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Who’s Flying Now?

Enabling more team members to travel by private jet or charter makes sense— except when it doesn’t.

By Dale Buss
July 29, 2022

The boom in corporate travel on private aircraft is taking on a new dimension: It’s not just for CEOs and board members any longer.

More executives and managers at lower levels now are getting on company planes or taking charters as a productivity measure. A growing number of companies also are using the prospect of private flying as a perk to lure executive or managerial talent. Employers are scrambling to formulate policies to cover this new twist: Who gets to go private, and when?

“Larger aircraft for longer range are still mainly being used for board activity,” says John Owen, CEO of private-flight provider Airshare. “But we’re also seeing engagement teams using smaller aircraft. There’s a little more carte blanche for them to use private aircraft when they need them, versus the previous practice of having to travel [only] with someone who ranks above them.”

Doug Gollan sees this expansion as founder of Private Jet Car Comparisons, a buyer’s guide for time-share seats. “Companies, having bought 25 or 50 hours for a CEO, now are buying a couple hundred hours after the CEO sees how efficient it is, and allowing more of the management team to fly privately,” he says.

The practice has caught on in part because the productivity benefits of private aviation have become more apparent in the last couple of years. “Face-to-face meetings have become really important again,” says Ramy Sidholm, head of PNC Aviation Finance. Meetings are easy on planes and insulated from distractions. Executives don’t get snarled in the vagaries of commercial travel or exposed to its riskier environs while Covid still rages.

The difficulties of airline travel have shunted more lower-level corporate travel to private aviation. Even as commercial schedules have recovered, pilot shortages and other factors mean airlines have drastically culled routes to many of America’s secondary and tertiary cities.

“If you’re a large, multinational corporation and you’re putting a factory, a switching station or a data warehouse in a relatively inexpensive place like Tucson, Arizona, or Alliance, Texas, you stuck it there because it’s inexpensive to build and operate there,” says Greg Raiff, CEO of Private Jet Services. “But it’s tough to get there by air.”

In fact, dangling private flights has become a recruiting tool. “With the Great Resignation, so many people are looking for perks, certainly at the senior level, and if a company has a vast footprint, it’s something many executives are considering more than ever,” says Joseph Smith, aviation director for the Cassel Salpeter investment-banking firm.

Essentially, more companies are pivoting to the sort of approach that Walmart has used for decades. America’s largest retailer employs its fleet of a couple dozen private planes as a corporate livery service, dispatching lower-level executives and managers to string together visits to its 10,500 stores in 24 countries. In the U.S., per Walmart’s business model, most stores are still in smaller places like Gardner, Kansas, and Easley, South Carolina.

But not every company is going in this direction. It’s understood, for instance, that General Motors hasn’t budged on its private-flight policies lately, though the automaker operates 118 facilities scattered across the United States.

Here are some ideas for dealing with this trend:

  • Work it forward. The broadening of private air travel within an organization should cascade back into any planning for new aircraft or budgeting for time shares on planes, especially at a time of continued tight supplies of both planes for purchase and time-share seats.
    “We work with new prospects to give them a total trip and cost analysis on an annual basis before they buy anything,” Owen says. “This will help them build a budget for each department or individual, which creates a little more structure around what they’re going to put into effect.”
  • Ponder the perk. CEOs and boards can use private flying as a lure or reward on an individual basis, or open up the practice to new categories, such as vice presidents. “Companies need to think about the development of their people, their business, whether they want to convey a change in culture that the best and brightest are going to be allowed to use these kinds of assets to do their job and to do it right and fast,” says David Mayer, partner with the Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton law firm.
  • Expect pleasant surprises. Private flying is increasingly cost competitive with airline flights these days, especially if the destination is a second- or third-tier city, the travel is frequent and regular, and a number of employees are involved. “If you start seeing that the company has four or more employees traveling the exact same route two days a week, for instance, chances are you should be looking at some version of a corporate shuttle,” Raiff says.
    Joseph Smith, Cassel Salpeter Adds Smith, “You may not do it for one person unless it’s an emergency. But for a team performing due diligence or looking for a new acquisition, it can be very efficient to pack six to a dozen people on a private plane.”
  • Attune the bureaucracy. Many corporate travel departments planners have stayed away from private aviation “because it’s high stakes and highly visible; they don’t mess with it,” Raiff says. But with more of their traditional internal clientele now becoming eligible for private travel, this part of corporate operations may need to rise to the occasion.
    “Find a consultant and get smart before you start spending money,” he says. “Learn about the private-aviation space. It’s here and it’s not going away.”
  • Beware tax snares. With expanded rosters of individual participants comes potential exposure of more travelers to the IRS. So aircraft-use policies should take into account the tax ramifications of business and personal transportation of permitted passengers on an employer-provided aircraft.
    “It can involve the flight’s ‘fringe-benefit’ value to these new travelers unless they otherwise pay for the flight,” Mayer says.
  • Don’t over-glamorize. C-Suite and board members may still get to ride on bigger, faster and more expensive planes than underlings. But the differences in their on-board environs are mainly going to be a matter of a little more personal space and maybe a guaranteed bathroom on the plane, or the presence of a flight attendant.

