The Smell of Politics is in the Air: Biotech and Political Conventions

Well this weekend is labor day and Fall is right around the corner and it’s high season for politics. This weekend the Democrats are in Denver nominating their candidate, Barack Obama and next week the Republicans will be in Minneapolis nominating John McCain.

Some of my colleagues from BIO are in Denver this week, checking out the convention. Josh Boger, Chairman of BIO and President & CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals was even interviewed by BlogHer. Watch the interview.

Why is BIO at the Democratic National Convention you may ask? To sum it up in one word — education. BIO goes to educate public officials at all levels, as well as candidates about the importance of creating policies that promote biotechnology innovation so that we can address the challenges facing our nation in health care, energy security and fuel prices, global food supply, and global warming & environmental sustainability.

BIO will not endorse either candidate and we will go to BOTH conventions, so look for us at the Republican National Convention next week.

For more info on biotechnology, be sure to check out our YouTube channel.


Globalization of Contract Research Organizations: Hope for Pharma Pipelines?

The current “elephant in the room” in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry is the fact that drug pipelines are suffering severely, resulting in a 20% decrease in Investigational New Drug (IND) filings just in the last two years. This is a vicious cycle, as it results downsizing of early R & D, causing many pharmas to lose drug discovery capabilities. However, they can now outsource to their choice of more than 500 contract research organizations (CROs) with wide-ranging clinical and pre-clinical capabilities. Indeed, several CROs have been a direct result of pharma downsizing, as displaced researchers take their specialties and form small companies, often doing quite well. A recent study came out about CROs, indicating that business is booming, with a 12.6% compounded growth rate in the market through 2011, when it will be $29.4 billion. CROs also allow smaller biotech companies to perform drug discovery more easily, allowing them to utilize capabilities only when needed in the development of their candidates. In some cases, such as CHDI, Inc., in Los Angeles, biotech companies don’t have any internal capabilities at all, doing so-called “virtual” drug discovery.

An interesting trend that benefits both CROs and pharma companies is the globalization of CROs. For the CROs, much business can be found in markets such as China and India, where both clinical and pre-clinical research is growing rapidly. Pharma companies benefit from globalization since US full-time equivalent (FTE) rates are high, especially in the biotech hubs. The first “stage” of globalization was the utilization of CROs which were wholly based overseas. However, it was found that sometimes this outsourcing suffered due to the intensive communication and project management needs of drug discovery programs. Now, CROs are becoming more globalized in the sense that while FTE work may be done where the rates are lower, there are strong ties to US or European sites. BioBlocks, a pre-clinical CRO specializing in chemistry services for lead optimization, recently announced a significant expansion of their management team, with senior members at their sites in San Diego, California, and Hungary. BioBlocks keeps it close ties to US drug discovery advancements and has strong project management at both sites, facilitating communication and performing the chemistry with non-US FTE rates.

What will the globalization of CROs mean for drug pipelines? Hopefully, this “new generation” of CROs will mean more capital efficiency and success for IND’s. Perhaps the utilization of these new CROs by smaller biotechs and pharma alike will minimize financial risks and result in more novel, first in class therapeutics for indications that are currently underrepresented in the market.

–Mary Canady, Comprendia, LLC.

2008 BIO comes to a close

Well, as the BIO 2008 International Convention draws to a close we can say that this has been one of the best shows ever. We ended up with 20,108 industry leaders from 70 different countries and 48 states.

The full Convention program included four full days with 175 breakout sessions, 21 educational tracks, more than 1,000 speakers, three keynote sessions, six Super Sessions and three CEO Forum sessions.

And that wasn’t all, more than 6,000 business leaders met at the convention and participated in the Business Forum. More than 14,500 one-on-one partnering meetings were held – a new record – and a total of 1,500 companies participated in the Business Forum.

Then, as you read here on Bio On The Road, The all-star keynote line up included Gen. Colin L. Powell, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), and J. Craig Venter, PhD. In addition, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA); Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) discussed healthcare in an election year with moderator Neil Cavuto, Anchor & Managing Editor of Fox News Channel.

In addition, many high-profile VIPs attended the Convention with 10 governors and numerous international public officials, including The Hon. Lino Baranao, Minister of Science, Technology & Production Innovation, Argentina; Sen The Hon. Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science & Research, Australia; The Honourable Dr. Ewa Bjorling, Minister for Trade, Sweden, among many others.

