Beginner's Mind

#84: Samantha Dale Strasser - Pepper Bio, MIT, And the Eco-System in Boston

August 29, 2022 Christian Soschner, Samantha Dale Strasser Season 3 Episode 25
Beginner's Mind
#84: Samantha Dale Strasser - Pepper Bio, MIT, And the Eco-System in Boston
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What is the best approach to starting a novel deep tech life science company?

In this episode, I am talking with Samatha Dale Strasser, CSO, and co-founder of Pepper Bio, about her academic career at the University of Cambridge and MIT and the process of starting Pepper Bio.

Backed by VC firm NFX, Pepper Bio uses proprietary lab methods and computational abilities to unlock a new level of sophistication in drug discovery.
Called the "Google Maps for drug discovery" Pepper Bio helps partners find the safest, fastest route to new, effective drugs in clinical trials by analyzing transomics data.
So far, the company has already identified applications of its technology for rare diseases in oncology, neurology, and inflammatory.

Samantha Dale Strasser, PhD, is CSO and co-founder of Pepper Bio. Samantha co-founded Pepper Bio based on foundational work she pioneered during her PhD studies at MIT.  Her development of the first trans-omic machine learning platform revolutionizes how we discover drugs and treat disease.  This approach has already identified and validated previously unseen insights in inflammatory diseases and undruggable cancers.  She paved the way to Pepper’s first commercial partner, eager to apply this approach to central nervous system diseases. 

We are talking about:
⭐The Eco-Systems in Boston
⭐ The Importance of Aligning Vision – Mission – Goals – Actions
⭐ Challenges in Drug Development
⭐ Fundraising strategies for the United States
⭐The Story Behind Pepper Bio
⭐ And Much, Much more

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🕛 Timestamps:
(00:00) Introduction Pepper Bio and Samantha Dale Strasser
(02:30) Start of the recording
(03:00) Heatwaves, Paintings, and the Sky Above Boston
(05:00) Culture in Boston/Cambridge and Cambridge, UK – MIT and the University of Cambridge
(16:08) Samantha's Motivation to Start Pepper Bio
(19:20) The Startup Eco-System in Boston, Massachusetts
(21:27) The 3 Critical Key Success Factors of the Deep Tech Eco-System in Boston
(24:40) Starting Points for Global Founders to Connect to the Eco-System in and around Boston
(26:40) Real Life and Digital Meetings – The Best of Two Worlds
(29:55) Fundraising in the United States – 3 Key Success Factors 
(33:17) Relationship-building with Investors and Duration of Fundraising in 2022
(31:08) The 3 Do's and Don'ts When Fundraising with US-Based Investors
(44:05) Vision Statement – Pepper Bio
(47:10) The Story Behind Pepper Bio's Foundation
(51:12) Challenges in Drug Development to Improve Success R

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00:00:00:02 - 00:00:20:11

Christian Soschner

What is the best approach to starting in our deep life science company? In this episode, I'm talking with Samantha Dale Strasser, CSO and co-founder of Pepper Bio, about her academic career at the University of Cambridge and Amity and the process of starting. Her company.

 

00:00:20:18 - 00:00:44:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

Pepper Bio The Excitement for the future. That's to come in that we see we've seen over time this bringing of new data and information through genomics, the transcriptomics of the last 1020 years. And I am ecstatic to be at a time where it's inevitable that we'll see bringing new technologies to bear on larger data sets and data collection and biology.

 

00:00:44:13 - 00:01:00:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

And it's a phenomenal time to be in the field and excited to be leading the charge and bringing functional data such as fossil proteomics to play to really reach that goal of treating the untreatable. So excited to share the story today thanks to for a great chat backed.

 

00:01:00:02 - 00:01:37:11

Christian Soschner

By ABC Farm and Effects. Pepper Bio uses proprietary lab methods and computational abilities to unlock a new level of sophistication in drug discovery called Google Maps for Drug Discovery. Pepper Bio helps partners find the safest and fastest drought to new effective drugs in clinical trials by analyzing trends omics data. So far, the company has already identified applications of its technology for rare diseases in oncology, neurology and inflammatory.

 

00:01:38:01 - 00:02:15:11

Christian Soschner

Symantec Co-Founder Pepper Bio. Based upon foundational work she pioneered during her Ph.D. studies at M.I.T., how development of the first IT machine learning platform is revolutionizing how we discover drugs and treat diseases. This approach has already identified and validated previously unseen insights in inflammatory diseases and and drug delivery of cancers. She paved a way to Pepper's first commercial partner, eager to apply this approach to central nervous system diseases.

 

00:02:16:01 - 00:02:41:16

Christian Soschner

In this episode, we are talking about the ecosystem in Boston, the importance of aligning vision, mission goals and actions, challenges in drug discovery, fundraising strategy for the United States, the story behind Pepper Bio and much, much more. Enjoy the show, Samantha. It's awesome to see you again. How are you doing today?

 

00:02:42:11 - 00:02:49:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

Doing well. Finally making it past the heat wave here in Boston. So pretty happy about that. Hopefully getting some storms today.

 

00:02:49:04 - 00:02:52:07

Christian Soschner

So you also have a heat wave in Boston, it seems like.

 

00:02:52:07 - 00:02:58:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yes, it seems like it's been a wonderfully worldwide phenomenon. We've all been sharing experiences there of.

 

00:02:59:03 - 00:03:05:22

Christian Soschner

Pretty much the same situation in the United States and in Europe. I like I like the background. Other pictures, yours. Did you paint them?

 

00:03:06:10 - 00:03:20:19

Samantha Dale Strasser

Oh, thank you. I did. In fact, I in my free time, when I when I have it, which is rare and few and far between. But I always love relaxing with something that I can can physically do with my hands and paintings and the fun outlet for that for me. So thank you.

 

00:03:21:03 - 00:03:22:07

Christian Soschner

What are the paintings about?

 

00:03:23:10 - 00:03:38:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

So they're actually all clouds and images that I've seen just through through trips I've taken or the like I've always really liked. They're kind of allowing me to study more color and light as opposed to form. And so I can really focus on those first two and doing so.

 

00:03:39:12 - 00:03:44:05

Christian Soschner

Are there are many clouds currently in the sky in Boston.

 

00:03:44:21 - 00:03:54:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

Today? Actually, no. We are very bright blue, sunny skies here in Boston, but we have a huge range of different clouds that come through with storms, which is always pretty fun.

 

00:03:54:21 - 00:04:13:10

Christian Soschner

So the last time that I was in Boston was in 2018, it was the PIO International, I think it was 2018, 2019 was in Philadelphia. And I hope that next year I can come back to Boston. What would you recommend me to visit when I'm in Boston as a tourist?

 

00:04:13:20 - 00:04:36:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

Oh, well, there's so many things. I mean, one thing that I've always really loved, the paintings behind me makes sense for this. But the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is absolutely beautiful. A really unique setup for a museum. It's an old mansion that Isabella had and kind of curated everything herself. And the artwork itself is actually located where she curated it to be.

 

00:04:36:14 - 00:04:39:18

Samantha Dale Strasser

So it's unique from traditional museums in that sense.

 

00:04:39:18 - 00:04:42:21

Christian Soschner

So I will put it on my list for next year.

 

00:04:43:02 - 00:04:44:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

Excellent. Look forward to hearing what you think.

 

00:04:45:09 - 00:04:51:09

Christian Soschner

Oh, I will tell you. I will tell you. But it's it's I think it's eight or nine months. Next year in June should be in Boston.

 

00:04:51:13 - 00:04:54:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

So good time hopefully before any heatwaves next year.

 

00:04:54:22 - 00:05:10:11

Christian Soschner

I hope so too. But meanwhile, I'm, I think, experience with heatwaves also here in Central Europe. Yes. Let me ask you the first questions in our conversation about your academic background. Can you describe it a little bit to me?

 

00:05:10:22 - 00:05:38:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah, absolutely. So first, just by way of big picture context, I've always been really excited about finally the data that we have access to in biology coupled with computational tools and power to do something with that. And so I really structured my academic background around these these two pillars that I sometimes call a bilingual engineering background. And so for me, that actually started at Northwestern University just outside Chicago, not too far from my home state of Wisconsin.