It’s not like the top brass are receiving foot massages while a regional manager can only expect a bag of peanuts. “The wealthiest client we have only wants pizza and sour gummy worms on the plane; it’s not about the caviar,” Raiff says. “What people value about private aviation is that it’s a time machine. It gets there faster. It is, in fact, private, and it allows people to be more productive, and that goes for everyone.”

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mRNA’s Next Act: Cancer Vaccines and Gene Editing

By Gail Dutton
July 26, 2022

The potential for mRNA technology extends far beyond the COVID-19 vaccines that made it a household word. Coming applications include therapeutic vaccines for cancer and other diseases, vaccines for latent conditions such as shingles and herpes, and, eventually, mRNA therapeutics for conditions where immune activation is unnecessary.

“The applications for mRNA are quite broad, because, basically, you are giving information to a cell to make any protein you want,” Pierre Kemula, B.Sc., CFO at CureVac told BioSpace. “That’s the beauty of mRNA.”

Bespoke Vaccines

Vaccine developers are currently exploring multivalent mRNA vaccines. With influenza, for example, “The idea is that you will be able to make your vaccine a bit later in the season and be closer to the circulating strain of virus. Ultimately, this allows researchers to develop bespoke vaccines that are tailored to specific regional outbreaks,” Kemula said. “The more antigens, the broader the efficacy of the vaccine will be.”

Moderna’s bivalent booster vaccine for COVID-19 is another more widely known example. Two vaccines are in Phase II/III trials now, targeting multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The goal is to start a booster campaign for vulnerable populations this fall, involving at least one of those vaccines.

Notably, multivalent vaccines can also target multiple conditions. For example, Kemula said, “With more antigen, you can do combinations, maybe targeting several things, such as flu and COVID.” CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates are co-developed with GSK and have a second-generation vaccine backbone, engineered to address COVID-19 variants as well as a range of other diseases. There are also potential combination vaccines. One candidate, targeting four strains of flu, entered Phase I earlier this year.

Moderna’s pipeline shows another vaccine, mRNA-1230, currently in preclinical development targeting COVID-19, flu and respirational syncytial virus (RSV).

Beyond Immune Activation: “The Holy Grail”

“Today, the sweet spot of mRNA is prophylactic vaccines – the low-hanging fruit – but the future is to transfer that immune activation potential to cancer vaccines,” Kemula said.

“The goal of cancer vaccines is to elicit a targeted immune response against the tumor to fight the disease or protect the patient by stabilizing the condition,” he explained. “Cancer vaccines have been a challenge for the industry. There’s no real cancer vaccine out there.”

To that end, CureVac acquired Frame Cancer Therapeutics in June. The acquisition offers the ability to identify a broad panel of neoantigens based on structural changes in the cancer genome. “This enables much broader applications. One of the consequences is that – we hope – we’ll be able to have a customized vaccine based upon (combining) a few recurring antigens as well as personalized approaches,” Kemula said.

Cancer vaccines hold great potential but, currently, “A lot of the oncology research (involving mRNA) is in preclinical Phase I trials, so it will be quite a while before we see them,” Margery Fischbein, managing director of the healthcare practice at investment bank Cassel Salpeter & Co. cautioned.

As mRNA therapies advance, “The Holy Grail is to go beyond immune activation,” Kemula said. “There’s a huge field where you can encode for any protein with mRNA.” In theory, it will become possible to inject patients with mRNA that encodes for certain missing or deficient enzymes and thus help them regain homeostasis and potentially cure the disease.

“One of the challenges is that sizeable quantities of mRNA may need to be injected to treat chronic disease, which may result in tolerability issues,” he noted.

