By Angela Yoo, Communications Intern, Yale Office of Cooperative Research
For the first time since its inception, the Yale Innovation Summit, a major event on May 9 connecting innovators and investors at Yale, will feature a special panel highlighting future opportunities for advancing biotechnology through possible collaborations with China, Asia, and Chinese investors.
The idea for this panel was first conceived by Dr. Haifan Lin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology, Professor of Genetics, and of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, and of Dermatology, and the Director of the Yale Stem Cell Center, who attended the 2017 Yale Innovation Summit and realized the potential of this annual event to showcase Yale’s creativity and innovation to the world. However, Dr. Lin recognizes that for too long, this “world” has generally consisted of people and investors from the U.S. and Western countries, with a conspicuous absence of Asian investors and entrepreneurs. This was the initial motivation for Dr. Lin to connect organizers of the 2018 Yale Innovation Summit with some of his personal contacts working as investors in China.
“China has a very strong economy– number two in the world– and some of these people play an important role in that,” said Dr. Lin. “It’s important to give Chinese investors a chance to see what our innovations are, and also introduce to us what they are doing in China. More communication between different parts of the world is better for the world, and better for economic development.”
Panelists for this special China panel include not just Yale faculty– notably Dr. Haifan Lin– but also successful Chinese investors and entrepreneurs such as Jeffrey Chen, Managing Director at Ascendent Capital Partners Ltd.; Wei Zhao, Vice President, 6 Dimensions Capital; Stella Xu, Managing Director of Quan Capital; and Yibing Wu, Joint Head of Temasek China, the Chinese branch of Temasek Fund, a major Singaporean investment firm.
“Many of these investors are not only successful investors and entrepreneurs, but also scholars who are well-versed in Western culture and the U.S. business environment,” Dr. Lin stated. “They have a global view on investment, they are very much experts in their field, and they are of course highly successful. I think their perspective should be very beneficial for everyone.”
The panel will be moderated by Dr. Peter Farina, Executive in Residence at Canaan Partners, a venture capital firm in Westport, CT. Dr. Farina himself is also known for having strong interest and contacts in China. His interest started 10 years ago, when he started mentoring a number of Chinese scientist colleagues. This relationship has since led Dr. Farina to travel to China every few years to learn more about the biotech and investment scene there, and he has subsequently built a number of friendships and contacts within China.
“Really, it was the people I mentored who basically paved the way for me to learn about China,” Dr. Farina said. “So I’m quite curious about China, and looking at the prospects of bringing, thematically, the best of the East and the best of the West– from the biotech perspective as well as the investment perspective.”
China’s relationship with the U.S. in the biotech space is a fairly recent development. Just five years ago, there was little activity of Chinese investors in the U.S.; it was mainly Chinese investors looking to focus domestically, within China. But over the past five years, there has been a rapid growth of Chinese investors’ interest in the U.S. Dr. Farina speculates that this growth has been fueled by not only the tremendous growth in biotechnology in China, but also the increase in returnees who have spent their careers in U.S. pharma companies, then gone back to China and become investors.
“These returnees are bicultural, and understand both the East and the West, so they’re well-suited now to make both tactical and strategic investments in U.S. biotech organizations, because they come out of that environment.” said Dr. Farina.
The panel aims to present these Chinese investors and entrepreneurs with a free-form opportunity to discuss future opportunities for advancing biotechnology, startups, and investing. Dr. Haifan Lin envisions that there will be two main points of focus for the panel: the first, to discuss the emerging economy in Asia and their interest in investment opportunities in the U.S., and the second, their analysis of the world and the U.S. economy, and their perspective on how to support innovative research and translate such research into industrial business applications.
Additionally, the panel aims to shed light on the business models that Chinese investors are attracted to, and the similarities and differences between business models in the U.S. and China.
Dr. Lin is certain that these Chinese investors will offer a new perspective about investment strategy at this panel. “The Asian economy is developing so fast, at what they call ‘the China speed,’” he said. “Many of the measures they take to promote development are very innovative. They may even discuss strategies of how to promote research in a way that we may not have thought about, because we are more used to the mainstream U.S. business model, which is a very effective model, but not the only model.”
The addition of this panel offers attendees of the 2018 Yale Innovation Summit an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Yale’s innovative research to a world-scale audience. The Chinese investors on the panel and the companies they represent are, in Dr. Lin’s words, “very aggressively trying to invest in biotech and are searching worldwide for great projects.”
“If Yale truly has some innovative projects that are translatable, we want to have a reliable and visionary VC to partner with us,” he continued. “So I think this is a great opportunity for Yale.”
Dr. Farina hopes that this panel will also serve to encourage the future, bigger picture growth of relationships between investors and innovators in China and the U.S.
“One of the aims of our symposium is to educate and get people in the audience who aren’t particularly familiar with China to understand the tremendous opportunities for investment in China, and also to get people to think about bringing Chinese investors to the U.S. to invest in their companies,” said Dr. Farina.
He concluded, “Personally, I hope we can create an overarching partnership that can bring talented people together, on both the science side and the investment side, to spark innovation, to bring new drugs to patients, independent of the country.”
The Yale Innovation Summit is May 9, 8:15am-5pm at Evans Hall, 165 Whitney Ave. Hosted by the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, the event connects innovators and investors at Yale through two tracks – biotech and tech, leading keynotes, investor panels, two pitchoffs for cash prizes, a large electronic poster session, and a closing reception at the Yale Peabody Museum. DETAILS & REGISTRATION.
For additional information about the Yale Innovation Summit contact Ann Hollmann, Senior Administrative Assistant, Office of Cooperative Research, (203) 436-8096, firstname.lastname@example.org.