 

00:05:38:18 - 00:06:03:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

And while there I studied biomedical engineering and applied mathematics. So really, again, that duality of biological with computational and while I was there was actually where I met my co-founder for Pepper. So when we chat more about Pepper, kind of our context in many ways goes back over ten years now. So it's been exciting to to really have that kind of established connection with someone about working and really bringing a change in the world.

 

00:06:04:15 - 00:06:32:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

Following Northwestern, I went to actually Europe for for about a year. I went to the University of Cambridge as a Churchill scholar. So as in Churchill College, while I was there and following my time there, I came back to the U.S. for my Ph.D. So it was while starting my Ph.D. at MIT again, kind of in this bilingual space of earning my degree in electrical engineering and computer science on the computational side while doing research.

 

00:06:32:09 - 00:06:54:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

And Doug Lowe from Berger's group in biological engineering that I really started to delve after a lot of the questions that built the Foundation for Peppers technology to date that we've now been building and expanding upon. So it's been, yeah, phenomenal collection of individuals and network that I've kind of been able to to grow throughout and kind of bring us to where we're building pepper today.

 

00:06:55:13 - 00:07:26:20

Christian Soschner

That's great. Amity It's also on your list and there are two stories from the committee. So basically, No. One, real people from real person, from the Amity, and one is in this series, it was in the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon Cooper always joked around about the Amity and that it's not a real university. So in his opinion, it was a comedy series, of course, and there is this famous podcast, the Lex Friedman, where Fink is also, well said lecturer at the Amity.

 

00:07:27:18 - 00:07:35:22

Christian Soschner

But I always was curious about how is life at the Met here? In reality, it's been.

 

00:07:35:22 - 00:07:57:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

What I really loved about it is it's a really driven community, so it's a group of people who are really focused on making change in the world. And I think you know, there's that perspective of the MIT hacker. The MIT builder is kind of what often folks might think of, and I was excited to see that thread in a really positive light exist.

 

00:07:57:06 - 00:08:16:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

I mean, there's an amazing amount of resources for students, be it undergraduate graduate students and a real focus on trying something new to make a difference. That's a bubble that I've done really fortunate to be a part of and really think it's phenomenal what the community has cultivated in that sense.

 

00:08:17:13 - 00:08:24:02

Christian Soschner

And what stands out extremity when we when we think about entrepreneurship.

 

00:08:24:02 - 00:08:44:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

So what I mean, I think every person's experiences is really bespoke. So for me what stood out was just the resources of people who are willing to talk to you and answer questions. So throughout my graduate career in the X Department as well as throughout the Institute, there were folks who were really listening to, okay, what students want, what do they need, what are our questions?

 

00:08:45:01 - 00:09:23:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

And they really quickly adapted to serving those requests. And so a lot of that and entrepreneurship meant a program that actually we started while I was a graduate student that's now called START at MIT, was historically called START six, coming out of electrical engineering computer science, but was started by an answer, John DICKERSON And was a really phenomenal resource that we grew real time in many ways to listening to what students needed and to meet that entrepreneurial goal of bringing together alumni, bringing together resources to help people learn what patterns there are to best, you know, really make a change in that space.

 

00:09:23:20 - 00:09:24:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

Quickly.

 

00:09:25:02 - 00:09:50:16

Christian Soschner

I got to my I was smiling about talking because it reminded me of my university career in the nineties and you said that the MBTI serves the students needs and the story popped up in my mind about the exams back in the nineties. And the interesting thing was that the failure rate at the university was pretty high. It was up to 90% at each exam.

 

00:09:51:01 - 00:10:06:07

Christian Soschner

And if anything was, the teachers were really proud of it. So that's 90% of students failed. And now you contrasted with stories from the amity and say this institution is there to serve the students. How is the service for students at the Amity?

 

00:10:07:08 - 00:10:31:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

It's I mean, it's been phenomenal from from my experience. I mean, I think it's funny you mention that we examine that to the failure rate. I mean, it is very intense. I think that's something that, you know, every student can can attest to is often the you know, the analogy of it being like a fire hose of just information and of new things to keep understanding and learning and coming at you, which, as you know, Ken, is definitely something to adapt to.

 

00:10:32:07 - 00:11:03:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

But I found really that perspective in terms of serving students helps to cultivate a community that thinks very quickly and thinks very astutely about about challenges. I think there is you know, it's a double edged sword for sure in terms of the intensity, because it is it is a lot. But I think that's ultimately been serving students for the realm of bringing in challenges that can then help them learn how to overcome and think through that for future things that they do in their career.

 

00:11:04:20 - 00:11:07:16

Christian Soschner

But still federated committed. So once people are in.

 

00:11:08:20 - 00:11:30:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

It's a good question. Honestly, I don't know. I don't have numbers on that. I've not looked. So for me as a graduate student, I think it's it's always a different lens versus an undergraduate perspective because they're just a very different community in that sense around how classes are taken, How researchers looked at, say, my course load was very different then than an undergraduate student would be.

 

00:11:30:03 - 00:11:34:17

Samantha Dale Strasser

I honestly, I don't know the failure rate to speak to. And in that in terms of numerical numbers.

 

00:11:34:22 - 00:11:55:20

Christian Soschner

The I believe both in Europe and in the United States, a lot change to the better in the last three decades. And I think at all universities we can now test if I did my research right and if a lesson isn't properly so far you lived two times in Cambridge, so one time in the United States and one time in the United Kingdom.

 

00:11:56:07 - 00:12:01:20

Christian Soschner

What I'm curious about is what are the differences between these these two cities from your perspective?

 

00:12:02:22 - 00:12:26:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

It's similar and different in many ways. So I mean, as a as a whole, both had a phenomenal community of people. I mean, I think that's a common thread I've found wherever I live, that that's really what what makes the core of a location and for me, my experiences there both had people who were very active and driven about what they were excited to do in terms of their career.

 

00:12:26:05 - 00:12:42:15

Samantha Dale Strasser

The science and elsewhere is in the humanities for for each for sure differences. I mean, I personally think the UK Cambridge architectural is is more striking, but I just partly myself love older architecture. So that's the kind of personal bias.

 

00:12:42:24 - 00:12:44:06

Christian Soschner

That, okay, we love you for that.

 

00:12:44:23 - 00:12:55:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

Oh yes, that was it was phenomenal. It kind of for me, a childhood dream in many ways of just wanting to go visit. And I was was not disappointed. So very much enjoyed that experience.

 

00:12:55:11 - 00:12:57:21

Christian Soschner

How long was your stay in Cambridge in the United Kingdom?

 

00:12:58:02 - 00:13:19:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

Not long. It was was about ten months for us. I was there for a master's degree while I was in the UK, but made and I was in that time the most of it, both academically from just the labs and people I got to know. The the college experience itself at Cambridge is very distinct and my friends can attest to we traveled a lot while we were there.

 

00:13:19:05 - 00:13:24:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

So in that sense was also a really great opportunity across the board in terms of the experience there.

 

00:13:25:03 - 00:13:28:08

Christian Soschner

Did it travel only in the United Kingdom or did you also visit?

 

00:13:28:08 - 00:13:51:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

No, actually made it over to Vienna for Berlin travels? Yes, I spent actually Christmas in Vienna, which was phenomenal. But now we went to Vienna, to Oslo and Norway, to a couple of places in Italy, Florence and Baja. So now we had a great chance to to see other cultures and communities while we were there, for sure.

 

00:13:52:02 - 00:13:54:12

Christian Soschner

The most beautiful places from Europe, I guess.

 

00:13:55:11 - 00:14:01:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

Well, I think, you know, across the board we were there's many it's hard to pick. So it was definitely an extra time.

 

00:14:02:13 - 00:14:07:07

Christian Soschner

And when we switched to the United States, how is life in Cambridge? In the United States?