There are easier applications within that space, however, and they probably will be tackled first. “Think of the eye. It’s a privileged organ (meaning the immune system does not initially attack), and its small, so you don’t need to inject so much material and thus don’t have as much of an immune response. That’s probably an area where mRNA could be additive to existing therapies,” Kemula suggested.

Gene editing applications also may have potential. Here, mRNA could be used to express cas9 or other proteins, and eliminate the inability for repeat dosing that currently challenges gene therapies. “mRNA is a transient technology,” Kemula pointed out. “You go in, express a protein, and after some time it’s gone.” In certain genomic medicine applications, that can be an advantage.

For prophylactic vaccines – particularly for COVID-19 – development speed and initial antibodies levels were the most important criteria, allowing mRNA vaccines to protect as many people as possible as quickly as possible. For a durable response, however, the body also needs T cell responses. “It’s just a matter of time before the industry gets there,” Kemula predicted.

With a robust pipeline in mRNA therapeutics and vaccines, Ira Z. Leiderman, managing director of Cassel Salpeter predicted, “more and faster approvals, though not as fast as for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.” That prediction is based upon regulators’ presumed comfort level with mRNA technology and the vast numbers of people who have received mRNA vaccines with few issues.

That said, whatever happens depends upon the outcome of clinical trials, many of which are just being planned. “There’s still a lot of learning that has to occur,” Fischbein cautioned.

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Will Biotech Unicorns Soon Be on The Endangered Species List?

By Gail Dutton
July 13, 2022

Today there are 1,170 unicorns across all industries – an all-time high, according to CBInsights. Nearly 8% of those are in healthcare, with many in biotech specifically.

The pace of unicorn creation – which is still quite fast – is slowing, however, as economists predict a coming recession. The IPO window is all but closed. Venture capitalists are holding tightly to their cash, and the Federal Reserve’s July meeting is considered likely to raise interest rates. In such a climate, is unicorn status still within reach of today’s young biotech companies?

At the investment bank of Cassel Salpeter & Co., managing directors Ira Z. Leiderman and Margery Fischbein told BioSpace there are compelling reasons why unicorn status – defined as a private startup company valued at or exceeding $1 billion – may, or may not, be possible today.

To Become or Not to Become a Unicorn

Noting the case in favor of achieving unicorn status, Fischbein said, “Public market valuations are low and only a limited number of IPOs are getting done. Although VCs are culling their portfolios and becoming more selective,” they are reserving cash for follow-on financings for their best portfolio companies. “Many VCs have plenty of money, and good science is always valuable.” In this environment, companies can raise funds without going public and may have extra time to gather more clinical data between financings, thus making themselves ultimately more valuable to potential investors.

“Many VCs have plenty of money, and good science is always valuable.” – Margery Fischbein

The case against becoming a unicorn is twofold, she said. Public company valuations are significantly lower than they were one year ago, and “that reverberates back to the private sector. So instead of having continuous financing rounds at higher valuations, the lower public market valuations may result in flat or down rounds.”

The growing appetite for mergers and acquisitions among big companies, combined with an unattractive environment for IPOs, could also result in earlier deals before innovators reach billion-dollar valuations.

“The things that drive valuations are great science that hopefully advances to great clinical data and a really experienced management team,” Leiderman pointed out. “Also, some acquirers are willing to pay a premium price for early-stage companies that have amazing data and sometimes they simply want to ensure their competitors don’t acquire it. That in turn drives VC investment in certain areas and also drives company valuations,” he said.

Meanwhile, “Generalist investors have largely left the biotech market. These are people who have more limited knowledge about the science involved and may have had very significant losses,” Fischbein acknowledged. That said, “Smart money is still in the biotech space, but it’s selective.”

As Frank Milone, co-founding partner at Fiondella, Milone & LaSaracina LLP, a Connecticut advisory and accounting firm active in the biotech industry, pointed out, “VC funding and acquisitions will continue, the criteria will just be different. There will be an increased focus on financial fundamentals.

“When the economy is hot, investors are more inclined to take risks. In the current environment, startups have to be crystal clear about how their technology is different and how it provides value. They have to back it up with data showing promising early adoption and scalability.”

Where Will Future Unicorns Come From?

Looking forward, Leiderman and Fischbein said the therapeutic areas they think may be most likely to generate the next herd of unicorns are cell therapy for multiple indications beyond oncology, neurological conditions and the orphan drug space.

