SciMar investment consultant reflects on a made-in-Manitoba match
It takes mere moments for two Manitobans meeting for the first time to figure out who they know in common. It’s faster than a Google search, some would say. For SciMar CEO Mick Lautt and Charles (Chuck) LaFlèche, it was even faster than that when they sat down together for the first time in 2017.
“A mutual connection suggested we meet. I happened to be in Brandon on business and Mick of course is in Dauphin, which isn’t too far away. So, we met for coffee in Brandon and just hit it off,” says LaFlèche, President and CEO of Golden Arrow Life Sciences in Winnipeg. “We figured out right away that our families were both connected to Camp Stephens (a YMCA summer camp).”
After another few minutes of playing who’s who in Manitoba, the gentlemen figured out that Lautt had once provided leadership training services for AIS, an e-learning firm that spun off from Momentum Healthware, a software company founded by LaFlèche.
LaFlèche left the meeting amused about what a small world this is. But he also left with new insights on what a big problem type 2 diabetes is, and a strong feeling that SciMar was poised to make a difference. The science was novel and compelling, and the company was much more advanced from a business perspective than he had expected.
“I was impressed by Mick’s determination and SciMar’s stick-to-itiveness,” adds LaFlèche. “To hear Mick’s pitch is to feel optimistic about the future of human health. He wanted me to invest and to roll up my sleeves to help out. He had me at ‘hello.’”
LaFlèche is a keen observer of Canada’s health care system. In addition to founding a health informatics company, he served as the President & CEO of a hospital foundation before launching Golden Arrow Life Sciences to help researchers and academic institutions commercialize their discoveries. He also provides fundraising support for charitable organizations in health and community services.
“What I’ve seen throughout my career is that Canada’s record of bringing the best science to market where it can truly help people is dismal,” says LaFlèche, who sat on the Conference Board of Canada’s National Council of Foundation Executives. “SciMar is different. They stuck with the science and proved their hypotheses in the lab and were preparing for clinical trials. That’s what struck me. On top of that, they had negotiated good technology transfer agreements and secured the patents on their intellectual property. They were thoughtful and diligent, they were focused on removing risks, and they always knew that to bring hepatic insulin-sensitizing substance (the HISS hormone) to the world, they needed to be market-ready. Their approach is impressive.”
LaFlèche cites examples of European universities earning millions of Euros a year in royalties for successful discoveries that took root in their labs, money that is re-invested into more research. And he is impressed by how U.S. universities have given birth to so many world-leading technologies and medicines.
“We have work to do here in Canada. We need to encourage, build, and nurture an entrepreneurial spirit in academia and in our teaching hospitals,” he says. “What’s the point in making a discovery if you have no way of using that discovery to make a difference?”
For SciMar, the point of discovery is clear—to change the global health paradigm in the prevention, detection, and treatment of type 2 diabetes. It’s a point that LaFlèche is proud to make when he talks to potential investors about the SciMar opportunity.
“There is clearly something missing in how the world understands type 2 diabetes,” he says. “The number of cases is going up, not down. The challenge is particularly profound for our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Manitoba and across Canada. The need is pressing and the market is huge.”
When not telling the SciMar story, consulting with others, or raising funds for charity, you might find LaFlèche on the golf course, playing with his granddaughter, working out, or watching his favourite sports teams in action. Ask nicely, and he’ll do an uncanny Elvis impersonation, and he can tell you who scored the series-winning goal in every Stanley Cup final going back to the earliest playoffs. He’s also a history buff with a remarkable memory for important dates (he notes that his own ancestors first arrived in Quebec on August 18, 1665, although, to his chagrin, he is not certain what time of day).
While LaFlèche loves talking history, right now as SciMar’s Investment Consultant he is more interested in making history.
“SciMar is a story of a perseverance, hard work, and sophistication,” he says. “I’m confident that our work here will make a difference for humanity and change the way breakthroughs become businesses capable of improving people’s lives.”