 

00:14:07:24 - 00:14:40:12

Samantha Dale Strasser

It's it's actually funny. Every time I leave, I remember the distinctions that make Cambridge and in the US really unique, which a lot of it is just the you have a really high density of students and of people who are at universities, which is definitely makes you know, you can go to a coffee shop and hear people talking about their research in and you know, fusion energy you can go to, you know, just down the street and you'll hear folks that are saved from, you know, say, the Broad Institute or one of the universities nearby.

 

00:14:40:12 - 00:15:03:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

I'm just working on, you know, large genetics projects. So you have a wide range of really technical people around that is now, I think, really what makes the community distinct. You know, you can walk down the street and see Madani, you can see Pfizer, you can see just a wealth of really proximal, really phenomenal companies and industries to be a part of.

 

00:15:04:05 - 00:15:34:13

Christian Soschner

That's that sounds really awesome. That sounds really great. When I was a student in the nineties, so the short career theory, short career was to get a degree and then you have to try out one choice. Either you go into the industry, you work in the industry, or you pursue an academic career. So, so standards, I think. Ph.D. And afterwards becoming a teacher at the university and that's it for the rest of your life.

 

00:15:35:12 - 00:15:55:14

Christian Soschner

Anything in the nineties, you know, I mean, it was in Austria, it was class, it was a very small city, also a lot of students in the city. And it was very lively and it was fun being there but found in companies back in the nineties was not the go to choice for students. So it's mostly in Austria.

 

00:15:55:14 - 00:16:14:02

Christian Soschner

It was people in their fifties who had a career in the industry and then at the end of the career, founded a company, a consultancy or something else, Stimulus Tree and then retired. What was your motivation in the United States to start the company practically right after graduating?

 

00:16:14:14 - 00:16:43:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah. For me, a lot stemmed from the impact that I wanted to make and where I saw the most effective for that impact to be made quickly. I've always been really focused on, you know, bringing things to bear that make experiences on our planet better. That's been a driving force for me across the board of thinking about what I want to do in my career and from the research that I was doing in graduate school.

 

00:16:44:09 - 00:17:11:16

Samantha Dale Strasser

And my goal to make an impact for patients within within health care, I saw the quickest way to do that and to really have the ability to to grow that. The way that I saw could effectively bring it to bear was through a startup. I think there's been a really depends on the research questions in the science, but for me, I'm taking a really fundamental goal of improving how we make decisions and drug discovery.

 

00:17:11:23 - 00:17:38:01

Samantha Dale Strasser

I started doing that through a startup as the most the quickest way to do that for me. I had considered staying in, you know, in more research through academia and the like. I found that the questions and the translation ability was would have been a different fraction and have been more focused on research as opposed to focus. Here, where I'm really focused, I'm bringing that to bear in terms of to to market.

 

00:17:38:15 - 00:17:58:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

And for me, that bringing to market and bringing to to application very quickly was the part that drove me to seeing a startup was an easy choice in that sense. Obviously there's now similarities that I think are interesting. You know, some people say as a P.I., you're kind of running your own mini company in your lab, which is true, right?

 

00:17:58:05 - 00:18:02:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

You write grants, you get funding, you hired students just like we hire employees.

 

00:18:02:06 - 00:18:03:07

Christian Soschner

It's like a stipend.

 

00:18:04:05 - 00:18:11:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

But yeah, it's something that for me, the translation part two industry from bringing that to folks was much quicker through a startup.

 

00:18:12:13 - 00:18:42:12

Christian Soschner

Yeah, that's true. I think the the lab work at the research institutions is still more scientific driven than market driven. Let's before we talk about your company, let's stay in this in the startup ecosystem. I tried my first attempt in founding a startup in the nineties. It was something similar to Facebook, but the technology was not that far advanced and it wasn't a local solution because the internet was not so well-connected like it was 2006 or like it is now.

 

00:18:43:14 - 00:19:08:20

Christian Soschner

The reactions that I got from the environment. But quite funny because if it was 100% of the people for simply me and my friends, and that's simply crazy to start a company in the internet that nobody needs actually, and it must be a failure right away. So the support for startups back then was practically, I would say, very, very close to zero maybe of and one or the other person.

 

00:19:08:20 - 00:19:24:09

Christian Soschner

But it is definitely, definitely has not been the the ecosystem that we see right now here also in Europe. What I'm curious about is how is the situation for scientific startups in Boston and in Cambridge?

 

00:19:24:09 - 00:19:44:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

It's I mean, what we found and obviously that's through the lens of, you know, drug discovery biotech company, we've found that it's, you know, very strong. You can find networking events probably every day of the week if you really wanted to, in terms of folks ready to to chat about and who are intrigued to see what your what you're building, what you're doing.

 

00:19:44:07 - 00:19:54:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

And this does extend beyond biotech There's a lot of resources for also alternative energies. Folks may know the name Greentown Labs is local to here. So there's a wealth of.

 

00:19:55:11 - 00:19:56:04

Christian Soschner

Both.

 

00:19:56:13 - 00:19:59:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

Resources in terms of mentors, in terms.

 

00:19:59:09 - 00:19:59:23

Christian Soschner

Of.

 

00:20:00:18 - 00:20:23:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

Potential, you know, folks who are excited to join startups. I think that's something that we found really exciting is just be the community of people and with universities. I mean, I talked a bit about at M.I.T. the resources that we have available. But there's, you know, also at Harvard, a, you know, life science lab there as well that helps to really grow and build startups.

 

00:20:23:13 - 00:20:53:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

With business school, you have a resource of again, kind of a, you know, business background of folks that are really focused on that. So it's really dense in that sense of just what's available. And I've been I think, you know, really I look back and sometimes remember how wonderful that bubble is. And I think as much as folks can find a way to get to know people connected to, it's a very open bubble in that sense that, you know, there's a lot of people excited to chat and we all want to make a difference.

 

00:20:54:07 - 00:21:01:10

Samantha Dale Strasser

And finding passionate people is, yeah, something that across the board here, folks are very excited about.

 

00:21:02:10 - 00:21:33:16

Christian Soschner

The ecosystems around Stanford and also in Boston are well known here in Europe and many people dream of the abundance of capital in the United States. When you look at the ecosystem in Boston, from your perspective, when you can only choose free success factors for Boston, that makes Boston stand out globally, what are the free, major key success factors of the ecosystem in Boston?

 

00:21:35:06 - 00:22:16:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

Three It's always hard on different numbers, but no, I mean, I think I mean highlighting three that that I think are really critical. I mean, one I've talked a lot about even in our conversation thus far, people. Right. And I think that's a key facet is just the density of people who are available for mentorship, the density of experienced people who have either started companies on themselves or people who have worked within the industry for years that can provide context of how to get things done as a as a company with, you know, nominally younger founders in the field, we found that resource of mentors who are very senior in drug discovery to be phenomenal.

 

00:22:17:15 - 00:22:42:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

The second facet that I guess I mentioned kind of building on the people facet is just the really high density of world renowned universities that, you know, again comes back to, you know, the research that's happening there, the momentum, the excitement, the the students that are there are kind of circling a little bit back to my first point of people, but that as well, obviously gives a really unique ecosystem to exist.

 

00:22:42:05 - 00:23:05:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

And I think even for for Stanford and the West Coast, that's something that exists there as well. And then I guess the third that I'd highlight would be the hospitals and the surrounding research with that infrastructure. This is obviously distinct to the life science, biotech space in particular. But you have, you know, MDH, you have Harvard Medical School all within walking distance of each other.

 

00:23:06:05 - 00:23:28:15

Samantha Dale Strasser

And that density and again, that drive and the, again, the people connected there is a really phenomenal ecosystem to be a part of and I think really makes Boston stand out. So that kind of that collective of three is really a magnet for many other things as well. So that's where you have other companies coming Then as a result of that based their R&D here.

 

00:23:29:02 - 00:23:33:16

Samantha Dale Strasser

So, you know, it feeds itself in a really positive feedback loop over time.

 

00:23:34:05 - 00:23:47:19

Christian Soschner

Yeah, that's true. The third factor, hospitals, I never think about it. I think the the area is very densely populated around around Boston. So there are a lot of people I population which helps in clinical trials I guess.

