as Pfizer is, or perhaps not even a specific product, but just products in general. So research questions they ask and the focus that they have in asking those research questions is still different. And perhaps saying faster is an oversimplification, but a little bit more focused than academia where things are more open ended. So I definitely noticed that. [00:11:42.960] - Chris O'Brien Advisor that makes a ton of sense. We're going to talk in a couple of minutes about what makes for successful companies in biotech. You have a ton of interesting things to say about that. But before we get there, can you tell us what your advice would be for an academic scientist considering for the first time making the move to Biotech? What should he or she look for and maybe thinking a little bit about as a practical matter, what should they do in terms of trying to build backwards in their own way inside of these organizations. [00:12:21.380] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, absolutely. So I think there's two levels to that question. It's one that I get a lot as I speak about the book around the country. I have a lot of PhD students or even professors that want to know that. So I think that's a great question. So part one of that of my answer is I think it depends on where you want to go. I think if you're a scientist that wants to become a business person, that's a different path than a scientist who wants to become a CSO, which is a different path than someone who wants to become a CEO, which is a different path, honestly, than someone who just wants to work for an interesting company and isn't necessarily trying to have a leadership position, which is also a very valid pathway. I think all of those phenotypes would benefit from reading my book because there's this foundational knowledge there that is really helpful before you enter the industry to get kind of a sense of how things work that I didn't have. [00:13:12.420] - Chris O'Brien Let me add a plug in for your book there. I very much agree, because I think one of the things that your book does is provide sort of context around the broader process of what's going on. So if you're a junior person joining a company, a relatively small company, it can be hard to get a sense of what is it that everyone is trying to get done here? I kind of know the broad strokes, but I don't really understand how the pieces fit together. I think your book does a nice job in helping to sort of knit some of those pieces together. [00:13:43.160] - Stephanie Wisner Thank you. I really appreciate that, especially from someone like yourself who's been in the industry for a while. That means a lot. So just to, I guess, tie that back to your original question, which I haven't forgot about. I would say there's a way to build backwards if you're the one starting your own company. I actually have a chapter on that. But there's all sorts of things that people do wrong when starting a company. A lot of biotech companies don't actually fail ten years down the road. They fail because the foundations were not set up correctly. Like whether that's because you're going after a problem that doesn't have a big enough market need, whether your technology is too much of an incremental improvement, your IP isn't strong enough. There's so many ways that people kill a company before you even start. And I've outlined a lot of those things in the book. I just listed off a few. But the other thing I'd say is people can build backwards in their own careers, and I think people often accidentally don't do that. I get a lot of questions from people like, I want to be a CEO. [00:14:43.540] - Stephanie Wisner What should I do? Or I want to be a CEO. Maybe I need to go get an MBA, or maybe I need to go get this other master's degree. Usually it's about education, or maybe I need to go work at McKinsey for a while. And I'm like, maybe. But what you should do is if you know specifically where you want to go, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There's lots of people that have done this before. And so what I would recommend for others and what I try and do with my own path is to look at, I guess, the phenotype of someone who has a career that you find really interesting. Whether that's clinical trials design or if you want to classify it to a specific title, that's also fine, although that's potentially less specific than thinking about what you're interested in. More broadly. However, if you look at lots of those sorts of people's LinkedIn profiles, if you talk to them and you ask questions like, what valuable skill sets did you need to get to where you are? Tell me about your path, or even just looking at multiple examples of how people got to a certain place, you're going to already have a pretty strong idea of which skill sets and experiences you should gain in order to get somewhere that interests you. [00:15:57.220] - Chris O'Brien You're saying there, first of all, have an end in mind as much as possible, and then ask a lot of questions right, of folks who can help you chart that path. [00:16:06.670] - Stephanie Wisner Right. Or even if you don't have time to go talk to a bunch of people, which I recommend, you can still look at lots of people's profiles on LinkedIn, like, oh, the CEO of whatever, Madeira, how did he get there? What did he do before that? What seems to be his general career path? Did he actually get an MBA? And I think you can ask those questions, which is interesting. So I actually had a friend do a study of this years ago, I think, like, 2017, when he was deciding he's a