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Women’s health startup wins biotech pitch day and considers a move to Philly

The annual investor showcase is one of several convenings hosted by the life sciences coworking company.

Participants in BioLabs' 2024 Investor Day discuss their pitches in the Curtis Building atrium (Christopher Wink/Technical.ly)
For Mary Beth Cicero, being named winner of BioLabs’ second annual Investor Day felt like getting an Academy Award.

“The acknowledgement was just so overwhelming,” she told Technical.ly. Cicero is the cofounder and CEO of 3daughters, a women’s healthcare company developing a frameless, magnetic, non-hormonal IUD.

The two-year-old company was one of 15 that pitched this week at BioLabs Philadelphia’s event — one of several the global life sciences coworking company hosts to bring together industry stakeholders

Held at BioLabs’ home at the Curtis Building in Center City, the day offered each participating company 5 minutes to pitch followed by a 2-minute Q&A. Five companies pitched at a time, followed by a networking session. 15 separate startups had the opportunity to set up a poster presentation.

The purposely segmented structure allows investors and other stakeholders to remember who they’re interested in and go talk to them, according to Johannes Fruehauf, president and CEO of BioLabs, which is headquartered in Boston. This is the eighth Investor Day BioLabs has hosted worldwide.

For Fruehauf, Philadelphia stands out as being a hub for cell and gene therapy, thanks to companies like Spark Therapeutics. He hinted that in the near future, BioLabs plans to expand its capacity to support GCT companies in the region.

“Philadelphia is poised for growth in biotech, specifically, based on that skill set and that whole set of modalities,” Fruehauf said “We are looking to grow here in Philadelphia specifically for those companies.”

The life sciences sector in general is on the rise in Philly, with the region’s stakeholders recently coming together to create a new collective and to craft a proposal for a precision medicine hub backed by $80 million in EDA funding.

A woman in business attire proudly holding an award at a biostrategy partners event, standing before a banner with logos.

Marie Cicero, cofounder and CEO of healthtech company 3daughters, shows off her BioLabs Philadelphia Investor Day win (Sarah Huffman/Technical.ly)

Cicero, of 3daughters, hadn’t attended a BioLabs event before, but was encouraged to attend the pitch session by one of her investors. She was impressed by how many people attended and how interested they were in getting involved.

“I just love how supportive the ecosystem here is toward entrepreneurs,” Cicero said, “and open and welcoming, and just all the investors that were in the room was so incredible.”

3daughters has offices at an incubator in Massachusetts, but is mostly remote. The company is looking for a potential new home base, and Cicero is now considering Philly.

The labs become a ‘magnet of activity’

Investor Day is also an opportunity for BioLabs to show off the region to companies and get them to consider more involvement, according to Melina Blees, the company’s director of business operations and strategy and head of its Philadelphia operations.

“Our goal was to get those happy accidents that happen when you meet the right person in a room,” Blees said, “and they’re exactly the person that you need for your scientific advisory board or the CEO of the company you’re looking to spin out, or the money to help get you to their first stage.”

The company hosts other events throughout the year, such as its winter Tech Transfer Showcase in partnership with BioStrategy Partners. The invite-only event brings together entrepreneurs, inventors, academics and investors around work being done at local universities and research institutions.

Across its 15 worldwide locations, BioLabs offers coworking lab and office space to life sciences companies, as well as resources and networking opportunities. The company has had a presence in Philadelphia since 2018.

“The labs function as a magnet of activity,” said Fruehauf, the BioLabs CEO. Founders join because they are in need of space or equipment, but it leads to the formation of a community of entrepreneurs sharing their experiences, he said. “So our role, in a way, is to enhance that community.”

This fall, BioLabs Philadelphia plans to host a biotech jobs fair and is again working with Biostrategy Partners on another investor event, this one geared toward family offices.

BioLabs benefits from being a global network with existing relationships with the investor community and pharmaceuticals community, said Blees, the director of strategy.

“It really kind of allows us to bring those folks to Philly,” Blees said. “Some of them certainly are interested in Philadelphia on their own, but it gives us an additional power to sort of draw them to Philly.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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