In the past several months there has been a strong uptick in interest in the Foundation’s FUS Partners program, launched in April 2018. It is a critical time in the evolution of the focused ultrasound field where success of the commercial sector is becoming more important as the technology progresses toward becoming a mainstream standard of care that can impact the lives of millions of people.
Justine Atkinson recently sat down with Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD, to learn more about the program and inform the focused ultrasound community about its role.
What is FUS Partners?
FUS Partners is a program of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation created to systematize activities related to helping the commercial sector become successful. These are activities that the Foundation has been engaging in on an ad hoc basis for years.
What are the specific activities performed as part of this program?
We connect manufacturers of focused ultrasound equipment that are in need of financing with sources of capital, both institutional and individuals. We also connect the manufacturers with other manufacturers, and/or related companies in the focused ultrasound space, for strategic purposes. And we connect manufacturers and related companies to academic research laboratories for technology transfer. We also assist with the due diligence process when requested.
Why did you start FUS Partners, and how did the Foundation get involved in these activities?
For a number of years, we’ve been responding to requests for assistance from manufacturers in need of financing, as well as requests from investors – particularly a number of our donors – who are interested in getting involved with the focused ultrasound field. We also receive requests from researchers interested in commercializing their work. Not infrequently, donors and prospective donors ask us if there are opportunities not only to donate to the Foundation but to invest in a way that enables them to tap into the for-profit sector, to enhance their personal wealth but also as a way to generate more capital that can be donated to the Foundation.
There has recently been the convergence of two forces: first, the requests for assistance have been occurring with increasing frequency, and that has generated a need to provide a consistent message and guidelines to avoid confusion. And secondly, the adoption of a new therapeutic modality like focused ultrasound occurs exponentially, and focused ultrasound has now reached the inflection point in the curve. But more importantly, the field is transitioning to patient care and commercial success from what was once a predominantly research activity.
To achieve the Foundation’s mission, we need to have a thriving commercial sector – meaning we need successful manufacturers who can build and distribute the technology. Consistent with the Foundation’s mission of accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound, the FUS Partners program is facilitating the success of these commercial organizations by helping them overcome regulatory barriers, reimbursement barriers, and financing challenges.
There are currently more than 50 manufacturers in the field. Most are small and not profitable. About 15 of them are currently seeking financing. Furthermore, in the coming years there will be a consolidation into a smaller number of larger companies. The Foundation, by virtue of its knowledge and relationship with all of the manufacturers, is well situated to inform and facilitate this consolidation.
How does FUS Partners operate?
There are four members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors with extensive experience in this area that come together as a group to provide oversight of these activities: Bill Hawkins, Ned Kelly, Shirley Lin, and Fred Moll. This group reviews the lists of manufacturers, the lists of investors, and the transactions. Emily White, MD, the Foundation’s Director of Operations and Managing Director of FUS Partners, is responsible for leading this initiative with the assistance of Randy Castleman. Emily and Randy maintain curated lists of manufacturers and sources of capital and make introductions. When requested, the Foundation will also assist with due diligence by sharing knowledge and making introductions with thought leaders. While we will assist with due diligence, it needs to be emphasized in the strongest possible terms that we do not provide investment advice.
How are you compensated for your efforts or work?
We do not charge a fee or accept payments for the work we do. It is an integral part of our mission. However, the Foundation is always looking for sources of philanthropic support. As new sources of capital become involved in the field, we introduce them to our Development team to provide these organizations – or the individuals associated with them – with an opportunity to donate to the Foundation, the proposition being that their contributions will advance the field and de-risk any investment. Contributions are absolutely voluntary and independent from the involvement in the FUS programs.
To clarify, FUS Partners does not charge any fees, we do not make investments, we do not provide investment advice, and we do not receive any compensation for our activities.
How do investors or manufacturers get involved with the FUS Partners program?
Contact Emily White, MD, the Foundation’s Director of Operations and Managing Director of FUS Partners.
Lastly, is any further information about the program available?
Yes, more about FUS Partners can be found on our website.