science bachelor, wanted to be in biotech, was trying to decide whether or not to get a PhD. Did this sort of retrospective analysis and realized that the CEOs of most large pharma companies did not have PhDs, even though everyone was telling him, you have to get a PhD if you want to work in this field and be in leadership. And he was kind of like, well, the data suggests otherwise, so if you want to get a PhD, that's great. But if you think you need to get a PhD and you don't actually have any interest in it, that's a lot of years and a lot of hours to do something, just to check a box. [00:17:10.130] - Stephanie Wisner So I just really encourage people to think very carefully about what interests them and where they want to go. And I ultimately chose not to go for the PhD. I just did years of research as I tried to figure out what to do. And then I went to get my MBA, so that was my decision. [00:17:27.920] - Chris O'Brien I think that's a really deep point to look at people who are in the roles, if you know what you want to do, whether it's be a CEO or something, CMO, whatever it might be. Look at folks who are in that position and look at what their path was, educational background and stepping stone jobs that led them ultimately to that place. I bet not that many people do that. So I really love that, and I think folks will take a lot from it. Okay, I want to flip a little bit now to company creation. You have a quote in here that every beginning is difficult. I certainly agree with that. What are some things we could do in biotech to make that beginning less difficult or the likelihood of success higher? [00:18:12.080] - Stephanie Wisner Well, I think a big one is what I mentioned before about starting a company that has a likelihood of succeeding in six or seven basic areas. Just thinking off the top of my head. A lot of those areas are intellectual property. People don't have solid enough patent protection. People don't always realize that a patent doesn't actually give you rights to anything. It gives you rights to exclude others from something. And so you can have a patent and not have freedom to operate. Those are very different things. And so figuring out whether or not you have that and whether your patent coverage is broad enough is really important because you're never going to get acquired or funded if your patents suck, especially technical term there. [00:18:52.130] - Chris O'Brien Sucky patents. Yeah, I want to double click on that just to make sure everybody's following. I think what you're saying is that patent, what it doesn't do is tell you whether or not there are other patents out there, whether or not there's a landscape that you can operate in. Is that the point you're making there? [00:19:10.310] - Stephanie Wisner Yes. Right. So people can have patents that are very similar to yours, but different. Therefore, if you actually use your patent to do whatever you're suggesting you do, you can actually still be infringing on someone else. And so it's important that you have broad enough patent coverage that that's not an issue. Yes, thank you for the clarification, because that was a niche point, but an important one. And then the other thing about patents that people don't always realize is that you cannot get a patent if you talk about something publicly, which seems very counter to kind of the academic culture of sharing, but it actually isn't. You can still share whatever you want. You just have to file a provisional first, provisional patent first, which protects that idea before you talk about it publicly. And if you talk about it publicly first, then you're no longer eligible to file that provisional. So sometimes people kill the company like that because you're never going to get funded if you don't have patent coverage. The other way that I talked about is choosing an asset that isn't a big enough payout for a VC to garner the type of investment needed to bring a drug from start to finish because that capital very big. [00:20:31.500] - Stephanie Wisner So if your idea isn't big enough at the end to give a good enough payout to warrant all of the spending a VC is never going to invest and there's a back calculation you can do for that. The other thing is building a company with the right team members, especially in a small company. Something I've really realized is that company culture is so much stronger in a startup because there's fewer personalities with more responsibility. And so having one person in your company that is not a team player makes a really big difference. Or having a person in your company that's trying to get all the credit and constantly thinking about how to screw over other people also really unhelpful and makes a really big difference in company culture. [00:21:16.130] - Chris O'Brien But also, as you're saying there that if you've only got ten people in the company and one person is a real jerk, 10% of the company is now real jerks. So they cast a long shadow, right. [00:21:28.510] - Stephanie Wisner And then also just having team members that garner the respect and also have the background that suggests that you'll be able to execute your idea, that matters a lot. VCs really look at team very carefully and most biotechs have to raise venture, although not all of them. Those are just some of the ones off the top of my head. And I'm somewhat forgetting your original question. Did you ask me? [00:21:55.650] - Chris O'Brien No, you're doing great. This is exactly what I want to talk about. I want to just break down the things you just said I think you're saying here, and