Aspire In conversation...

In conversation with Damion Boyer

5 November 2021

This week, we had a chat with Damion Boyer, Co-Founder and Interim CEO of Corvidane B.V., about his start in the Life Sciences industry, the foundation of Corvidane, his thoughts on the future Life Sciences, and his advice for those seeking to enter into the sector and found businesses of their own.

“Learn and keep learning from the process. It could be a very long one, but sticking with it, continuously improving because of it, and involving people who are better than you at your weak areas is key. If both sides’ interests are served, it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding journey.” – In conversation with Damion Boyer, Co-Founder and Interim CEO of Corvidane B.V.

In line with Aspire Life Sciences’ core belief in the power of sharing talent and experiences to drive improvement and embrace innovation, we’ve asked a company founders working in the Life Sciences sector to share some insights with us.

This week, we had a chat with Damion Boyer, Co-Founder and Interim CEO of Corvidane B.V., about his start in the Life Sciences industry, the foundation of Corvidane, his thoughts on the future Life Sciences, and his advice for those seeking to enter into the sector and found businesses of their own.

Can you tell us a bit about how you started out in Life Sciences?

I think falling into it is probably the best way to put it! I actually studied Mechanical Engineering at university, so I worked as an engineer for a few years, eventually got into Sales, and later broke into the niche of medical device sales in New York City. I started off selling medical supplies with Medline, before moving to what was US Surgical—later acquired by Medtronic—where I sold devices including surgical staplers and hernia meshes as a Senior Surgical Device Specialist.

After that experience, I knew I wanted to move from working across disease states with a range of different medical professionals to doing something more specialized, so I joined a start-up spinal implant company called TranS1 as Clinical Sales Manager for New York City. That job was more of an intense experience. I wasn’t a surgeon, but I was having to train surgeons on a brand-new approach to spinal fusion that they could never have learned in medical school or a residency. My level of responsibility rose quite significantly there, and it was definitely a challenge,

Following that role, I graduated to the cardiovascular field in August 2013. As Cardiovascular Territory Manager for Maquet Cardiovascular, I sold medical devices and instrument used in coronary artery bypass grafts in New York and New Jersey.

How did Corvidane come about?

Coincidentally, while with Maquet I reconnected with I reconnected my former mentor and current business partner, John Burke. He was a chemical engineer who had been working on a chemo-centric approach to treat atherosclerosis—the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and cellular waste that is a major factor in heart attacks and strokes—while I was in the operating room observing what happens when the therapeutic treatments already out there aren’t good enough.

John had been working on a chemical composition to treat atherosclerosis for a number of years, but his original investor had pulled out of the project after becoming underfunded.

Around that time, John told me about his project and we talked about partnering. We decided he would provide the technical expertise and the chemistry know-how, and it would be my role to go out and find investors to move the project forward. That’s how the company happened. I knew nothing about pharmaceuticals or anything before we partnered up—it was completely out of the blue.

We originally started out under the name Burke & Boyer—which is still officially registered to us today—but we found that most people we met at conferences thought we were a law or accounting firm of some sort because of the name. We transitioned to BBN Cardio Therapeutics for a while after that, which was slightly better, but as the initial focus was atherosclerosis, we wanted something with the letters ‘C-O-R’—for coronary—or the word ‘cardia’ in it.

A search showed a lot of companies in the field used ‘C-A-R-D’ in their names, which made it a very difficult route to go down in terms of the potential for copyright issues, so we stuck with ‘C-O-R’. Our composition is also effective in treating Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), so the liver element gave us the ‘V’, and my son is named Dane, so my wife suggested we incorporate that. That was where ‘Corvidane’ came from, and we took inspiration from that blended with the Latin root of ‘life’—‘vita’—to name our drug, which is CorvidaTM.

Coming up with a name that no-one had used but had a meaning was a bit more challenging than I ever would have thought! It was almost as challenging as securing our funding—the process for which actually led me to explore the world of Venture Capital.

Could you tell us how your time in Venture Capital came about?

When John and I first made the decision to partner up, we were initially looking at a nutraceutical use of the composition he had been working on. However, although we knew the composition had the potential to treat atherosclerosis, we needed to get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to officially claim that. We changed direction to pursue that approval.

The actual decision to follow the pharmaceutical route to validate our claims was simple, but we knew that the road ahead was difficult and would require a lot of funding. After reaching out to venture capitalists and investors from a founder perspective, I wanted to learn more about them and started attending workshops run by a company called FundRX. They later took me on as a Venture Partner/Fellow, giving me the opportunity to not only review pitch decks and give my input on those for medical devices as an outside expert, but also learn how investment decisions were made and where pitches could be strengthened.

After just over a year and a half, the workload associated with pursuing the pharmaceutical route for Corvidane became a full-time job, which meant I had to make a choice between staying in the medical device field where I knew I could make a very comfortable living, and sticking with our business, which had the potential to also be very lucrative, but only with a lot of work and effort. I made a conscious choice that what we were doing with Corvidane was more important, and I wanted to dedicate all of my time to it, so I left FundRX to focus my attention on the company.

What has your experience of securing funding as the founder of a Life Sciences business been? Have there been challenges?

The biggest challenge is accepting that the journey comes with a lot of failure—that’s just the way it is. In a weird way, I think all my years of Sales prepared me for it. When you’re in Sales, you wake up knowing you may get rejected all day. In either field, you’re going to get a lot of ‘no’s, but the important thing is whether you stick with the no or try to improve and learn from it.

