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Combining expertise

Norwegian DNB Bank and US Back Bay Life Science Advisors have entered a partnership to combine scientific and strategic expertise with financing origination and execution capabilities.

NLS asked Jonathan Gertler, Managing Partner & CEO of Back Bay Life Science Advisors, and Jan Upman, Senior Relationship Manager, DNB Bank, about the partnership and the opportunities this full-service approach can bring to life science companies at all stages.

Could you describe how you can better assist companies through this new partnership?

“The underlying thesis of the partnership is that transactional elements are the final common pathway of company growth and that all transactions are best served by strategic thinking. Too often these functions are segregated, and the transfer of strategic information to transactional execution is not seamless. Thus, our partnership is designed to create not only the underlying data and analytic support for strategic decisions, but also to inform those decisions with banking sensibilities, so actionability and practicality are embedded into the analytics, and the decisions and advice are informed jointly by the strategic and corporate/investment banking teams.”

Our partnership is designed to create not only the underlying data and analytic support for strategic decisions, but also to inform those decisions with banking sensibilities, so actionability and practicality are embedded into the analytics, and the decisions and advice are informed jointly by the strategic and corporate/investment banking teams.”

“The range of companies served by the partnership is truly from early start-ups to global enterprises. Earlier stage companies are best supported by us in strategic planning, leading up to either fundraising or licensing partnering or M&A events. Later-stage and global companies, of course, can be aided by the capital markets expertise and execution capability. For commercial-stage companies, the corporate banking arm offers depth of knowledge and lending ability that combines great capital resources with creativity and flexibility.”

What is your best advice to a Nordic healthcare or life science company looking to expand to the US market?

“They need to take a sequential approach to understanding the development and commercial strategies necessary, as well as the investment dynamics and differences between the US and the Nordics. For the former aspect, it is crucial to recognize that cultivating appropriate scientific and clinical advisers on the advisory board, as well as US-based board members, establishes a perspective as well as “podium presence” that is essential to the company’s positioning and stature. In addition, this will also lead to objective evaluation of how Nordic offerings will function in the US healthcare delivery system, which is so profoundly different to the Nordic healthcare delivery systems.”

It is also crucial to understand the cultural and financial vehicle differences between US venture and public market investors and Nordic ones.”

“It is also crucial to understand the cultural and financial vehicle differences between US venture and public market investors and Nordic ones. This is true for both venture-level investment, where terms and governance approaches differ from Nordic approaches, as well as the public markets where valuation, amounts raised, trading dynamics, institutional presence, and research coverage become critically important, as well as differentiated from the Nordic Exchanges.”

What would you say are the biggest challenges right now for Nordic healthcare and life science companies in their efforts to grow and internationalize?

“The answer to our question above leads to the challenges that Nordic companies will face. The capital markets in the Nordics have less available venture funding and therefore syndication becomes tighter. Often, companies seek family offices or high net worth individuals to fund their progress, and these investors often take very different approaches to capitalization and governance. Therefore the transition over to the US markets can be difficult.”

Mapping these challenges and discerning how best to overcome them for specific offerings becomes the crucial aspect of any successful transaction from initial funding through to exit and/or public emergence.”

“In biotech, the biology as well as clinical approaches can be more consistent between the two continents than they are in medtech and healthtech, as the latter entails very meaningful challenges in pricing and reimbursement, as well as systems integration and buying/adoption decision making. Therefore, mapping these challenges and discerning how best to overcome them for specific offerings becomes the crucial aspect of any successful transaction from initial funding through to exit and/or public emergence.”

What are the unique strengths of the Nordic life science industry that can be leveraged for international expansion?

“The Nordics, despite the challenges of cross-border growth, have an extraordinary amalgam of scientific and clinical acumen. They have the great benefit of the healthcare delivery systems that allow for population studies in a very exact and health-equity directed fashion, government, foundation, and private capital sources that are very focused on innovation and growth, and management teams that have great international experience from global pharma and medtech to the entrepreneurial settings.”

“It is imperative for decision makers in prominent ecosystems, such as Boston and San Francisco, to recognize that by reaching out to and engaging with other ecosystems, with the excellent combination of attributes that the Nordics possess, will only enhance opportunities for partnering, acquisition, and investment by diversifying knowledge, culture, and scientific/clinical/technology capabilities.”

Featured photo of Jonathan Gertler: Back Bay Life Science Advisors

This Q&A was originally published in NLS magazine No 03 2023, out September 2023

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