this is really important for people thinking about starting companies. There are a set of gating questions you should be asking yourself do we own this asset? Do we think we have or can get good patent protection? What's the competitive set of other solutions that are out there, other patents we might be effectively competing with? And how big is the market, as you said? Is this correct? You're advising that folks ask all these questions very carefully, not fall in love with the idea of starting the company until they've got good answers to all those things? Kind of before you get going. [00:22:42.100] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, exactly. And making sure you're positioning your asset in the right way. And that it's solving a problem that actually needs solving and also a problem that people are willing to pay for because an incrementally better. I don't know. Cholesterol lowering drug that can get tricky because why does someone want to pay for a new drug that does the same thing as existing drugs just for a tiny bit of benefit? You have to actually have a pretty big benefit to make it as a biotech company, pfizer can get away with an incrementally better drug, but a new company can't. So that's another big difference. [00:23:15.940] - Chris O'Brien Yeah. Love it. It makes perfect sense. Now, let's assume that we've answered those gating questions. We think we've got a winner, you've got a strong initial team, sort of foundational team, no jerks. Where do we go from there? [00:23:34.340] - Stephanie Wisner Well, it depends on what sort of company it is, which is always a little bit of an annoying answer, but it does, it does depend on what sort of company it is. For example, my co founder, Jake, his first company was a CRO business and so he never had to raise venture money and he was able to scale that business and then ultimately sell it to Charles River Labs for 104,000,000 with Centrebacks. We're not going to be able to scale a business quite the same way because it's a vaccine development company. A very close intermediate step was raising venture financing to keep us afloat. And for a lot of companies, raising that venture financing is one of the first steps. But again, it depends on what sort of company you are and what your goal is. [00:24:27.400] - Chris O'Brien That's absolutely fair. [00:24:31.000] - Stephanie Wisner But generally speaking, it's smart to build those relationships with venture investors, with pharma companies that could potentially acquire you someday. To have those relationships throughout the life of your company, starting from day one and you don't arrive at phase two data and then meet with a pharma company and say, here it is. This is the best thing ever. Don't you want to buy it? That can work. That can definitely work, but it builds a lot more trust and credibility to build that relationship over time, even when you're a little bit on the early side. [00:25:07.940] - Chris O'Brien Stephanie, talk a little bit, if you would, about patient centricity, the role of the patient. I think you told a story in the book about a trial for a drug that primarily impacts women and maybe the trial wasn't perfectly designed. [00:25:24.040] - Stephanie Wisner Yes, that's right. So they're developing a drug for an indication that was mostly women indication. But the trial design in their phase one didn't really include women. And so women of childbearing age especially, which of course that's a totally different, in some ways, sub population because there's a way lower threshold for any sort of side effects. So the person I interviewed for that story, Dr Pam Garzone, who's amazing, she's actually on our board now, but she was the former Chief Medical officer of Scripps and has brought many drugs through that process. That was a story that she witnessed. And just the fact that this company did not build backwards in terms of what patient population are we trying to get into and what sort of end label do we want, and then building backwards from that to their patient population that they put into the trial design. So I think you also asked about patient centricity yeah, I have a different chapter on that as well, as I'm sure you know. But a lot of times people develop interesting science and they think that will make a good product. But if you have this patient perspective and you're thinking about what actually makes an impact for patients, what actually is going to move the needle for them that often ultimately ends up being the most successful company, the most successful product. [00:27:00.620] - Stephanie Wisner And of course, interesting science is involved. But the interesting science isn't dictating the direction of the product. The big problem for the patient is what's directing it and the interest in helping that patient by developing something that benefits them. So the story I used in the book for that was a friend of mine who started a company, and in the in vivo studies, they realized that this mechanism they'd found had an effect on pancreatic cancer, but it just wasn't going to be big enough to really move the needle for patients. And so they made the difficult decision to shut down the company, but ultimately it was the right decision. And actually, I have a recent real world example of that. So we actually had a COVID-19 antibody therapeutic that we developed at sunifax really quickly after the pandemic, because my co founder is an antibody engineer, and at first the virus didn't seem to be mutating very much, and so we developed this thing, we sunk lots and lots of