 

00:23:48:16 - 00:24:05:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

Exactly. Yeah absolutely There was kind of laugh. We're not only a small city as far as you know I think if you're bigger New York and L.A. and the like but I think within just the density of what we have is it really puts us on the map is just the Yeah, the resources and people are are phenomenal.

 

00:24:05:13 - 00:24:07:13

Christian Soschner

And I think New York is not far away, isn't it?

 

00:24:07:14 - 00:24:10:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

No, it's not. And definitely much bigger than much bigger than Boston.

 

00:24:10:18 - 00:24:43:13

Christian Soschner

That's true. It's true. When I fly to Boston, it's mostly three or four days or five days. And let's assume that I decide to stay long. I've sold two or three days to connect to the ecosystem that you described in Boston. What would be a good starting point for someone who comes from Europe, who represents a company and decides to, let's say, evaluate if it makes sense to found a subsidiary in Boston and connect to the local community.

 

00:24:43:13 - 00:24:46:00

Christian Soschner

What is the best starting point?

 

00:24:46:00 - 00:25:11:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

I guess I would like to two things. So one, and this goes for even Boston or elsewhere, if there's a one if there's a conference that's available that offers one on one networking, that really provides an infrastructure to effectively meet with folks, we found that highly effective at getting to know companies in Boston and elsewhere. I think that's something it's essentially speed dating for for meeting companies at conferences.

 

00:25:12:06 - 00:25:40:00

Samantha Dale Strasser

And it's very fast, very rapid fire. But it gives a really quick connection that we found is more directed than, say, networking in a more free form in that sense. So you know, a bit more what you're expecting coming in. And I think folks also like that on the other side of the table, knowing what to expect. The second facet of it, Boston's specific, would also be to, you know, plan ahead and really reach out to folks.

 

00:25:40:00 - 00:26:05:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

So if there's specific labs that you're interested in or if there's specific companies that you're interested in startups, for example, to to reach out and just, you know, say, hey, I'll be in the area, I would love to grab coffee. I think people are always really excited about that personal connection, especially after, you know, seeing throughout the pandemic how much being in person can add significant, you know, value on your first getting to know someone.

 

00:26:05:23 - 00:26:24:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

So I think even that level can be really effective at talking at talking with folks. Once you get to know folks, that's usually also, you know, you can use that as a springboard to to see if they know other individuals who would be highly relevant to your interests. And that can just from that really snowball in many ways of just people and connections.

 

00:26:24:09 - 00:26:25:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

As a result of that.

 

00:26:26:02 - 00:26:46:11

Christian Soschner

I agree to what to say. I think the most important part in business life, personal relationships and it needs real life. So when someone wants to do something in the United States, founding an office or opening an office is, I think, mandatory and it doesn't work. I assume 100% of the time.

 

00:26:47:13 - 00:27:11:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

Or at least taking many trips. I think even if it's opening an office is hard. I think, you know, as much as you can visit in person can definitely help to get boots on the ground, even if intermittently, because I think that, you know, for folks here, you just get a different to your point, you know, in agreeing a different connection and ability to get to know people and have them feel comfortable in terms of expanding their network to you as well.

 

00:27:12:11 - 00:27:38:02

Christian Soschner

I would have agreed to what you say up to 2024 currently. I think still the the travel industry is not where it was. It was used to be in the twenties. I always experienced myself when I travel to San Diego, I got to be an extra because I couldn't get a trip back. So taking many trips can be adventurous distance.

 

00:27:38:17 - 00:27:50:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

That is true. I'm that is absolutely true. I actually similarly some folks on our island for for bio in San Diego which I'm assuming as I you were there was the same experience that they had as well And in that case, sorry.

 

00:27:50:19 - 00:27:53:22

Christian Soschner

How was your experience flying from Boston to San Diego?

 

00:27:54:12 - 00:28:21:01

Samantha Dale Strasser

I frankly got lucky in my trip and didn't have the delays, but I know that that was a rarity. So I guess that to that point for for folks, I think another avenue, if it's really looking for getting kind of connections more closely, obviously you can have an office here or have, you know, a, you know, establish you know, hire individuals who are remote based in Boston, but can still meet folks in person.

 

00:28:21:01 - 00:28:37:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

I think that's another kind of interesting way, acknowledging the travel challenges and still have a balance of being in person as a person with the company. But anyone is definitely curious times for travel for sure.

 

00:28:37:17 - 00:28:57:05

Christian Soschner

Now probably hits the jackpot because on my way to San Diego, everything went very well up to Chicago. And then a connecting flight was from Chicago to San Diego. But we had two lightning strikes on the airplane Midway. So we had an emergency landing in Denver. Oh.

 

00:28:57:16 - 00:29:01:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

Oh, wow. I've never had that experience. That sounds like an adventure.

 

00:29:01:20 - 00:29:27:00

Christian Soschner

I slept through. I was sleeping. So I just got a little bit of information after landing so that it was an emergency landing and people were really scared and frightened. Then we had to think of had to wait about four or 5 hours for the next airplane. And when the airplane was about to take off, the pilot said that his shift was over.

 

00:29:27:12 - 00:29:40:05

Christian Soschner

So he has to return to the to the airport. And we had to wait another 2 hours for the next plane. So it was quite, quite funny. And you were lucky, basically. So if a direct flight from from Boston to San Diego.

 

00:29:40:18 - 00:29:51:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah, no, I was in the fortunate boat there. But it's definitely been becoming more and more rare to hear stories that are that smooth.

 

00:29:51:09 - 00:29:55:15

Christian Soschner

I hope it becomes the new normal in a couple of months. Again.

 

00:29:56:10 - 00:30:00:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah. No, likewise for sure.

 

00:30:00:23 - 00:30:33:24

Christian Soschner

Let's let's talk a bit about fundraising in the United States. I mean, the number one reason why companies from Europe have an eye on the market in the United States is fundraising. And the second reason, of course, is accessing the US market. It's the biggest market in the world still. And Europe has a lot of technology to offer you to, I think the world's best research organizations and the Horizon Europe program that for us every couple of years, hundreds of billions of euros into research.

 

00:30:34:23 - 00:31:03:03

Christian Soschner

But what we don't have is venture capital hosts here. We say you closed your Citroen to appreciate round with and if it's a Silicon Valley based venture capital firm. And what I'm curious to hear is, in your opinion, what are the three main success factors, factors for companies when they want to find capital in the United States?

 

00:31:03:03 - 00:31:34:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah. So I guess in a few things there are so one in this kind of is I guess a common thread, but it is, is networking and getting to know people. I think, you know, the more that you can facilitate getting to know people that can make warm introductions to investors, that is definitely very helpful. Obviously not to discourage cold calls, but it is something that the investors are known for saying they rarely invest in in cold reach out, that they look for folks who have been introduced to them by someone that they know and someone that they trust.

 

00:31:34:24 - 00:32:00:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so the more that you can just chat with folks, become, you know, having connections that can make introductions to investors, as can be connections such as other founders, This can be connections such as, you know, CEOs of it's later stage funding that can definitely help. A second facet and this is, you know across the board I think is just talk to a lot of people and investors.

 

00:32:00:22 - 00:32:21:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

I know that's something that we found. You know, it takes a bit to find the right fit and an investor company that is huge. We were really excited once we realize on our end the synergy within effects and what we wanted to build and their vision as well and tech bio as they've called it, and we've really, you know, seen that as a great partnership.

 

00:32:21:15 - 00:32:42:00

Samantha Dale Strasser

So don't be afraid if you talk to 40 people and you're still looking for traction, just keep that tenacity and keep going because there are a lot of different flavors of investors and that finding that right fit is is huge. And then the last part in that, you know, in that tenacity is just to focus on your strengths and leverage that.

 

00:32:42:00 - 00:33:01:08

Samantha Dale Strasser

And don't be modest. I think as scientists, sometimes we like to think the science speaks for itself, which it does, but it still needs someone to blow its own horn, and that's you as the founder. And so that's something that, you know, I think about a lot. I think initially I you know, I suffered from that as well, where I was looking at, okay, if the science is great, everyone will see it.

