We got the chance to chat with Sulagna Bhattacharya, the CEO of Nanoscope Technologies and Nanoscope Therapeutics, a biopharma company that is advancing gene therapy using ambient light-sensitive molecules, bringing hope for renewed sight to millions of people blinded by retinal degenerative diseases for which no cure exists.
Sulagna Bhattacharya has decades of experience in management consulting with specialties in business Intelligence and risk management. Her expertise includes market research, product and business development, planning including budgeting and forecasting. She played a key role in seven full life cycle project implementations including two merger acquisitions. She has authored multiple publications and patents. She is the winner of the 2019 Healthcare Heroes award.
In 2017, Nanoscope became a client at TechFW, a tech startup incubator and accelerator in Fort Worth and it has been growing ever since.
Without further ado, here is the interview:
TechFW: Briefly explain your business
Sulagna: Nanoscope is a Texas-based, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that is engaged in the development of optogenetics platform therapy for vision restoration in patients suffering from a myriad of inherited retina degenerative diseases (IRD). Nanoscope has completed a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its lead product (MCO-010) and the clinical data generated was positive in terms of safety and improved visual function. The company is conducting its Phase 2 trial in the U.S. The goal is to validate the company’s first-in-class therapy for the treatment of IRDs.
TechFW: How did Nanoscope become part of the TechFW incubator/accelerator?
Sulagna: We learned of TechFW from former assistant director Jorge Varela. Like most startups, we started the company without sufficient finances and found ourselves in dire need of experts. Jorge told us about TechFW and its great programs designed to help startups. We liked everything we heard about TechFW, but we could not afford any extra expenses. I remember Jorge once came to our office and met us painting the building ourselves to save on costs. It was hilarious!
Jorge, however, did not give up on us. He remained persistent and he connected us to many professionals, including lawyers, business owners, regulatory experts. When we secured significant funding, we did not hesitate to join TechFW. It has been a great blessing. We never could have achieved the progress we made without its diligent and trusted guidance.
TechFW: Are there certain areas of your business that TechFW has impacted that have enhanced your growth?
Sulagna: TechFW has provided the forum that enabled us to interact with other entrepreneurs who, like us, were in the process of building a business. We were able to compare notes and encourage each other along the challenging journey.
Moreover, TechFW made available to us subject matter experts in areas such as legal (Doug Clayton), public relations (Bruce Raben), industry expert (Darlene Boudreaux) manufacturing (TMAC), and mentors from the MCrew program (Cathy Trinh). These experts and many others have had an immeasurable impact on our development. Hayden and his team are always helping us whenever we reached out. We are grateful to have TechFW as our extended Nanoscope family.
TechFW: You mentioned Darlene Boudreaux. Can you talk about how she has helped your business?
Sulagna: Darlene has been and continues to be a tremendous help. We are indebted to her and the TechFW team for the success we have achieved. Darlene is always available to us. She is an incredible resource and we have benefited from her wealth of experience. We rely on her for honest advice. She has provided meaningful guidance for our dealings with strategic partners, service providers in the areas of financial audit, public relations and investor relations.
TechFW: Through the TechFW mentoring program, MCrew™, you found a Chairman of the Board. How did that happen and how has he helped you?
Sulagna: Operating a startup is challenging and time is typically in short supply. We were constrained and turned down previous invitations to join the MCrew™ program.
However, the decision to enroll in the 2020 MCrew™ turned out to be one of the best decisions that transformed our company. MCrew™ undoubtedly impacted our development and set us on the path to commercialization.
Starting with a Growth Wheel Assessment, the program helped us to gain a better understanding of our personalities and unveil ways in which our management team can effectively collaborate to attain success.
We had the good fortune to be assigned to a superb team of mentors with diverse backgrounds and expertise, coupled with the dedication to push us to succeed. Sunny Lowe helped us to clearly define our values and to crystallize our corporate culture. Ab DeWeese was key in making us think through our business strategy. Hope Kahan coached us to adopt a people-focus attitude that inspires teamwork and superior performance.
Al Guillem was very generous with his time and went beyond the call of duty to help us resolve practical business problems we were experiencing with some suppliers. With Al’s mentoring, we found ourselves in a better negotiating position, which improved the perception of our company. Through Al’s instrumentality, we were able to successfully close a Series-A funding round that we are utilizing to conduct our Phase 2 U.S. clinical trial.
TechFW: Within TechFW, are there opportunities for you to engage with other founders to share insights?
Sulagna: We cannot emphasize enough the importance of TechFW, which provides an enabling environment for startups. The B2B connections that TechFW foster are a good foundation for enduring business relationships. Through TechFW, one gets the opportunity to compare notes with other entrepreneurs and consequently figure out solutions as well as alternative approaches to address challenges. The monthly Founders Lunch and other meetings provide networking and learning opportunities.