money into it. We actually went all the way through GMP, which was lots of money, and also a lot of down payments on clinical trials, and we even filed the ind, and then omacron came out and the antibody loss binding FCC right along with most of the others. [00:28:22.790] - Stephanie Wisner And we made the difficult decision, despite the sunk cost there, to pull the plug on it because it was pulling our focus away from our central platform. But it was a hard decision, right, because we'd spent a couple of years on this thing at that point. But it's been fascinating because there are companies we talked to back then about potentially working together, creating a cocktail or something that are still banging their heads against the wall trying to get their antibody therapeutic approved by FDA. And so we've actually got reached out to by a company that I won't name that was like, oh, well, if you help us go after this grant, we can put your non effective antibody in our cocktail. And we were like, Why would we do that? And that's again, an example of a time where you should be patient centric. Like, sure, it's heartbreaking that we developed this thing and we're excited about it and it showed a lot of potential and then it just didn't work out. But you also have to know when to walk away because it just doesn't move the needle for patients anymore. And at first in the pandemic, when OG COVID was really dangerous, those. [00:29:34.360] - Stephanie Wisner Antibody therapeutics were really important. But I'd argue in a lot of ways that where we are now, they're potentially less important, because the symptoms of COVID are just less severe than they were with the original strain. And so thinking about where to invest your time and development energy as to what matters for patients also is really important and dictates a lot of how biotech should be thinking about it, but it can get really hard and emotional and personal when you've sunk a lot of time into something and the science just isn't there. You have to know when to kill something. [00:30:18.760] - Chris O'Brien Got it? Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. How do you do that, Stephanie? How did you guys do it? So it sounds like you were quite clear eyed and rational about making that decision, and maybe maybe you didn't feel that way at the time, but that's what the result was. We know, as you said, we see lots of examples of people who stay with things too long. How do you do that? Is there a framework for thinking about that or any other suggestions? [00:30:47.760] - Stephanie Wisner That's a great question. I'd have to think a little bit more about a formal framework. But I'd say that to your point, being clear eyed and a little bit ruthless about what's good for the business, what moves the needle for patients, how do we focus on creating something? Because we have limited time and capital and resources, and even credibility is somewhat limited if you spend all your time on something that doesn't work, how do we allocate that limited set of resources towards driving the biggest outcome? Or if you want to be a ruthless business person, you could even think about it as the biggest return, the biggest end market, the biggest problem to solve, not just how do we cling on to this science project we had super tightly. And I think that's something my co founder was really good about. Even though this antibody was his creation, he was very willing to Jake landfill. He was very much willing to ask those difficult questions and face the fact that this antibody was likely not the right thing for us to focus on as a company. And he pivoted us back to the vaccine, which was the central platform anyway. [00:32:05.720] - Stephanie Wisner And we were one of the first companies to just give up on the therapeutic antibodies, because we did it really fast. It was like, as soon as Omicron came out, we're like, all right, we're done. [00:32:17.500] - Chris O'Brien I love that. Like one of our claims to fame. We gave up first. [00:32:21.420] - Stephanie Wisner Right. But it's amazing to me, because literally within the last couple of months, we met with that company that I told you about from back then that is still grinding away at this product that just doesn't really work. And they want that FDA approval so badly that they're willing to do anything. And to some degree, I understand that it's really hard when you've sunk so much time and resources into something like this and it's hard to walk away. But it also means that you're going to be more successful and you're going to create something that benefits patients so much more if you focus your limited time and energy on something that actually can make a big impact. [00:33:05.750] - Chris O'Brien Yeah, I love that. And I think maybe part of this is about defining what the criteria are that are required for success upfront. So one of the criteria was that the virus is not going to mutate very much and when that ceased to be true, you recognize that the use case no longer made sense and went in another direction. I think sometimes if people haven't done that work up front, they really struggle. If success wasn't clearly defined, it's easy to continue to say that success is possible. You know what I mean? [00:33:41.160] - Stephanie Wisner Right. Absolutely. And actually we ended up at first when the virus wasn't mutating that much. So our central platform technology is focusing the immune system in a vaccine on conserved sites, in viruses that are highly polymorphic and mutate rapidly. And so when that became clear that