A Passion for Impactful Innovation: A Chat with Venture Development Manager for Life Sciences Pedro Medrano

Feb. 9, 2021

Helping startups establish strong foundations for success

Pedro Medrano

Pedro Medrano

One of the core functions of Tech Launch Arizona is to help academic inventors bring their innovations to the world through successful startupsOne of the newest members of the TLA Venture Development team is dedicated to doing just that, specifically for new startup teams focused on commercializing technologies in the life sciences space. 

Pedro Medrano, venture development manager for life sciences, brings over 25 years of medical device industry experience having held engineering, product development, program management, licensing and new venture development roles with both global corporations – St. Jude Medical (now Abbott), CIBAVISION/Alcon, Philips Medical, Ventana Medical (now Roche) – and early-stage incubators and startups. Pedro has experience in electrochemical capacitors, cardiac rhythm management, implantable electro-mechanical devices, ophthalmology and refractive surgery, vision care, and laser-based dermatologic therapies. 

Prior to starting his work at the UArizona, Pedro served as vice president of engineering and program management for Sebacia, a commercial-stage, VC-backed dermatology company. 

He received a B.S. degree in materials science and engineering from Stanford University and an executive MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. 

I’m excited to welcome Pedro into this new role at TLA,”, said Bruce Burgess, director of venture development for TLA. “He brings an invaluable mix of knowledge, experience and energy to the team, and will be a tremendous resource to our university startup activities. 

As venture development manager, Pedro focuses on leveraging his expertise and industry connections to cultivate connections across the innovation ecosystem, with the goal of helping foster healthy, well-positioned startup teams. In building these relationships, Pedro links teams with the expertise and talented leadership they need to plan their business, seek and secure investment, and move ahead to successful tomorrows.  

TLA: You’ve had connections to the southern Arizona health sciences industry for a while and recently moved to Marana. How have you seen the region developing as an innovation hub both in recent years and as we move into the future? 

Pedro: Right, we have been living in Marana only since June of last year but ever since my stint with Ventana Medical in 2015, I knew we’d be back. The great cost of living, quality education, and fantastic quality of life guaranteed such. While I was gone, I kept abreast of advances in the life sciences space by following organizations such as AZBioThe Flinn Foundation and, of course, Tech Launch Arizona. Learning that life science industry employment in Arizona grew over this period at a rate twice that of the national rate, I knew the state had achieved a critical mass and was on track to keep growing. When the university broke ground on the biotech-focused incubator in Oro Valley in 2019, I knew it was time to start planning in earnest for our return. 

TLA: What excites you most about TLA’s work and this venture development manager position? 

Pedro: I am very excited about the scope of this role, how it covers everything from therapeutics to diagnostics to medical devices. Being a life-long medical device guy, with occasional dabbles in drug delivery devices and diagnostics, the heavy focus on therapeutics is a big plus for me and I’m learning a lot. I like to say that after each meeting with the Mentors-in-Residence that I work with, I come out much smarter! I am also excited about the potential to add my contribution to the impressive TLA track record108 startups since 2013. 

TLA: One of your key functions is helping to build effective startup teams. What are the most important things to consider when working to build a great team for a new company? 

Pedro: The most important thing to an investor is the quality of the management team. We must keep in mind that investors bet on the team first, and not just the technology, so building excellent leadership is the most critical factor in attracting institutional investment. Do we have the right set of skills on the team? Is the team driven? Is it experiencedDoes it have the right temperament to grow the business? These are the essential questions for a startup to address. 

TLA: What excites you most about working with academic inventors to add entrepreneurship to their work? 

Pedro: I am excited about the continual opportunities to work with brilliant people. The opportunity to work with those who have created something new-to-the-world is very rewarding in and of itself, but if my collection of venture creation experiences can help the startups set the right course and establish a strong foundation for success, it will be especially gratifying. 

TLA: What are the most challenging and most rewarding things you think academic entrepreneurs have to look forward to as they work with TLA to start companies?  

Pedro: Starting a new business can be challenging, even overwhelming at times for those going through the process for the first time. But that’s our job, to help people through the process and provide them with the tools and information they need, when they need it.  The way I see it, academic entrepreneurs can look forward to working with a true partner in TLA – a partner that has the success of the startup as its primary goal. Our bench of talent is both wide and deep, and we are excited to support every academic entrepreneur on their journey. 

TLA: As TLA works to increase the diversity of those involved in commercialization, how will your experience as a Latino entrepreneur impact your work and perspective 

Pedro: I’m very committed to supporting the growth of Latinos in STEM and I work with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) to advance its mission. More recently, I have set my sights on another big gap, that of promoting the growth of Latinos in the entrepreneurial sector, but specifically, in the life sciences startup realm. While we’ve made great strides in growing the number of Latinos in STEM over the last few decades, we are still significantly behind in the number of tech entrepreneurs, angel and VC investors, inventors and patent agents/attorneys. That’s an area that I’m personally devoted to and look forward to working with people across the community to promote entrepreneurship and make an impact.  

I’m really excited that the UArizona is designated as an Hispanic Serving Institution; that’s a huge accomplishment as well as a huge responsibility, so I look forward to being a connector and helping those we engage with make beneficial connections across our vibrant, diverse community.   

Want to connect with Pedro? Send him an email at pedrom@tla.arizona.edu