 

00:33:01:19 - 00:33:23:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

But frankly, you know, at the time, you know, I understood it most deeply and a lot of it, too, to relay that to someone else is to be bold and to say, you know, really what the potential of that is and why it will change the world. And so really, as a scientist, just making sure you are getting out there and being bold in that and speaking with the science on that front.

 

00:33:24:00 - 00:33:53:24

Christian Soschner

Excellent points. Let's stay a little bit on the topic, relationship building for asking for money. I would like to hear your opinion here in Europe, I sometimes learn that people who go on the market when they actually are desperately need for money. So what percentage of, let's say a major percentage of the companies here start fundraising when they have a runway of 2 to 3 months?

 

00:33:54:22 - 00:33:56:12

Christian Soschner

What was that?

 

00:33:57:17 - 00:34:23:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah, so definitely don't wait that long. And I would say, you know, there's there's there's, you know, different numbers that folks recommend, but leaning towards, you know, six months in this market, they say have 18 months plus even for when you really start fundraising just because it is that unique market right now we know our right now we've been making sure we have, you know, roughly two years just to have that cushion.

 

00:34:24:17 - 00:34:38:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

So that's something that got don't weddings until two months. You're probably hugely underestimating how long it could take. And that's that time is not saying that a negative. I mean that's just a factor of of what the standards are and what to expect.

 

00:34:39:11 - 00:34:43:09

Christian Soschner

When did you start talking with investors, with your company?

 

00:34:44:20 - 00:35:12:15

Samantha Dale Strasser

We started talking with investors early on actually, when we had the idea and even pre a lot of, you know, really formal operations. My you know co-founder had been in venture and he had started to establish connections early on just to get to know what do investors look for, how do they think what are you know key things to be aware of, of how to pitch to an investor.

 

00:35:12:15 - 00:35:33:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so just in terms of finding some of that out, I think you can very in a noncommittal way, just get to know what they're looking for. You don't even have to say you need money and just say, hey, I'm thinking of growing a company. Could I we just chat informational? I think that something either a networking event or the like, it's, you know, investors are very passionate about what they do they want to get strong pitches.

 

00:35:34:04 - 00:36:01:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

So if they can help to make that happen, I think that's definitely something to look for for that type of mentorship. In terms of formal operations, we we launched formally actually in January 2020. Interesting time. Yeah, for sure, as the world changed very quickly thereafter. But, you know, that was still an effective getting to know people, getting to know what investors look.

 

00:36:01:14 - 00:36:08:16

Samantha Dale Strasser

And then we really adapted quickly to to learn how to best communicate to that audience what it is that we do.

 

00:36:10:01 - 00:36:36:09

Christian Soschner

I'm curious to hear your opinion again on a piece of advice I got. I think it was back in 2008 nine, I was thinking about raising funds. I thought, should I get in touch with investors early on and just talk with them? Find out how compelling the stories already and just hear their opinion and ask someone and said, I want to hear your opinion.

 

00:36:36:09 - 00:36:56:13

Christian Soschner

So what's what do you think? Should we go out early before I need the money or should I just go out on the markets so before when I have to put a deal on the table and it why? I suppose you only talk to investors when your wants to put a deal on the table. So many have fleshed out the deal terms and when you want to close around, never bother investors for just talking.

 

00:36:56:22 - 00:37:19:16

Christian Soschner

They will put you on a blacklist. What was your experience? Been talking to investors? Does this blacklist really exist? Did you ever get a negative response when you reached out to This is the way I understood what you said before, that you also talked to investors before you needed to demand. You just wanted to hear how compelling the story is and if they can consider investing it today to point.

 

00:37:19:22 - 00:37:21:18

Christian Soschner

Did you get any negative response from that?

 

00:37:23:03 - 00:37:43:15

Samantha Dale Strasser

I mean, not that I mean, we didn't see anything that we'd been directly aware of that we saw a negative response from. I mean, we had conversation zones where, you know, there's something where depending on the investor, if it's just a smaller check size and they're looking to do, you know, oftentimes and they'll say, you know, chat with us later and, you know, we would would follow up and that was received.

 

00:37:44:06 - 00:38:08:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

We know that there hadn't been a detriment to us. I mean, I think there's there is a balance of obviously, you don't want to be you want to respect their time. And so I think it's around where, you know, how that's approached. I think, you know, if it's chatting at a networking event, that might be an easy segue into to to getting to know them and seeing about just chatting through an idea that you're building.

 

00:38:08:13 - 00:38:37:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

But I think it ends up being very investor dependent. I mean, there are very unique flavors of what they look for and and what resonates. So I think a lot of adults also reading the room, and I know that's not a concrete answer, but I think it's a realistic answer of seeing when you get to know an investor, just, you know, if they're willing to chat on that level or if they say, know, I've been real, but you know, come back when you have an idea and then take that at face value.

 

00:38:37:23 - 00:38:44:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

But again, I think it's it's worth asking and seeing kind of what their responses to that.

 

00:38:45:03 - 00:39:02:04

Christian Soschner

And not a question came to my mind that they would like to hear your opinion on that. There are intermediaries on the market. So for example, you can hire consultants for success fees who get you in touch with investors. Did you ever pursue such? I figure I have a strong opinion on that. So I can tell you after what I would like to hear your opinion.

 

00:39:02:11 - 00:39:10:23

Christian Soschner

When you go fundraising, would you hire intermediaries so that they do the work, getting you in touch with the investors, or do you think it's more to work with their families?

 

00:39:12:09 - 00:39:32:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

So from my perspective, it's been something that we've focused on as as founders as opposed to hiring a consultant to directly do that. I mean, I think there are other, you know, other avenues to consider can be bringing on strong advisors who can help with introductions. That's one way that maybe a little bit more of a hybrid. They're incentivized to be a part of your team.

 

00:39:32:06 - 00:40:01:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

You see the alignment of they really want to grow the company, hence their joining as an advisor and then acknowledging that they have a strong network to to help facilitate that. So I can't speak directly to the hiring with a consultant in that in that exact sense. But other avenues can be bringing out advisors. We really, you know, leveraged our network and and spiderwebs through that to to reach folks was the strategy that we had used to date.

 

00:40:01:12 - 00:40:40:05

Christian Soschner

So yeah I agree to your approach. So it's also my opinion it's the job of founders and and board members. So if a consultant or a person of above consultant has a strong network and the founders think that this person might be of value in the fundraising process, they should try to bring this person on a board level in the company that integrates this person in the company as good as it can work with all the environments that person operates in and then go out on the market to think it's a much stronger pitch than having 20 consultants running around to the markets with pitchforks.

 

00:40:40:15 - 00:41:04:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah, absolutely. And I guess one other thing to think about is when you chat with investors, even if it's not a fit for their portfolio to ask if they have, you know, any other, you know, recommendations and interactions that they can make. And that's something that we we have found helpful as well as that thing kind of keeps this, again, kind of, you know, spider web thing of who, you know continuing and investors are.

 

00:41:04:11 - 00:41:08:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

You know, we found them very happy to do that is another avenue.

 

00:41:08:18 - 00:41:23:21

Christian Soschner

So when we talk about investors in the United States and someone comes from Europe to the United States for fundraising, what are they free to sentence that you would recommend when talking with U.S. based investors?

 

00:41:24:20 - 00:41:44:08

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah. So, I mean, I think we you know, I guess we can can start with with the don'ts. I mean, I think one big is don't think you're the smartest person in the room. I think that's one thing that we found investors really also observe is how as a founder you listen how do you, you know, integrate and think about taking advice?

 

00:41:44:08 - 00:42:01:17

Samantha Dale Strasser

Remember, at the end of the day, it's still your decision, but it's really respectful. And the investors definitely appreciate your ability to listen and to see how coachable as a team you'd be as they if you if they invest, they're working really closely with you and they're joining your team in many ways. And so that's something that's huge.

 

00:42:03:08 - 00:42:29:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

I talked a bit about the importance of connections. I think if you're able to facilitate warm introductions, I think the don't care is to avoid cold calls, I guess. And the do is to to facilitate warm introductions when possible. That's definitely a stronger way to connect with folks if it's not feasible. You know, that's not to discourage, you know, shooting out an email or LinkedIn connection.

