MCTM Graduate’s Side Gig in College turns in to an Indispensable Service for Life Science Startups
Alumnus Nick Cook ’18, MCTM ’20, took his BBA in finance and an ingenious side gig to make ends meet as a grad student earning his Masters in Clinical Translation Management (MCTM), and turned it into the highly sought after company, SeedVal.
SeedVal provides life science valuation services, empowering life science entrepreneurs to come to the investment table prepared and knowing what their venture is worth.
Cook Discovers a Passion for Life Sciences
Cook developed a passion for life sciences as a University of St. Thomas - Houston undergraduate. While attending life science events, he spotted a pattern of entrepreneurs who were brilliant in their target area of biology, but they needed help with early commercial strategy and fundraising. Cook knew that just “bean counting” in the corporate world wasn’t his passion. Later, he turned to a UST graduate degree in clinical translation management.
Cook said, “There aren't many industries that have a more significant impact on the human race than life sciences, as the pandemic has clearly illustrated. That's something I wanted to be a part of. The life sciences eventually called to me as a way to use and build upon my existing skillset to make a meaningful difference in patient health outcomes. That's something I have no trouble being passionate about,” he said.
When the Light Bulb Comes on, Eureka!
Through this and other epiphanies along the way, Cook, who was nearing graduation and weighing a couple of job offers from healthcare consulting firms in New York, realized, “I was about to go work in the complete contrast of the biotech startup scene I'd grown passionate about in the sense that I'd be analyzing pharmaceutical pricing for drugs already on the market or close to it. I wanted to help bring drugs to the market. I then realized that there was still a huge unmet need for work similar to the valuation work I had been doing previously. I decided to try scaling and professionalizing that into a more comprehensive platform, and I feel very fortunate that it grew into what we have today,” he said.
MCTM Program and Professors’ Encouragement
The MCTM Program, a one-year online master’s that fast-tracks students through a rigorous curriculum and provides a robust understanding of the biotechnology industry, was the perfect fit for Cook. Though Cook’s undergraduate education wasn’t in life sciences, his passion for the field and his business know-how were enough to make him successful.
“The MCTM program gave me a foundational understanding of this dynamic industry that will serve me for the rest of my career,” he said. “I probably never would have discovered my passion for biotech without the MCTM program. In particular, Dr. Daniel Perez Liston and Dr. Beena George really helped me find my niche in life science valuation and commercial strategy. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to forgo a stable career choice and instead pursue this unconventional but rewarding journey I'm currently on.”
Houston in Position to See Growth as a Force in Life Science
Cook believes Houston’s innovative spirit, accelerators and investor money are on the uptick.
“I think sometimes large-scale investments into life sciences are a slow burn,” he said. “If you look at the resources needed for biopharma cluster research institutions, strong healthcare systems, wet lab space, heavy flow of public and private funding — Houston has more than checked most of the boxes for some time now. The foundations have long been laid, and Houston is finally beginning to see the growth it merits as a force in life sciences.”
Why SeedVal’s Services are so Valuable for Startups in Life Sciences
Although the bulk of SeedVal’s work is with early-stage startups and their founders, the company also works with venture capitalists, tech transfers, angel investors and med techs, all for more or less the same reason: there is still no universally agreed-upon method of valuation in the life sciences.
“This variance leads to a lot of confusion in the industry and, sometimes, certain players being taken advantage of,” Cook said. “Traditional valuation methods usually consist of using a company's historical cash flows and respective risk profile, along with a few other key components, and then discounting cash flows appropriately. Now, that works for valuing an established business like Coca Cola, but how do you do that with a young biotech startup that has no historical cash flows and no positive cash flow until FDA approval a decade or more from now (which is a low probability occurrence) and no real assets aside from their intellectual property. Even those traditionally responsible for a lot of the valuation work in life sciences don't necessarily use optimal approaches,” he said.