Founders Readers - Ep 34 - Joe Hernandez of Blue Water Vaccines
The Founders Keepers podcast, podded
The Founders Readers pod-letter is not a transcript, but an accompaniment to the weekly podcast detailing key insights from that exact conversation.
Whether you’re too short on time to listen to the full episode or just prefer written content, you can find it here 👇
This is a special segment podcast episode with a focus on questions around conferences, given that it’s currently conference season for bio, med and health tech organisations in the US.
This week, we’re speaking with Joe Hernandez and his company, Blue Water Vaccines: An early-stage biotech company focused on manufacturing a universal influenza vaccine in partnership with the University of Oxford in England....
💬 Quote from the pod:
“We had a lot of interest from investors and that allowed us to bring in a lot of assets on the vaccines side. As covid has senesced a little bit, people are kind of focusing back on other things, but…vaccines are really important, and my job is telling and reminding people how important vaccines are and how transformative they are to human life and evolution”
- Joe Hernandez, Founder and CEO
🔑 Key insights from the episode:
Building a vaccines company: The work of Professor Sunetra Gupta at the University of Oxford and her 2007 paper on influenza diversity inspired Joe and his team to launch Blue Water Vaccines. As Joe notes in the podcast, Guptra’s work demonstrated that “influenza is really not as diverse as we think”, and that the virus effectively recycles a number of its epitopes that double as new vaccine targets - the basis of Blue Water’s own universal influenza vaccine.
The value of conferences to a business founder: Joe claims that in-person contact and networking has long been historically valuable for business (Joe has himself brought 5 companies to IPO to date), and in particular has been useful to him for seeking capital for biotech businesses. He adds that there is a secondary benefit in sourcing “great minds” for hire as well as business partners, be they pharma partners; partners that will license company assets; or those that will support commercialisation.
Market shifts in the vaccines space: Joe claims that the “silver lining” of covid-19 was that it aided vaccine developers in many ways, where a focus from investors and resourcing “came back to vaccines” that had been previously missing from the market. Blue Water had launched prior to the pandemic advent, and so Joe was already aware of the inherent challenges of working in a field that received less funding and commercial airtime that other competitors in the biotech space. However, he claimed that the pandemic per se had reminded businesses, individuals and investors of the importance of capital raising for vaccine development that has since led to other commercial ventures for the company.
Raising capital in the vaccines space: Joe claims that there was a “shift” in both institutional and general investment interest in his company in response to the uptake in vaccine development, and that with the tumultuous nature of the industry, the diversity of the investor pool was a definite advantage to supporting company growth.
What’s “hot” in the vaccines space: With many production methods for vaccines remaining “archaic”, Joe claims that there is still room for improvement on a global vaccination scale and that Blue Water is looking to act as a “mousetrap” for many of these areas, including chlamydia vaccine development: “Piggybacking” off the success of the HPV vaccine.
Forecast for 2023: Joe cites that with macroeconomic unknowns, interest rates still high with ongoing investor losses, and as this all relates to the political landscape, there remains a lot of complexity to financing biotech companies and innovation - and he will be keeping an eye on these "macro" trends
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
IPO status: Public
Industry: Biotechnology Research
Total funding to date: US$15 million
Lead investor(s): CincyTech
A biopharmaceutical company focused on developing transformational vaccines to address significant health challenges globally.
Drug development; the company holds the rights to proprietary technology developed at the University of Oxford, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) and St. Jude Children's Hospital, with more vaccines and technology in the pipeline.
🏙 Company tagline:
“Science. Innovation. Immunity.”
👉 Find out more:
Website: Blue Water Vaccines
LinkedIn: Blue Water Vaccines Inc.
Twitter: Vaccines Inc.
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