 

00:42:29:03 - 00:42:51:09

Samantha Dale Strasser

But if there's a warm connection, that's definitely very helpful. And I guess as far as I know, if I'm losing count to be exact, three versus three, but I'll segue way to do is the the biggest thing that I've found is to really step back and ask yourself what what is my vision for the future? What am I really building towards?

 

00:42:51:09 - 00:43:12:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

What is the world going to look like when we're successful? Because that's ultimately, you know, what you're selling that that vision and that, you know, existence of the future that folks can be a part of. And so I think make sure to be bold in that and to show them why your future is going to be something they want to be a part of.

 

00:43:12:10 - 00:43:35:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

And look at ways. I guess the second part on that and that is look at ways that they can help to facilitate that. So this can be through their network, this can be through portfolio companies, this can be through I mean, so, you know, capital is a huge part, but investors come with more than capital. And so look at ways when you're chatting with investors that they would be a good fit for that overall.

 

00:43:36:06 - 00:44:06:03

Christian Soschner

That's that sound advice. I'm curious about the vision for for your company. I mean, sometimes when I listen to presentations, there is just this part in the presentation where founders talk about an exit point and it's obviously stopping point in my mind because what I mean, when I start a company and don't think in terms of exited, think in terms of building a company and in the best way to success like Amazon and we can build it forever.

 

00:44:06:09 - 00:44:10:15

Christian Soschner

Biontech And Moderna, what's your vision for your company?

 

00:44:11:16 - 00:44:30:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

So I guess I'll answer this in two parts. I'll first answer kind of our our vision for the future and then talk about ways that that that might end up in terms of just the exit or the like. So big picture, our vision is we want a world where we can effectively treat highly complex diseases and that patients who receive that treatment do effectively respond.

 

00:44:31:08 - 00:44:54:18

Samantha Dale Strasser

One of the big challenges we see in drug discovery today is its is your even take oncology you if you're lucky enough to to have a cancer where there's a treatment available there's a next step of you have to be in a category that will actually respond and then a further step where you hope you don't have resistance as a result of the cancer evolving and overcoming, you know, the treatment itself.

 

00:44:55:03 - 00:45:20:13

Samantha Dale Strasser

So our goal is with the complexity of our approach of trends. OMX, as we've called it, we can effectively understand the complexities of that disease to to drive towards think of a buzz word of essentially a true personalized disease medicine in that sense. And so I can, you know, we can into what that means under the hood. But fundamentally that's the vision is you go to the doctor, your diagnosis, your prescribe a treatment, and the treatment works.

 

00:45:21:00 - 00:45:48:24

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so that's where we'd like to see going in the future and what we can build with that, what that means for us as a company is we are a drug developer, so we are developing our own drugs and we also partner with other pharma companies to support their programs. This allows us to really effectively leverage our technology across a range of different diseases because our end goal for us as founders is maximize impact for the patient.

 

00:45:50:01 - 00:46:09:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so what that means in terms of exit is this I mean, there are, I think, a lot of different avenues that this could go down depending on the future. We are you know, we're to your point where we're building it for making our vision of the future come true and making that successful, which will then ultimately lead towards, you know, a highly successful, lucrative exit for our investors.

 

00:46:09:12 - 00:46:34:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

And that could be through that could be through an acquisition that can be through selling drugs themselves. I think our our goal is to remain a drug developer and to try to do that through selling assets and the like. Now we'll see what the future holds. I mean, obviously I had a crystal ball, I could tell you more specifically, but our building is to make the most effective company that we can, not to focus on a particular asset in and of itself.

 

00:46:35:11 - 00:46:38:14

Christian Soschner

My crystal ball stopped working in March 2020.

 

00:46:38:22 - 00:46:47:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

So yeah, I don't know if I was really that effective before March 2025. I'll also shoot for the moon in its own right, So.

 

00:46:47:13 - 00:47:15:08

Christian Soschner

I'm really surprised how the world turns out to be in the last four years. Let let's do a little bit with your company. What's the story behind the foundation of the company? So it's there. What what was the reason why you decided you want to fund the company before your co-founder? Is there are some some initially when some special events that made you going in that direction.

 

00:47:16:10 - 00:47:39:18

Samantha Dale Strasser

We had said there's this many things that builds up to it. I think there's two fundamental facets. One was for my co-founder and I working on together. We as early as our kind of getting to know each other during our undergraduate studies, really appreciated our approach to the big picture that we wanted to impact, as well as just working together on projects.

 

00:47:39:18 - 00:48:10:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

We frankly had a lot of fun. We really reinforced, you know, kept a lot of momentum we were working on. We came at things very rationally which I think was something when we had differing perspectives we found really effective towards providing an end result that was greater than what each of us would have seen individually. And so that ability for us to really grow ideas and to develop something effectively, we saw as, you know, phenomenal for if we grew a company together down the line.

 

00:48:10:19 - 00:48:51:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we kept in touch over time about ideas and in terms of, you know, the real focus that we've had on health care, for each of us, this stems from, you know, obviously a lot of, you know, personal experiences with health care system, essentially failing to deliver. And that experience of what that means individually, when for me it was when my father was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and the experience of witnessing that was something that I had never or really conceptualize what that means.

 

00:48:51:15 - 00:49:13:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so being in the thick of it and really realizing how much the health care system doesn't know, I mean, that was what was so striking to me is we were told essentially to, you know, we they can do imaging studies but had nothing to help understand or treat the disease further than that. And going home and watching someone fade away was I don't want someone else to experience that.

 

00:49:13:17 - 00:49:33:15

Samantha Dale Strasser

And that's what drives me to making a difference, is to find treatments to change that for someone else's family's future and is working now gets me focusing on so much of my time on making this a reality because I know what it's like when when a health care system doesn't deliver because we just haven't understood the disease enough.

 

00:49:33:15 - 00:50:00:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

And they're really complicated. I'm not. And that's something that I've found, you know, really humbling in terms of biology itself is the sheer complexity of the diseases themselves and the need for really comprehensive approaches to tackle them is been focused on for years. And we're finally at a point and it's launching Pepper today where we can reach that much more effectively.

 

00:50:00:04 - 00:50:10:18

Samantha Dale Strasser

So bringing together new data types and analytics to really look at comprehensive, look at complex diseases from a new angle to start to find new options for treatments.

 

00:50:11:07 - 00:50:13:04

Christian Soschner

I'm sorry to hear about your father's disease.

 

00:50:14:19 - 00:50:24:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

You? Yeah, it's. I know I'm not alone in this. And so for a lot of other folks out there, you know, I feel what that's like. And my goal is to make a difference for those in the future.

 

00:50:24:09 - 00:50:52:10

Christian Soschner

So that's that's a that's a great approach from from your end. Let's talk a little bit about the problems in track development that leads to such situations. Um, when I stay with the numbers, I think I always tell the story that from 90 from hundred track candidates in the lab, 99 failed. So they don't make it even to translational research.

 

00:50:53:03 - 00:51:19:00

Christian Soschner

And when I look at translational research, so nine out of ten candidates fail. And when it go further down the road in clinical development, we have the same picture, nine out of ten fail. I would like to hear your perspective with your experience. What are the big problems in track development that needs to be solved to understand diseases better and to help more people?

 

00:51:20:11 - 00:51:44:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

That I mean, that's a fundamental question that we talk about a lot, as you know, and when we built Pepper, what we really looked at was what what are researchers really, you know, chiming in on what's the biggest problems? And we really found a three we call pillars that we think about that we pepper overcome. So the first is one of the big challenges is looking at global information.

 

00:51:44:06 - 00:52:04:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

So if you think about traditionally, a lot of times folks even talk about they might have a favorite pathway that they look at, but they have a really narrow lens of what defines a a disease itself. And historically, this made sense just given the data we had access to. So we see why we progressed there. But this this focus on really narrow pathways is part of what drives the problem you outline.

 

00:52:04:23 - 00:52:27:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

So let's say we look at a pathway to find a disease but miss really critical feedback mechanisms that are outside of that canonical pathway. So many stages in that development which can be early on, which can be later in the clinic, there can be pathways of feedback that ultimately show, say, toxicities that are detrimental. And you see again, those numbers come again and again of things not working.

