DeepTechU Day 3: Advice for Deep Tech Entrepreneurs, the Future of Immunotherapy and Opportunities in Quantum


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Day 3 of DeepTechU featured advice for entrepreneurs developing deep technology innovations, an overview of the current and future immunotherapy market, and a fireside chat about the growth of the quantum ecosystem.

“Commercializing deep technology is incredibly difficult and incredibly important,” said TJ Augustine, vice chancellor for innovation at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in the keynote. of the third day of DeepTechU.

“We need to keep doing basic research…but then how can we also do more and more use-inspired research that can then be translated into innovation and entrepreneurship for the good of society,” added Rashid Bashir, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Dean, the Grainger College of Engineering and Professor of Bioengineering. It is a growing responsibility that falls to us in higher education.

The future of Deep Tech is here

Lee Jones, Rebiotix, Founder, Chairman and CEO, started the first panel of the day by defining deep technology as based on scientific and engineering discovery to achieve deep impact – “leaps, not just iterations” beyond of what is available today.

These technologies typically have a long lead time and require large capital investments. “You need big sources of funding,” Jones said.

“I don’t mind having a 10-year horizon,” noted Ray Sharma, CEO and Founder of Extreme Venture Partners, explaining that trends tend to span decades. Sharma also highlighted the importance of government funding sources, which he said are critical when it comes to deep tech.

To catalyze funding, Danny Sachs, director of the University of Minnesota’s Earle E. Bakken Medical Device Center and Innovation Fellows Leadership, said milestones needed to be laid out that would reduce risk. He also recommends partnering early with “deep pockets” and stressed the importance of strong intellectual property (IP). “You have to dominate your IP,” Sachs said. “You need to get some seminal IP fast, or I’d choose another project.”

Offering advice, Dimitra Georganopoulou, Qral Group, General Partner, Qral Ventures, said to maintain his passion: “You have to play the long game and persevere. Imagine the impact you’re going to have in the long run, not the immediate gratification.

It requires tenacity and perseverance, embracing the concept of quick failure and pivoting, and trusting advisors and the ecosystem. According to Georganopoulou, “It’s important to manage expectations all around.”

Managing hopes – and hype – is important. When there’s too much hype, there’s a disconnect with what customers actually want and need, noted Pranav Gokhale, CEO and co-founder of

“Longer term, that means there’s the fear of quantum winter,” he said, using quantum as an example. In this “winter”, the market expects advances that do not materialize and, in the end, investors hesitate.

Gokhale’s advice? “Engage with your university-level institutions, entrepreneurship centers…Tune into their seminars and office hours.”

Immunotherapy Oncology: where are we headed?

The current immunotherapy market is around $70 billion in 2022, with still huge investments in the field, said B ’84, PhD ’89, MD ’91, the AbbVie Foundation Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy in Pathologyteacher at Ben May Department of Cancer Researchand Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, opening the discussion of the second round table of the day. A major question then is, is there room to grow? For Gajewski, whose research focuses on the development of immunotherapies, the answer is an obvious yes.

To support this market growth, there has also been an “explosion” in the number of companies providing cells and genes “and other types of manufacturing capabilities for this burgeoning field,” said Michael Salgaller, National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. , responsible for the development and commercialization of inventions. What Salgaller finds particularly interesting is how this growth also speaks to the workforce, “being an economic driver for the communities that take advantage of these technologies.”

Yet, as all panelists noted, there is room for further progress. “For me, we’ve only scratched the surface and more and more things are coming out and more are being tested in clinical trials,” said Elizabeth Cho-Fertikh, CEO and co-founder of Meda Angels. Although she said there had been some fatigue, the funding would not continue if “there was not the belief”.

“There is still a lot to do,” added Emmanuel Akporiaye, Founder and CEO of Veana Therapeutics. “At the end of the day, it’s data, data, data,” he said, speaking of securing investments, which he said takes “very good science,” but also ability to share results.

“Messaging is very important,” Akporiaye explained. “The message should be that you have a drug, the advantage of that drug, how it fits in the space, and who the competitors are, and what your advantages are over the competitors.”

As for the “where do we go from here?” Gajewski asks what is needed for the work to move forward.

Instead of trying to improve current work, it asks if there are strategies to focus on unresponsive patients and ways to understand why they are not responding to current agents. These are opportunities to grow more meaningfully.

Building the future quantum ecosystem

“It’s particularly about what we’re talking about quantum today,” said Brad Henderson, CEO of P33, leading the Fireside Chat with Kayla Lee, product manager, strategic alliances at IBM Quantum, as the White House announced this week Executive Order on Strengthening the Quantum Initiative National Advisory Committee.

“It really put all of us on notice,” Henderson said. “It may take ten years for some of them, but start preparing now.”

Also this week, IBM – whose history in quantum dates back to 1981 – celebrated six years of quantum computing in the cloud. Decades ago, “it was just a dream,” Lee said. “What you saw were critical discoveries that have now led to where we are today.”

Looking to the future, across all industries represented at DeepTechU, presenters agreed that progress doesn’t happen alone: ​​”We can’t do it on our own,” Lee said.

Lee cited organizing organizations such as the Chicago Quantum Exchange also critical and expects the industry to grow around centers of excellence, including centers led by Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, both affiliated with the University of Chicago. The US Department of Energy in 2020 created the centerswhich are each expected to receive $115 million in funding over the next five years.

“I suspect that geographies develop around [these centers]”, Lee said. “I like what’s going on [in the Midwest] you have companies, startups, and academic institutions that are all leading in this space.

Another theme discussed throughout the week was the need for a skilled workforce to support deep technological innovation. Lee said she sees a skills gap that, if left unaddressed, could limit how far and where the space can go, but there is a huge opportunity to get students excited about quantum computing.

“It’s fine if it takes time to develop the skills as long as people are thinking about the right questions,” Lee said, adding that there’s “a really exciting opportunity” to see this new technology come to fruition – and to ensure that more people are involved.

“There’s an interesting push from corporations, universities, to really put equity at the forefront of some of their missions,” Lee added. “That’s what excites me the most.”


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