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The Pulse of the Life Sciences in the Pittsburgh Region

The PLSG invests in and supports the growth of biosciences companies in western Pennsylvania. The PLSG has investment and business growth programs to increase the linkage between research, technology and commercialization; nurtures and develops entrepreneurial biosciences enterprises; grows the region’s talent pool in the life sciences; and helps biosciences firms start-up, expand and locate in the Greater Pittsburgh region. So far 13 life sciences companies have relocated to Pittsburgh.

With more than $43M of capital under management, PLSG has worked with more than 418 companies, committed more than $20 million into 75 companies which has leveraged more than $900M in additional capital, including $278M of exits, into the region. We are indeed the “Pulse of Life Sciences in the Pittsburgh region.”


BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give someone about to launch their first biotech company?

John: Get to know the risks of the adventure moving your company from “Concept to CommercializationTM” and then scurry around to find help from people who have “been there and done that.” In the Pittsburgh region that would be tapping on the door of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG). The journey will be long and chock-full of challenges and it is advisable to avoid the easier hurdles and focus on the tougher ones.

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share some of your top tips when it comes to building a sustainable business model?

John: I think beyond a doubt the best tip I can give based on my multiple early-stage ventures is to prepare a well thought out plan, which considers various scenarios in case things don’t go as planned and you get off course, which you most definitely happen. And then hire the best and brightest people you can find to achieve the plan. Plans are easy but delivering results is hard and where the money is made.

BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest issue you see companies face when it comes to the commercialization stage of their business?

John: I believe that choosing the correct marketing pathway is the biggest issue. Getting all the funding you can is great, and advisable, but you don’t want to shoot blanks and waste this precious capital and waste time to market by pursuing the wrong path. How will you get your products to market? Will it be by direct sales, partners, distributors, internet or some combination of the above? You will also need to know your customers well and know who are the buyers and their motivations. Are they driven by saving money or preventing unnecessary additional procedures? Or are they looking for something that just provides more revenue because of a reimbursement situation?

BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to an entrepreneur when it comes to seeking investment for a new venture?

John: Again, align yourself with knowledgeable business partners, like the PLSG, who have vast connections to capital and strategic partners and can assist in building the pitch that makes investors “have to have” this in their investment portfolio.

BusinessInterviews.com: What are some trends in your industry that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?

John: Patient-centric solutions are what the market is looking for and what is driving the life sciences growth in the next few years. And what I mean by that are solutions that the patients are looking for to treat their particular situations and to understand the health care sector better. The NIH defines patient-centered care as follows: “health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients’ wants, needs and preferences and solicit patients’ input on the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care.” Patients have a thirst for this knowledge and are searching for solutions on a regular basis for themselves and loved ones and friends.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

John:My personal largest risk was to enter the life sciences sector over 15 years ago, after a very solid business career in manufacturing and information technology businesses. I took over a struggling medical device company, learned what the product could do and found out what the customers wanted and married those. And, with the help of a very
high-quality team, rebuilt the company, grew revenue from $4M to $30M in four years and then merged it into a publicly traded company where all the investors were able to see a liquidation event. I think it turned out pretty well.

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