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October 8, 2021 Bioscience

Panel: New Haven bioscience sector poised for boom

PHOTO | Contributed Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease's research facility at 100 College St. in New Haven.

Biohaven, one of New Haven’s most successful recent bioscience startups with a focus on brain disease, is valued at about $10 billion. 

By contrast, DoorDash, one of many food-delivery services in the marketplace, is valued at $70 billion.

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Bioscience leaders outlined the challenges of bringing their discoveries to market and growing in New Haven as part of a panel discussion with public officials on Friday at the College Street headquarters of Alexion AstraZeneca Rare Disease. 

The livestreamed meeting was prompted by the visit of National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, an enthusiastic booster of Connecticut’s public-private partnerships in bioscience innovation. 

“You’ve got amazing institutions in Connecticut,” Panchanathan said, highlighting the efforts of both UConn and Yale to translate their scientific discoveries into innovative products. 

Radenka Maric, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship, highlighted the university’s recent securing of its largest grant ever, $40 million from the NSF for research into nuclear magnetic resonance technology. 

Green energy and advanced manufacturing research and startups throughout the state will help Connecticut keep pace nationally in STEM, Maric added. 

Venture capitalist Kevin Rakin of HighCape Capital, who put forward the Biohaven/DoorDash comparison, outlined the challenges facing bioscience companies seeking to move beyond the startup phase. But the COVID-19 pandemic has helped put bioscience back on the radar for investors, he said.

“The past year has been an incredible time,” Rakin said. “Something is resonating out there of the role science can play. There is a reaction among investors especially, ‘Look what we’ve achieved, look what we can do.’”

Rakin said his company has raised $600 million in the last year alone for Connecticut-based companies, and he personally has worked with three startups coming out of Yale research.  

With more incubator and laboratory space coming online, Rakin said he sees a high potential for future growth for New Haven’s bioscience sector. 

“There’s never been a period like this… I’m here to tell you it’s just the beginning,” Rakin said.  

What’s needed to spur additional growth is more expertise on the business side to make sure early-stage companies graduate to the next level, he said.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in this bridge... that is the hardest point of transition,” Rakin said. On the VC side, funders are looking to add zeros to the valuations of promising bioscience companies.

“We are in the early days of figuring out - how do we get more serious capital into our companies?” Rakin said. “That’s the only way to take this great science that’s happening and really accelerate economic development and the products we want to see come out of that.”

Contact Liese Klein at

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