Biotechnology Networking Gets a Facelift in San Diego

Yes, it’s a cliché, we are all very looks conscious in Southern California…well, not the scientists as much. What we do care about, however, is communicating with our local peers, allowing the science, people, and the biotechnology industry to flourish. Recently, two San Diego-based marketing professionals, Mary Canady and Todd Backus, formed a group called the San Diego Biotechnology Network (SDBN), which utilizes both online and face to face networking to connect biotech professionals. Mary (author of this post) has a been a member of the San Diego biotech community since 1997, and is the founder of Comprendia, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the needs of small to mid-size biotech companies. Todd drives strategy and execution of marketing and public relations campaigns for Blue Horse & Trumpet marketing/communications, and he is also a Board Member for the High Tech Marketing Alliance. Together, Mary and Todd have developed the SDBN, combining the power of online networking, allowing people to easily connect, with casual events which allow people to interact and build stronger relationships. Part of the strategy is also to foster networking at each event by holding casual get-togethers with a high percentage of scientists in attendance. In addition, a new or exciting company will be featured at each event, allowing the community to learn more about the technology and team behind it, as well as to help the company gain exposure and meet prospective employees.

The first SDBN event was a happy hour held November 11th, and attracted more than 100 attendees from the local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as several of the research institutions and universities. SDBN was fortunate that Sapphire Energy, a very exciting biofuels company, was the featured company, and more than 15 of their employees attended the event, facilitating interesting discussions, as many are eager to hear about the company and the technology. The event was covered by Xconomy, which provides a voice to the “exponential economy” of fast growing technology regions. The feedback from the event was very positive, with several people saying that they had “made more useful connections at the event than they ever had before.”

Before the event, a group was set up on the professional networking site LinkedIn, and attendees were encouraged to join, allowing them to easily connect both before and after the event, as LinkedIn groups facilitate networking among group members. This new type of “Networking 3.0” is more powerful than either online or face to face networking alone, and the SDBN organizers believe that it will eventually stimulate growth in the region. Other industries have more fully embraced social media, realizing the importance of personal networks in defining not only individual career paths but the growth of the industry.

However, there are a growing number of social networks that have been started for scientists. SDBN-type networks could either be formed in other biotech hubs through regional groups formed within these networks or through existing “face to face” groups moving towards more fully embracing online networking tools. We think that the SDBN will augment the thriving and dynamic San Diego biotechnology industry, which currently includes drug discovery, life sciences, green technology, diagnostics, and medical devices (see the SDBN directory for a listing). If these types of networks “catch on,” the result could be an “Extreme Makeover” of the Biotechnology industry as a whole, allowing us to build and utilize our networks to make important connections, share information more completely, and to ultimately make more advances in science at a time when they are so desperately needed.

Check it out – Podcasts from BIO Investor Forum

We’ve posted a variety of podcast interviews to the http://www.bio.org home page –
Barry Greene, Alnylam
Greg Simon, Faster Cures
Norman Scherzer, The Life Raft Group
Timothy Coetzee, Fast Forward
John Craighead, BIO (discussing event overall)
Tricia Brooks, BIO (discussing venture philanthropy and advocacy group presentations)

Return to a thriving marketplace – BIF Closing Plenary

The Closing Plenary at the BIO Investor Forum focused on what it’s going to take to return to a thriving marketplace.

The financial crisis has led to additional investment in the biotech space, which has yet to be retracted. The outperformance of biotech will continue to attract investors.

Small biotech companies have been hurt the most and no value is being given to pipeline – many companies trade below cash.

Panelists believe consolidation is real this time. Staying away from structured finance like convertible debt is advised. Investors like simple financing models that they can forecast accurately. Look for a few truly great companies to emerge from the market turmoil.

Changes in the overall healthcare system under the next administration are a major topic investors are watching.

Much of what has backlogged the FDA over the last decade has been “me-too” drugs. Biotech companies need to innovate and find new MOA to add value to patients and investors and to please the FDA, making a better overall drug industry. Future drug approvals may first be in a single indication, with follow-on indications being added based on additional clinical data.

The classic debate remains over the optimum time for partnering, early vs. late, or even not at all.

Both sides were argued, but all agreed that capital access is critical to the industry and it may take “many shots on goal” to find winners.

The CF Pipeline

Cystic Fibrosis is an orphan disease with approximately 30,000 individuals suffering from CF in the United States, and another 60,000 in the rest of the world. It is believed that CF affects an average of 1 in every 4000 individuals, with the rate varying based on ethnicity.

Two new options in the pipeline offer patients a more upstream therapeutic approach.
• Inspire Pharmaceuticals – Denufosol tetrasodium
• PTC Therapeutics – PTC124

Session Highlights:
• Still undetermined where new treatments will fit into the current line of therapy. Clinicians would like to treat patients with drugs that get at the major causes of disease, after newborns have been screened (bottom-up approach). However, both treatments have not been tested in children 5 and under, making it very difficult to use a “bottom-up approach.
• More efficient and effective inhalation drug delivery will go a long way to decreasing the burden on patients.
• Effectively finding treatments which aid patients through exacerbation events will help to improve patient lung function. These infections typical require patients to receive treatment in the hospital for 7-12 days with lung function not returning to pre-infection levels. Longer clinical trials are planned for both Denofosol and PTC124 to address this issue.