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By Kenneth Kwok
Furthering regenerative medicine to achieve affordable preventive healthcare for all
Regenerative medicine (RM) is a scientific term that describes the use of biotechnologies applied to obtain the regeneration, replacement, or repair of a tissue or organ. With patients in need of organ donations often facing extremely long wait times and even a global black market for trafficked organs, this technology undoubtedly has the potential to change the field of medicine forever.
One global advocate for this cutting-edge industry is Mr. Mike Moradi, Founder of Hexagon Venture Capital, whose Regenerative Medicine Fund is committed to advancing the field of regenerative medicine. Mike himself is also the Founder of Sensulin, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and the Co-Founder of the Global Health Impact Investment Day 2021 Initiative which will be launched WEF 51 in 2021.
KK: Mike, a real pleasure speaking with you today. Why don’t we start with the basics? How do your personal history, experience, and beliefs shape the vision of your business and your passion to drive this forward?
MM: As you correctly pointed out, I wear a few hats, just like you, Kenneth. On Sensulin, my journey there started from my parents and brother being diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic. We are pursuing one of the largest unmet medical needs (glucose-responsive insulin) faced by type 1 and type 2 diabetes (T1D/T2D) patients.
On Hexagon, I was eager to amplify my impact after starting, building, and exiting many successful companies. I opted to focus on regenerative medicine, which is a relatively new but powerful group of technologies, and aligned myself with some of the smartest scientists (from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and other leading institutions) and investors in the field, like Brock Reeve and Jimmy Lu. Instead of developing “daily maintenance drugs,” many RM projects seek to cure the underlying disease, and we are targeting the great diseases of our time. RM is likely the most significant medical development in the past century.
KK: As an investor in RM myself, I most certainly agree with you on that statement. From your point of view, what are the key risk factors and mega-trends (such as climate change) Hexagon will face over the next 3-7 years, and how have these influenced your corporate strategy?
MM: As economies mature, people seek ways to increase their quality of life, and this generally favors new healthcare innovations. However, we are likely to face the same pricing pressures that all biopharma companies face, or to put it another way, challenges in making these therapies available for everyone, not just the 1%. COVID-19 has further amplified this challenge, as we expect a prolonged economic slump, lasting several years.
We also must face the complexity and costs of developing new technologies (for instance, stem cells are notoriously difficult to research), which has implications for pricing. Lastly, there is a significant anti-science sentiment in the population, which can make emerging tech a “lightning rod” for criticism, and a convenient scapegoat for society’s ills. The only way to address these risks is to develop lean companies, and resist the temptation to raise increasingly large funds (which often happens after a successful fundraise), which can mis-align the interests of investors, fund managers, and patients. We must also remain focused on solving large unmet medical needs.
KK: For sure. There is always a sense of urgency and priority for those needs which are not only largely unmet but also most prevalent and destabilizing to the healthcare system. On that note, how would you best describe your corporate purpose and how do you help your employees share your vision for the company’s role in society?
MM: Kenneth, it really comes down to this. We aim to defeat the great diseases of our time… cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. In addition to including the voice of the patient, as I mentioned, we seek bold researchers with bold ideas. Ideally, those innovations will have inclusivity and access built into their invention. These scientists and doctors may not have experience commercializing scientific innovations, and that’s okay, as we aim to build diverse teams, with scientists and businesspeople from different disciplines.
KK: That does require a community to support you throughout the entire value chain. Given the current state of regenerative medicine, how do you promote its advancements over the long-term and how do you envision building a community to support this, both locally and globally?
MM: For Hexagon, there is only one way to create real value in the biopharma community, and that is to solve difficult technical challenges, with an eye toward the patient experience. Patients should always come first. We aim to build bridges into Asia, where many of our patients reside, and seek to find the right partners, investors, and scientists in order to have the greatest impact.
KK: In terms of impact and sustainability, what is the most urgent task at hand, and what are the resources you need?
MM: Allow me to pivot slightly back to Sensulin for a moment. For Sensulin, capital is the primary need at this time. We have a round open at the moment, and a growing soft circle of institutional and family office investors. Our Chairman recently took his company public, raising $65 million USD on a $235 million valuation. We are also laying the groundwork for an IPO, and are building the right capital structure to maximize our likelihood of success. We also seek to cultivate the right partnerships in Asia, given that over half of our patients are in China, India and Indonesia. These could be pharmaceutical companies, healthcare organizations, and/or NGOs that are active in the diabetes community.
For Hexagon, we are raising capital at the moment, and are seeking family offices, foundations, strategic investors, and/or institutional investors with an appetite for healthcare or first-time funds. Additionally, we are building relationships with prominent stem cell research centers, and seek to identify the most promising cell and gene therapy innovations. These are the ideas around which we will build new companies.
KK: Last question for you, Mike. If you were granted three wishes in 2020, what would they be and how would they accomplish your own personal mission in life?
MM: First, I hope the world will learn the right lessons from the Covid-19 crisis, and focus on prevention and cooperation, rather than containment and finger-pointing after the fact. This is the same prescription for any pandemic or a chronic disease.
Second, I hope for a world where humanity is free of the burdens of disease. Chronic diseases rob us of our quality of life, and we now have the tools to cure some of the world’s most vexing conditions. Let us use these technologies wisely, and for the benefit of all.
Third, I hope for environments where our entrepreneurial scientists and doctors can thrive, so that their innovations will benefit humanity. This is not wishful thinking – we are creating this at Sensulin and Hexagon. If you are passionate about creating the future of medicine, please reach out to us.
KK: A future where we all belong. Thank you, Mike, for a thought-provoking interview!
About the Author
Kenneth is the Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital, an impact-oriented healthcare, biotech, logistics, technology and education focused multi-family office investment venture based out of Hong Kong. Kenneth has worked 15 years in the finance industry, serving as the CIO to a large Chinese listed conglomerate as well as a financial professional at UBS AG and Deutsche Bank.
He is passionate about social impact work through his Better Together Foundation, which supports youth entrepreneurship related initiatives across Asia, and about health and well-being through his Co-President role at Asia World Anti-Aging and Well-Being Association (“AWAWA”). He is a UN SDG Accelerator Labs Mentor as well as UPenn/Wharton alumni interview chair.