COVID was one of those viruses, we actually created a vaccine program against COVID, COVID-19. And actually, it covers SARS one and SARS two. So we actually pivoted it in that direction because we have a technology platform that backs that. So I think it's working out. [00:34:23.460] - Chris O'Brien That's great. That's great. I'm going to pivot and ask a different kind of question. So you at a certain point thought, I guess I want to learn more about this, I want to think more about this. I think I'll write a book. Is that right? Tell us a little bit about how you made that decision and how it came to be sure. [00:34:40.460] - Stephanie Wisner So I think part of it was my own desire to learn best practices in this field. But it was also and I think I wrote this in the book I think when you're closer to the beginning of your career and closer to some of those key foundational learnings, they're closer to top of mind and it's a little bit easier to reiterate them, ironically, in a way that kind of helps people in a foundational way than if you're an expert that's been in the field for 20 something years, you perhaps no longer remember what isn't just standard knowledge. And so part of my desire to write the book was a to crystallize my own learning further, to talk to people who are absolutely at the top of their game in this field, but also to record some of the things that I had found to be most helpful while I was close to my career. [00:35:39.010] - Chris O'Brien So that's really wonderful. I think it's probably many people listening, if they're younger, might think I should wait until I am a fount of received wisdom before I try to share my learnings or learn more about this and then share. And you're saying, I think that actually being earlier in your career is an advantage in some ways because you're close to the target audience and super curious and able therefore to go and tap into all these expert resources and develop a point of view. Is that right? [00:36:14.410] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, that's well said. I would say there are books about biotech, but they're highly specialized because they're written by people that are far along in their career. So I'm looking at one of them right now. It's the Pharma gallon guide to analyzing biotech clinical trials. I'm sure you know it, given your industry. Great book, great book, but highly specific if you're just asking the question, so what's a clinical trial? And so he has a different target audience than I do. His target audience is definitely generally a more sophisticated person in clinical trials. And mine is someone who is just asking the foundational questions and at some point, maybe I will write more specialized books. But I think what's been amazing about the book that I wasn't expecting is how much people already in the industry have really benefited from it. As you were saying, I kind of talk a lot about all the different things in biotech with various subjects that matter. And so a lot of people are very specialized in siloed. So even if you already know everything in the clinical trials chapter, perhaps you didn't know how biotech fundraising works. And so that chapter was really beneficial. [00:37:26.500] - Stephanie Wisner So it's just been, like, amazing to see how much that's been the case. So one example of it is a friend of mine who's actually controller in a major biotech venture capital firm, he reviewed a chapter for me on finance, and I was super surprised because he wrote back and he's like, oh, yeah, I do like all the accounting for fund, but I had no idea. This is how fundraising worked for biotech companies. And so it was really interesting to kind of get that feedback from people who were mid career or senior in their career, but just hadn't necessarily been exposed to all the ideas. [00:38:06.710] - Chris O'Brien Yeah, I think that's absolutely right. I think we live in an increasingly specialized world where we all become hopefully expert in one or more areas. But having an ability to stitch all of the pieces together, which is especially important in early stage companies. That is rare unless you've done that, unless you've started or been an early employee at a biotech, as you describe. So, Stephanie, where can people learn more about you? Is there any place on social they should follow you, things like that, to connect? [00:38:43.450] - Stephanie Wisner Yeah, thanks for asking. So I'm on LinkedIn. I will just preface this by saying that I always get back to everyone, but sometimes it takes me months. But I am open and available on LinkedIn. You can also email me at [email protected]. I also have a website bioventureadvising.com. That's about the book that you can look up. Those are probably the best ways to reach me. [00:39:12.390] - Chris O'Brien Terrific. [00:39:13.030] - Stephanie Wisner If I'm missing a thing, I guess I'm on Twitter too, but I don't use it much. The books on Amazon sounds like LinkedIn. [00:39:19.390] - Chris O'Brien Is the place to start. [00:39:20.580] - Stephanie Wisner Yes. [00:39:21.480] - Chris O'Brien Okay. The book is called Building Backwards to Biotech the Power of Entrepreneurship to drive cutting edge science to market. It is a wonderful primer on and introduction to all of the different disciplines that go into early stage biotech instead. Stephanie Wizner, thanks for being on few and far between today. [00:39:39.390] - Stephanie Wisner Thank you so much for having me. Really appreciate it. It was great talking to you. Bye.

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