BIO CEO & Investor Conference: Being upfront about upfront payments

With today’s economy, it’s important to be upfront about upfront payments in biotech licensing. Since licensing deals allow big companies to fill their pipelines without the upfront work and provide small companies with the capital they crave, a win/win partnership is important.

Today, big pharma is driven by scientific data—often from late phase II clinical trials. And, sometimes one molecule can make or break a deal. For big pharma, it’s not the price that drives a deal; it’s the number of opportunities that may come out of the deal. These conglomerates are willing to pay it forward for hard data and new technologies—especially in areas with an unmet need.

According to both big pharma and small biotechs, strategic partnerships work best and partnerships built on a track record for delivery work even better.

For 2009, big pharma and small biotech executives are optimistic about licensing deals. While sellers might demand upfront cash because of the economy, there is plenty of solid data and attractive molecules to help move deals forward to reach fair market value.


Unmet Needs are in the Genes — Treatment Options for Rare Genetic Disorders

Genetic disorders known as Lysosomal Storage Diseases, including Gaucher disease, Fabry disease and Pompe disease, continue to be an area of high unmet medical need. According to physicians, it’s challenging to diagnosis these diseases and many patients often go misdiagnosed.

Physicians push for newborn screening since early detection is key to treating these life-threatening diseases. However, most physicians admit that treatments are often provided on a “learn as you go” basis. Physicians monitor patient and family history, as well as the effects of the treatments currently available.

But, how would new treatments affect the market share? Physicians today agreed that new treatment options (a.k.a. competition) would increase the price of treatments, but newer agents would have to show remarkable improvements to justify switching a patient from his or her existing therapy.

Companies in this unique field are hopeful that new therapies would help better treat these rare diseases and aim to price treatments accurately so they can continue to profit and develop newer and more effective treatment options.

Give Biotech the Recognition it Deserves: Nominate an Everyday Hero for Biotech Humanitarian Award

Everyone knows that biotech is responsible for many of the advances being made in our society today right? Right??? Wrong. Few people know that our industry is working to solve global warming, hunger or health crises on a daily basis. How could they? If you are like most people in the biotech field, you work tirelessly in labs, hospitals, foundations or the ever-present computer screen and rarely see the light of day to tell people about your work. And let’s be honest, biotech professionals are a humble people—we don’t want to brag, we just want to make other people’s lives better.

Well make someone’s life better and nominate a colleague for the Biotech Humanitarian Award!

The Biotech Humanitarian Award will recognize an everyday hero who has improved the lives of others by harnessing the power of biotechnology to help heal, feed and fuel the planet. BIO is asking people from within our own biotech community to nominate others in their field who they believe have produced tangible benefits to humanity.

This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the work of a colleague and applaud the impact biotechnology continues to have on contemporary society. You should feel free to nominate anyone in the biotechnology industry including advocates, scientists, researchers, academics, entrepreneurs, financiers, philanthropists, educators and others.

The Biotech Humanitarian Award winner will be announced at the to the 2009 BIO International Convention and receive $10,000. Nominations can be made online at and must be submitted by April 15, 2009.

Public Ranks Nurses, Pharmacists & Docs as Trustworthy Professionals

Nurses are perceived as the most ethical and trustworthy professionals in the US,  with medical doctors not fairing too badly, according to a recent Gallup PollUnsurprisingly, politicians have much work ahead to regain public trust.  An ever greater uphill battle involves nursing home operators, who were ranked below newspaper reporters and barely above lawyers. 

Unfortunately the poll did not include pharmaceutical or biotechnology professionals, although druggist/pharmacists ranked well falling just below grade-school teachers and above military officers. It appears the doctor-patient relationship is not as damaged and/or plagued by feelings of distrust as many claim, a helpful piece of information given that clinical trials usually involve doctors and nurses. 

It would have been interesting to see bioethicists included in the below rankings.  I would like to know how ethical our ethicists appear; perhaps a future project for Bioethics InternationalThe results for the 22 professions tested are listed below.


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 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.