 

00:52:27:07 - 00:52:49:14

Samantha Dale Strasser

And that's one of the key reasons why is folks miss early on looking at fundamentally critical components to understand that disease and how to best treat the disease. A second facet that we found is looking at essentially the right type of information. So we've gotten much better over the last 20 years. We've been phenomenal at having genomic data.

 

00:52:49:20 - 00:53:14:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

That's only part of the picture. Biology is a highly complex, multistep process that goes from genomics to transcriptomics to proteomics to then modified proteins, and it's those modified proteins that are the molecular players. And so really what we want is the ability to capture this entire scope of that multi-step process as opposed to focusing on very early stages of it.

 

00:53:14:10 - 00:53:42:00

Samantha Dale Strasser

So that's a key part that we overcome by bringing functional information. So by having this functional context, we can really see a refined ability to understand what proteins are doing in a disease and how to then best intervene to correct that, to treat the disease. And so this really, again, will drive that improving our ability to select targets and to make informed decisions at each step in that drug discovery process.

 

00:53:42:00 - 00:54:07:12

Samantha Dale Strasser

So those numbers that you listed can be improved. And then lastly is a realm of look have how we look at these data layers. And so this this third pillar that we talk about a lot as we do a paper is drive towards a more causal understanding of the interplay between these data layers. That's highly complex in the sense of again, how like if you have a transcript that's increased, you may not see the same increase in protein.

 

00:54:07:12 - 00:54:22:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we need to make sure we look at understanding how these interplay and what the relationship are to best identify the true disease drivers that aren't just a artifact of correlation that are more driving at the true biology.

 

00:54:22:23 - 00:54:55:10

Christian Soschner

That's a very interesting point. I read an article recently, I think it was one one or two weeks ago with the bold statement that 90% of all scientists who ever lived on this planet are still alive today. So they're so 90% of all scientists that ever lived on this planet are alive today. The when you look at the graph of the forties, you'll see an exponential increase in the last 20 years.

 

00:54:56:12 - 00:55:21:19

Christian Soschner

So there is a lot of science going on these days and always forwards. How can you make sense of the tremendous amount of data that's produced globally? But what's, what's your solution to that, to that problem? I mean, PhDs produce a lot of papers, a lot of articles, a lot of lab based research data. Then they move it into companies.

 

00:55:21:24 - 00:55:44:01

Christian Soschner

We get more data on top of that and everything is stored somewhere in our PDF files, I guess, and the organization sometimes feels to me that we are still stuck back in the eighties nineties in databases. Google search is great, but I'm not so confident that Google search or also the search engines in the scientific world are that far advanced.

 

00:55:44:01 - 00:55:52:00

Christian Soschner

Like like development. I think not much changed in the last 20 years, but new solutions to you bring to the market when it comes to data.

 

00:55:52:24 - 00:56:15:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

So our I mean, our solutions in terms of what we're bringing that's unique is one, just how we, you know, how we look at the data itself and the realm of how we're actually interpreting the data in an effective way to understand. I guess it's twofold. So one is the data that we collect itself. So this is that those data layers I'd mention of genomics, transcriptomics proteomics, fossil proteomics.

 

00:56:16:05 - 00:56:35:19

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we're comprehensive and the data that we bring. But secondly, in this probably a bit too much to your point of just data that's out there, how we leverage that is we also bring in what we call reference data. And so especially in biology, it's really complex and there's been a wealth of information that folks have established to date.

 

00:56:36:00 - 00:57:05:19

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so we do you know, we have a unique approach to bring in that reference information that consists of, you know, protein interactions, so established relationships between proteins and substrates, for example, we bring in that information in our own unique way that actually allows us to better leverage that data. We actually expand upon that by leveraging across different experimental systems in a way that's very robust.

 

00:57:05:22 - 00:57:32:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we still have ability to have experimentally specific data. So we're not making spurious conclusions, but we can expand upon what's there and better leverage that huge wealth of information that keeps growing. Now, I think your question brings up an even larger, more complex problem of just, okay, if we have all this information, even beyond, say, the reference data that we look, just data from biology and other sciences.

 

00:57:32:15 - 00:57:58:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

Now, I think that's a larger question that will see changes to over time of how we best search and access information and how we store it. I think it's exciting to see where we've come like mentioned in terms of search in general has been huge, but I think that's it's also its own unique space of of information, prioritization and storage that's than commonly available.

 

00:57:58:23 - 00:58:08:23

Samantha Dale Strasser

But I think that's a whole other realm. We could probably do a whole nother podcast that focused on that because it's it's a exciting space and definitely a challenging space in its own right.

 

00:58:09:23 - 00:58:40:17

Christian Soschner

I sort of look on your face when I mentioned the statement before, and I have put out the article while you were speaking can can show you here it's a future of life institute in this state. 90% of all the scientists that ever left alive today and so interesting to read, it's a short article, but when you look at the World Bank PhDs granted in really just the last 20 years that there is an exponential increase.

 

00:58:41:08 - 00:59:03:19

Christian Soschner

So and I think it will continue. I mean, really look at the United States. There is a lot of funding for universities. So when you look at Europe, United Kingdom, we have a lot of funding available every year. Right? That's the governments want to add more public funding to that. And I believe I mean, China wants to become the global innovation leader.

 

00:59:03:20 - 00:59:17:03

Christian Soschner

So this is statements that they've put out in 2017 and they also put a lot of capital into research. So I think that data protection will go up exponentially.

 

00:59:17:03 - 00:59:46:21

Samantha Dale Strasser

Now, it's definitely a really astute observation about the data that means itself. And I think it's, you know, there's that's one thing that we're excited about with our own company, is the ability to internally start to establish our own very robust, clear and applicable to the problems that we're solving. Data infrastructure. I think that's something in talking with folks in other companies, when you have a really large company, that's it's a lot of momentum to make a change.

 

00:59:47:04 - 01:00:07:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so that's something I guess just personally I find really exciting about what we're building in startups themselves is we're very adaptable, we're very small, we're very, you know, agile and being able to to respond to information in a way that just is logistically much more challenging in a larger companies. I guess that's just a plug for all the folks out there who are excited about joining a startup.

 

01:00:08:02 - 01:00:13:12

Samantha Dale Strasser

I think that's one of the strong suits is just speed to adapting and to growing in its own right.

 

01:00:14:06 - 01:00:19:23

Christian Soschner

That's true. Let's talk a little bit about your team. What makes your team excellent?

 

01:00:21:09 - 01:00:46:11

Samantha Dale Strasser

Makes our team excellent. Many things, but I mean, I guess the things I'd highlight, we we are a very passionate team, a very driven team. That's something that when, you know, we are the partners that we work with, both on our core team as well as advisors and investors, that we look for their drive towards achieving, you know, the vision that we're building towards the second would be a team that's very diverse.

 

01:00:46:20 - 01:01:18:07

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we have folks from a range of different backgrounds, we have biologists, we have a theoretical physicist, we have, you know, folks experienced more deeply on the business background and banking. So we really have a breadth of perspectives, which is something that I've found in in our team and I think across the board is key to really solving challenging problems because, you know, within an individual field, I think just by nature of groupthink, there can often be blinders that come into play.

 

01:01:18:15 - 01:01:43:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so we think very carefully about how we've been growing the team to overcome that by bringing in folks whose they haven't been embedded deeply in the field for, you know, decades where that may happen. And just by nature of of experience and exposure. And then the last facet, I mean, it's something that we've seen across the board of just the ability to to adapt to things quickly.

 

01:01:43:04 - 01:02:15:06

Samantha Dale Strasser

That's something that, you know, for folks joining a startup that is critical because there's, you know, a lot of responding to what the needs are at the time of seeing, you know, where the technology fits best and being able to critically think through that and really accomplish the overarching goal in the most effective way possible. We talk a lot about goals in terms of our company that making sure that we're focused on reaching an endpoint that's clear and that our actions are the most attuned to reaching that.

