Category: Startups

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Andrew Ishizuka Aims to Help Patients…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Andrew Ishizuka Aims to Help Patients Fight Advanced Cancers

A disease to which seemingly everyone has a personal connection, cancer causes approximately 600,000 deaths in the United States annually.

Avidea Technologies intends to blunt cancer’s impact through the development of its proprietary nano-scaffold technology that may one day enable them to engineer safer and more effective immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. Its approach may also have broader applications to infectious disease prevention.

The Maryland-based startup is currently developing this technology at FastForward 1812, where it keeps office and lab space. One of the company’s co-founders and its Chief Scientific Officer, Andrew Ishizuka discusses Avidea’s mission, Maryland’s startup support system and how entrepreneurs can adapt to an increasingly busy schedule.

In five words, what does your company do?

Applied immunology and drug delivery.

What are your goals and how will you get there?

Avidea’s main focus is the development of a personalized cancer vaccine for treating patients with advanced cancers. Avidea, with several academic collaborators, has developed a vaccine technology and process for generating cancer vaccines that are unique to each patient. The benefit of a personalized cancer vaccine is that it can teach the immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells without affecting normal, healthy cells.

We’ve carefully tested our approach in rigorous preclinical models over several years and are now poised to undertake clinical trials. To get there, we are currently completing a series of carefully regulated experiments for the FDA prior to starting the trial. Entry to the clinic will be a major milestone for our company.

What makes Maryland a good home for your startup and a good place for growing a business?

Maryland has all the resources to build and grow a biotech startup, including mentorship, pitch competitions, ready access to capital, and legal and consulting services. The real selling point, however, is the scientific community.

Avidea was founded by scientists who trained at Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health, and we continue to collaborate with labs in the area, including ones at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, NIH and University of Maryland. There will always be considerable competition in biotech. We strive to differentiate ourselves on the strength of our science, which is bolstered by our cooperation with Maryland universities.

What resources from Johns Hopkins have helped Avidea grow?

Avidea is based in the FastForward 1812 innovation hub managed by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. In addition to leveraging the facilities and broader Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ network, we also make use of the larger core facilities at the medical school on a regular basis. This gives us access to otherwise cost-prohibitive advanced instrumentation, accelerating our product development cycle.

Importantly, we also collaborate with Johns Hopkins investigators who contribute scientifically to our product development.

If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

“Your schedule next month will not be lighter.”

Having the opportunity to build a company is a tremendous privilege, but the demands and diversity of activities required of co-founders increases with each stage of growth.

Every day, I’m excited about our work and inspired by its potential to improve human health. I’ve found that the most effective way to manage my time is to prioritize tasks based on their importance to the long-term growth of the company, remembering that maintaining a healthy work-life balance for myself is aligned with that goal. Building a company positioned to grow over the long term is a marathon, not a sprint.

What book are you currently reading?

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. Hadfield is an accomplished astronaut perhaps best known for his captivating music video of him performing David Bowie’s Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station. I enjoy reading about people who have made significant contributions in their career to learn about how they managed different challenges. I suppose it helps with the ups and downs of managing a startup.

What innovator do you look up to? Why?

Jane Goodall. I admire that she – as a woman facing considerable entrenched biases – struck out into an entirely new field, and through her determined efforts changed the way people view animals.

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Maryland?

I started sailing on the Chesapeake about five years ago and probably enjoy thinking about the physics of sailing about as much as relaxing out on the water.

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Steve Case at Anchor Ventures Kickoff: Collaboration Key for…

Steve Case at Anchor Ventures Kickoff: Collaboration Key for Success of Baltimore Startups


Nearly 200 people gathered at FastForward 1812 on February 15 as Steve Case, a co-founder of AOL and the chairman and CEO of Washington D.C. investment firm Revolution, discussed Baltimore’s potential as a startup hub.

Case’s fireside chat marked the kickoff of Anchor Ventures—a monthly series funded by TEDCO and run by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, and the University System of Maryland to facilitate valuable relationships among Maryland’s innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem builders.

The standing-room-only event marked Case’s return to a FastForward innovation hub, having visited FastForward East as part of his 2015 Rise of the Rest bus tour, a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems. TEDCO CEO George Davis interviewed Case, focusing on Baltimore’s past, present and future as an innovation hotbed.

“I remember when I was here two and a half years ago. It was inspiring to see some of the momentum that was building,” Case said to the crowd. “It’s great to be back and to see how much progress has been made.”

Though Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem is maturing, Case sees strategic collaboration as a necessary catalyst for continued development. He says “hyperconnectivity” has helped Silicon Valley thrive and seems to be emerging in Baltimore through initiatives like Anchor Ventures.

The next great startup ecosystem will rise, Case says, because communities, local governments, anchor institutions, investors, entrepreneurs and innovators adopt a Silicon Valley mindset in which disbelief is suspended and opportunities are identified.

“The only question is if the community is there to seize the moment,” Case says.

Case used Detroit and Silicon Valley to illustrate his point. Seventy-five years ago, Detroit rode automobile manufacturing to become one of the hottest, most innovative cities in the country. As Motor City flourished, orchards covered the San Francisco Bay Area. “(Silicon Valley) wasn’t growing startups, it was growing fruit,” Case says. “Things can change.”

While much of Baltimore has lamented Amazon’s decision to exclude the city from its list of finalists for its second headquarters, Case sees opportunity in the city’s wholehearted attempt. The city’s anchor institutions, government agencies, entrepreneurs and others collaborated to submit a unified and strong proposal.

“How do you take that same framework and keep fighting?” Case asks. “While Amazon is a unique opportunity and fighting to bring it here it makes sense, the better strategy is creating an ecosystem that creates the next Amazon.

“I think Baltimore is extremely well positioned to rise in the coming years,” Case says, acknowledging that many other cities across the nation are in similar positions.

The abundance of grit, inspiration and ingenuity found from Baltimore to Boise is the inspiration for creating Rise of the Rest, which identifies and invests in promising startups outside of Silicon Valley, New York and Massachusetts.

“(Rise of the Rest) shines a spotlight on great American cities with great histories and places that have great futures because of their startups,” Case says. “There’s momentum in each of these cities. There’s hope in each of these cities. There’s a recognition that there’s more to be done.”

Earlier this year, Case announced that his investment firm, Revolution, partnered with dozens of renowned investors like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to create a $150 million Rise of the Rest seed fund. On Valentine’s Day, Revolution announced that nine startups from nine cities, including Baltimore’s Catalyte, received the first investments from this fund.

“Over time, we believe that (Rise of the Rest) has the potential to help each of these cities rise to the next level,” Case says.

Local perspectives


Joining Steve Case at the inaugural Anchor Ventures event was a group of Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem builders. In a panel discussion moderated by JHTV’s Christy Wyskiel, these builders shared signs of progress, words of encouragement and calls to action.
Deb Tillet of ETC
On Baltimore entrepreneurs’ needs: “Access to the three C’s: capital, connections, creativity. And now two other C’s: craft beer and coffee.”

On making connections: “In this city and this place and state, you are one degree of separation from anyone you need to know.”
Richard May of Innovation Village
On comprehensive engagement and collaboration: “Baltimore can’t win if we only put three players on an 11-player field.”
Demian Costa of Sagamore Ventures
On Baltimore’s many strengths: “We have to focus the energy we have in these different areas. We have to celebrate wins. Great things will come.”

The Anchor Ventures series continues on March 15 at Columbus Center (701 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD) with “Healing Hearts: Harpoon Medical’s Solution Story.” Save the date and visit the Anchor Ventures site or follow us on Twitter for more updates.


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