Building a company to unicorn status takes more than good science and good management, of course. “Company leadership needs to know how to conduct clinical studies effectively and how to present that data and, therefore, attract the right investors. That’s key,” Leiderman said. By “right investors,” he means influential investment groups with proven biotech track records – “investors who can lead the herd.”

“Quite frankly, from recessions have come many unicorns, and biotech is no different,” Kisha Mays, CEO and founder of Just Fearless, a global business development firm focused on accelerating the growth of particularly womenowned firms told BioSpace. “Biotech hasn’t even begun to peak.” The question for investors is “how to find that needle in a haystack.” Mays says she is optimistic about the industry, “even as a recession looms.”

Ultimately, although investors would like to have a stake in a unicorn company, “There are plenty of other things that offer niche opportunities, or that bring incremental value,” Fischbein said. “People would love to have a unicorn, but that’s fairly unpredictable and is rarely necessary.”

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CTSI Acquires Firecom

July 12, 2022

Acquisition Expands CTSI’s Leadership in Complex Fire and Life Safety Services

CHANTILLY, Va., July 12, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Corbett Technology Solutions, Inc. (“CTSI”), a portfolio company of Wind Point Partners (“Wind Point”), is pleased to announce the acquisition of Firecom (the “Company”), the largest privately held fire alarm company in New York City. Firecom provides turnkey design, engineering, installation, maintenance, and repair services for customers across New York and other major cities across the United States.

Established in 1963 and headquartered in Woodside, N.Y., Firecom supports some of the most prestigious real estate locations and high-rise buildings in the world, delivering highly integrated fire and life safety systems installation and services. The Company protects and connects customers across the real estate, financial services, insurance, healthcare, media, tech, and education industries.

“We are very pleased to add Firecom and their best-in-class customer service to the CTSI family,” said Joe Oliveri, President and CEO of CTSI. “Firecom is a fantastic addition to our Fire Business Unit, enhancing our ability to service large and complex fire alarm and life safety systems, while enabling Firecom existing customers to take advantage of our world-class central station, security, audiovisual, cybersecurity, and other low voltage solutions.”

“Firecom is a leader in this space, significantly expands the CTSI Fire Business Unit, and complements the rapid growth and successful integration of our recent AFA Protective Systems acquisition,” stated Nathan Brown, Managing Director at Wind Point. “We are excited to welcome Firecom’s employees, customers, and services to CTSI.”

“By joining CTSI, we continue the fantastic Firecom legacy we’ve developed for our customers and employees while enabling continued growth and expansion with our new and enhanced capabilities and geographic reach,” commented Paul Mendez, President and CEO of Firecom. “I’m very excited our customers will continue to receive the great support from the Firecom team they’ve relied on for decades, while now having the ability to leverage CTSI’s in-house central station monitoring, security, audiovisual, and other critical communications systems resources across the world.”

Firecom represents the tenth acquisition for CTSI since partnering with Wind Point in June of 2020. CTSI’s acquisition strategy will continue to focus on acquiring leading life safety, fire, security, nurse call, collaboration, and communication solution providers with complementary employee-focused cultures and a trusted commitment to customers.

It is also worth noting, CTSI is now ranked #3 in the Top Systems Integrators Report, up from #26 last year. We attribute this to highly strategic acquisitions, strong organic growth, and synergies through cross-sales and integration.

About Firecom

Established in 1963, Firecom supports some of the most prestigious locations and high-rise buildings in the world, delivering highly integrated fire and life safety installation and maintenance services in New York and other cities across the United States.

Additional information about Firecom is available at

About CTSI
CTSI is a global systems integrator of fire, security, critical communications, collaboration, IT, and audiovisual solutions for enterprise, government, healthcare, and education customers. CTSI delivers unmatched design, installation, integration, managed, subscription, and central station monitoring services. The organization is staffed with industry-leading engineers, user experience practitioners, programmers, technicians, central station, customer care, and project management representatives.

Additional information about CTSI is available at

About Wind Point Partners
Wind Point Partners is a Chicago-based private equity investment firm with approximately $5 billion in assets under management. Wind Point focuses on partnering with top-caliber management teams to acquire well-positioned middle market businesses where it can establish a clear path to value creation. The firm targets investments in the consumer products, industrial products and business services sectors.

Additional information about Wind Point is available
Media Contact:
Alan Rosenkoff, CTSI
Phone: 908-229-1116
Email: Connect with us: LinkedIn, Twitter, or please visit CTSI-USA.COM.

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Q2 2022: Tech Deal Report