 

01:02:15:14 - 01:02:43:08

Samantha Dale Strasser

And we've found, you know, our courting to date has been phenomenal at doing so, and we're grateful for just the experiences we've had with them so far and excited to bring more folks on. We're actually hiring right now both and for the broader team in R&D as well as within building out of experience within the development side. And so if folks are interested, that is something we're actively for.

 

01:02:44:01 - 01:02:53:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

And if you're excited to build out the world's next trends, our next platform and be a part of that core platform development, come talk to me. We'd love to hear your thoughts and interest there.

 

01:02:53:14 - 01:03:03:06

Christian Soschner

That's a great message because they use a usual message currently on the market is we are laying off people and you go the other directions and they'll be hiring.

 

01:03:03:06 - 01:03:19:18

Samantha Dale Strasser

Well, we've been very, very particular on we you know, we're thinking very strategically against the current market, but we have big goals that we're accomplishing and we are focusing on on reaching those. And some of that is right now is building out the team. So if folks are interested, definitely excited to chat.

 

01:03:20:00 - 01:03:29:10

Christian Soschner

So I'm I'm curious, you're close to preset rounds and what is the pitch code that you would like to achieve with your team with the PRE-SEED Capital?

 

01:03:30:20 - 01:03:56:20

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we're actually our next immediate milestone that we're building towards is to reach is to identify a drug candidate that can reach the clinic quickly. That's one of the things that we talk about a lot for a validation. And so we're working on some early discovery studies to support that, while also partnering with pharma in parallel. Since we're building out the platform, we can use that internally as well as partnering with pharma.

 

01:03:57:05 - 01:04:33:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

And so by establishing that candidate that can quickly reach the clinic as well as through partnership validations, we really demonstrate our ability to successfully apply our technology. This builds upon existing validation that we have to date from work that's been carried out in oncology systems where we've effectively shown stratifying unique tissue and mutation types within cancers. We've also demonstrated in inflammatory diseases to date where we have actually identified a novel target.

 

01:04:33:11 - 01:04:49:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

And then lastly, we've also already achieved a partnership with Pharma where we actually broaden their understanding of a drug's mechanism of action. And so that was kind of a really exciting opportunity to bring value to the pharma pharma space to that already.

 

01:04:50:00 - 01:05:07:07

Christian Soschner

I'm curious, in your operations, the audience of the podcast is 50% in Europe and 40% in the United States. And you said that you're hiring domestically over focus in your hiring strategy, or would you prefer that people move to Boston?

 

01:05:07:08 - 01:05:26:19

Samantha Dale Strasser

Cambridge We are for our core team. We are looking for folks to do profitably local and part just we're a small company and that's a huge part for us of establishing a strong culture. We think that, you know, being able to be in the same place, being able to get to know each other, especially at this size, is really essential.

 

01:05:28:14 - 01:05:51:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

And that's just been, again, a strategic facet of we want to know that we're effectively growing peppers identity in that sense, but we are looking for folks globally. I mean, that's something if there's a fit, we we do we do support visas. So there's always timing facets that come into play with that to discuss, but very open to to chatting with folks globally and seeing if there's a fit.

 

01:05:51:18 - 01:05:57:01

Christian Soschner

So how difficult is it to get that work permit permission in the United States at this point?

 

01:05:57:07 - 01:06:13:08

Samantha Dale Strasser

It really depends on country and admit that's my my depth on that is really case by case. So I don't want to speak for across the board, but it's something that we do look to to bring in folks. You know, first we look, buy fit and then can can sort out the details supporting that.

 

01:06:13:08 - 01:06:18:15

Christian Soschner

So when is your next fundraising round planned?

 

01:06:20:09 - 01:06:38:01

Samantha Dale Strasser

So we are actively raising at this point. So if investors are excited to to chat about what we're doing and to to be a part of building the world's first Trends omics platform to treat the untreatable very excited to talk we are actively working on on closing that raise so I'm very happy to connect.

 

01:06:39:00 - 01:06:42:12

Christian Soschner

May I ask how much money you are looking for? Currently?

 

01:06:43:16 - 01:06:50:04

Samantha Dale Strasser

We aren't disclosing numbers just over over podcasts and interviews, but we're happy to to chat with folks and talk more on details of the terms.

 

01:06:50:11 - 01:06:57:12

Christian Soschner

And what is your preferred investor. So what would be a perfect investor at this point in time? If you could select?

 

01:06:57:12 - 01:07:23:05

Samantha Dale Strasser

Yeah, I mean, so broad strokes, it's we're looking for an investor who is passionate about changing the future of drug discovery as we are, and also doing that through a repeatable process, through a platform technology that can discover novel drugs. So that's something that we've, you know, been thrilled about within, you know, being working with Nfts and are thrilled to to meet new investors that are focusing towards that vision.

 

01:07:24:05 - 01:07:46:23

Christian Soschner

That's that's a great interview segment. I could continue asking questions about that a look at its time and we are here in Vienna it's 640 so we have 10 minutes on what time already and to know that you have a lot of work to do, is there anything in the podcast that I missed and that you would like to add at the end?

 

01:07:48:03 - 01:08:20:03

Samantha Dale Strasser

I mean, I guess the only resounding kind of closing note that I'd give is the the excitement for the future that's to come in that we see We've seen over time this bringing of new data and information through genomics, the transcriptomics of the last ten, 20 years. And I am excited Shattuck to be at a time where it's inevitable that we'll see bringing new technologies to bear on larger data sets and data collection and biology and gets a phenomenal time to be in the field and excited to be leading the charge.

 

01:08:20:03 - 01:08:32:17

Samantha Dale Strasser

And in bringing functional data such as fossil proteomics to play, to really reach that goal of treating the untreatable. So excited to share the story today thanks to for a great chat. Really loved our conversation.

 

01:08:33:05 - 01:09:05:22

Christian Soschner

That's awesome. I have one final question that I would like to ask in in my community. To a lot of scientists who think about founding a company and coming up with a vision of them is I think every every scientist has some sort of vision that keeps them going. But when it comes to founding a company, I realized that finding the first step towards finding a company sometimes is tricky for some people.

 

01:09:06:18 - 01:09:15:09

Christian Soschner

What is your advice when someone says they would like to find a company, but I don't know what they should do first? What is your advice to this type of person?

 

01:09:15:09 - 01:09:39:12

Samantha Dale Strasser

Artist Yeah, so I think I mean the across the board I would seek a mentor who has been an entrepreneur. I think there's a lot, you know, insights that can be gleaned from someone who's walked through that door before. They can also be a phenomenal sounding board as you're going through process of, you know, finding investors, of finding hires.

 

01:09:39:12 - 01:09:59:08

Samantha Dale Strasser

I think that that type of sounding board and mentor and resources also just as a as a, you know, individual, I think really helpful to be able to pick up the phone and call someone and say, I need help on this. What do I do? And at least talk with someone who's been through it before, who either has an answer or may know someone who has an answer.

 

01:10:00:04 - 01:10:05:19

Samantha Dale Strasser

So I think as much as you can find a mentor that is the biggest piece of advice I would give.

 

01:10:06:11 - 01:10:25:07

Christian Soschner

That's that's great advice. Samantha, thank you very much for this amazing conversation I enjoyed from the first minutes to the last. And I would love to keep going, but that time is, of course, let's have an update when you close your next funding round. I'm curious to learn what change stand in your company.

 

01:10:25:21 - 01:10:29:22

Samantha Dale Strasser

Perfect. Sounds excellent. Looking forward to it. Thank you so much for the conversation.

 

01:10:30:12 - 01:10:33:18

Christian Soschner

Thank you for being part of the show. Have a great day.

 

01:10:33:18 - 01:10:34:02

Samantha Dale Strasser

You too.

 

01:10:34:13 - 01:10:57:11

Christian Soschner

Bye bye. Did you like the episode then? Please, please, please leave a five star review on Spotify and Apple and make sure that you like comment and share the YouTube episode. It helps that the algorithm delivers the episodes to people who also benefit from it the same way. Then you got it. Have a great stay.

 

(Cont.) #84: Samantha Dale Strasser - Pepper Bio, MIT, And the Eco-System in Boston