It’s painful, and it’s tough to get up again time after time, but what I have seen over the last few years is the improvement that we’ve made and the type of individuals that we’re now able to attract because we didn’t give up. We’ve tried to learn from every rejection; to find out why the answer is no and what we could do differently to pique investors’ interest. After that, it’s about learning—engaging in seminars, webinars, web research, talking to people, talking to investors, and just educating ourselves.

The benefit and the challenge of doing something novel is that there is no precedent. I can’t go and say, “We’re raising money exactly like this other company because we’re doing exactly what they’re doing”. We’re doing something different, so there’s different value propositions—it’s iterative. We go through things, we get beat up, we try to learn from it, we go back again. Eventually, we started getting traction and receiving better and better responses. There will likely be many more rejections and failures to come, but we’re fine-tuning things as we go.

Unfortunately, a lot of investor decisions do come back to money; after all, many have shareholders they’re beholden to. It’s my job to ensure that investors aren’t just excited about the potential of what we’re offering medically, but in terms of the revenue or profit potential. One of the biggest challenges of the funding process is wanting to focus on the clinical benefits, but also having to convince an investor of the financial returns at the same time.

We’re getting much better at finding an alignment between doing what we need to as a company and making sure the interests of investors and potential companies that may acquire a license are served.

What can you tell us about the development of CorvidaTM? What are the potential benefits for the world?

Our intention is that the composition will dramatically reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Treating NAFLD and NASH are important to us as well, but heart attacks and strokes are the bigger killer. From a personal perspective, two close friends of mine have lost their fathers to a heart attack in the last six years. The danger is real, and we want to reduce it. There are very few times in life that you’re presented with an opportunity to do something of this level of significance, and that’s exactly why John and I took the risk of devoting everything to this without pay until we raised money.

In terms of the composition itself, it utilises fatty acids that are known to be safe for human consumption—namely oleic acid found in olive oil, and palmitoleic acid, which is found in fish, macadamia nuts, and can even be produced by the human body. Both are beneficial on their own, but what John recognised was that in combining the two, the end product becomes even more potent and able to improve metabolic processes. That’s why our composition has the potential to treat not only atherosclerosis, but NAFLD and NASH— they are all related to metabolism, inflammation, and how the body processes fats and lipids. The safety is there, the preclinical data is there, and now we have a team to move forward with something that the FDA will hopefully support.

CorvidaTM’s potential impact is huge, and that makes rejection and objection easier to deal with. There’s a mission here beyond just making money, and we’re obligated to get this right. I may be the CEO, but at the core of things, I’m still an owner of the company first. I don’t need the CEO title; I want to be successful for having been involved with this project above all else.

What key changes are you seeing in the Life Sciences industry at the moment, and what do you think their impact will be moving forward?

COVID-19 is definitely a key change. I’m hopeful that the emphasis we’re seeing now on video conferencing and remote connections will help to expedite the processes that come with founding a company, securing funding, and getting approval. One thing I’ve learned is that these kinds of processes can be slow-moving, especially with the importance of due diligence and making sure there’s a proper fit between companies and investors, but I think that the current climate may result in a long-term shift in how deals are done and processes are undertaken.

I think the conference industry will survive, but for me, even after in-person interaction is possible again, we need to be taking advantage of developments in the way we communicate by getting as far as we can remotely before planning face-to-face meetings to close deals. Although in some cases it may be necessary—or even just more comfortable—to do things in person, the pandemic has shown us that we can still make good money without people physically needing to be together.

I hope one of the other big changes we’ll see is that Big Pharma and investors are more willing to accept unconventional approaches to treating disease, because that’s what we’re doing at Corvidane.

Is there any advice you would offer those either seeking to found companies of their own or make the transition from a larger, more established organisation to an early-stage company?

I don’t feel that I’m at a stage where I can look back and tell someone exactly what they should do to be successful. As I’ve said, there’s been a lot of failure along the way, and there will be more failure in the future—that’s just part of the process. The only advice I can give is to always try to learn from your failures however you can, no matter how painful or frustrating that might be. However indignant remarks that what you’re doing is stupid or won’t work might make you feel, apply what you learn from that to your next opportunity.

If you get an objection, you’ve got to do something with it. Find out why it’s a no and milk it for as much information as you can. Some investors and venture capitalists won’t want to hear from you again after they say no, but there are others you can approach to find out how they feel you could improve or what they liked.

Learn and keep learning from the process. It could be a very long one, but sticking with it, continuously improving because of it, and involving people who are better than you at your weak areas is key. If both sides’ interests are served, it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding journey.

The important thing for those who are looking to move into early-stage companies from larger ones is your mindset. I moved from Mechanical Engineering into Sales and from Sales into Life Sciences because I wanted to have a more dynamic life experience. If others out there want something that’s a bit more dynamic and interesting as well, I’d definitely recommend taking the leap, particularly if you want an opportunity to be right at the start of a company that could have a dramatic impact on a lot of people or bring in the financial benefits of a lucrative acquisition or licensing deal.

What I like about what we’re doing is that it has the potential to be all three. This is going to be exciting, we could help a lot of people, and hopefully there’ll be a lot of money to be made. At the end of the day, everyone involved in this project can have a great deal of satisfaction that they were able to do something important, help people, and hopefully make great money.

To find out more about Corvidane and their work, visit, and for more information on how Aspire Life Sciences could help you find or fill your next position, contact me directly at

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