The convention featured the largest gathering of biotech exhibitors in history, with more than 2,100 companies, 126 of which were new, and more than 208,000 sq. feet of exhibition space, the largest ever at the convention. The exhibition included more than 60 domestic, country and regional pavilions representing every aspect of the biotechnology industry.

For more information, you can read the full press release here.

To summarize, we hope you had a great time, learned a lot, and found it to be a productive environment. And most important of all, we hope to see you in Atlanta in 2009.

All the best, The BIO Team.


Thank you

As this year’s convention draws to a close, we’d like to stop and take a moment and thank all the people that made our foray into social media a success.

Thanks to all the bloggers on BIO on the road, who reported their experiences as they happened. Thanks to the members of the BIO2008 Twitter group, who really gave us a feel for the convention, blow-by-blow. Finally, thanks to those of you who joined and participated in our group on facebook.

The really great thing about social media is that helps us to stay connected in the absence of face-to-face interactions, like we’ve had at the convention. And while there is nothing that can replace those meetings, the online world gives us the opportunity to continue our conversations 365 days a year, and on a global scale.

Having said that, we hope that you will connect with us year-round by visiting us on or any of our sister sites and blogs.

We hope to see you soon online. And to everyone, thanks again.

—Susan Cato, Director Online Communications

—Nicole Ruediger, Editor,

AR Post: Forest City Enterprises – Building Colorado Bio Park

If you are resident at MIT, Hopkins, UPenn, Northwestern or the University of Chicago you are likely intimately aware of the name Forest City Enterprises, Booth 5508. That is because the Forest City Science + Technology Group, recognized as one of the country’s leading developers & owners of life science campuses, has completed your shiny new and smartly appointed bioparks.

Forest City, the $4 billion publicly traded (NYSE: FCE-A) Cleveland-based company has set its sights on Colorado, building out the 170+ acre Colorado Science + Technology Park @ Fitzsimons. This new park will add an additional 6 million sq ft to the existing 6 million sq ft housed within the adjacent Fitzsimons Life Science District and Anschutz Medical Campus. It is an incredibly exciting project, one of staggering magnitude and is certain to mark the campus as one of the largest and fastest growing concentrations of life science focused activity in the world!

Some great progress has already been made on the Colorado Science + Technology Park, a few highlights include:

  • Current 100,000 sf, in two buildings is 100% occupied
  • Demolition of all old buildings has begun and initiating site prep
  • Erecting first spec lab building (T) for 66,000 sf
  • Leasing activity in building T and second new lab build is strong
  • University Physicians, Inc deal is complete, 160,000 sf structure
  • A full-service hotel deal is moving forward
  • 21 Fitz Town Center, retail and high-end housing opens in two-weeks
  • Fitzsimons Credit Union land sale is done, 25,000 sf structure

Ernst & Young 2008 Global biotechnology report highlights

The Bio International Convention hosted a fantastic panel today on the 2008 Ernst & Young global biotechnology report.  The industry is at “the start of a revolution” and aiming to reinvent itself because of three trends, shared moderator Glen Giovannetti of Ernst & Young, (1) R&D productivity, (2) personalized medicine, and (3) globalization.  This post will briefly introduce the first two trends leaving the large topic of globalization for a subsequent standalone post.

The first motivator for industry innovation is R&D productivity.  Due to patent expiration problems, Giovannetti outlined, pharma’s drug sales will be reduced by $67 billion between now and 2012 leaving pharma searching for ways to increase profits.  Consequently, Pharma is buying promising revenue-generating assets from smaller biotech companies and cutting costs by laying off employees. Unsurprisingly, pharma wants and needs to reinvent itself and increase innovation. 

The second trend driving industry reinvention and innovation, personalized medicine, is of particular interest as I am a supporter of person-centered bioethics.   Personalized medicine promises the potential for getting the right drug to the right patient at the right time using for example the patient’s own molecular information. Additionally, it changes medicine’s focus “from efficacy to efficiency,” according to co-moderator Mara Aspinall, former president of Genzyme Genetics, potentially improves its safety and eases pricing pressures.  As personalized medicine grows, the panelists predicted that consumers will focus less on a medicine’s catchy tagline and/or color and more on its results and cost, effectively widening the market’s playing field.  Interestingly, it seems big pharma’s marketing and PR practices and competitive edge will be affected.  Aspinall mentioned that currently only 50% of drugs are effective and that personalized medicine could potentially boost this number.  Not only would marketing practices be affected, but the diagnostics and IT fields would be impacted as well.  Personalized medicine needs diagnostic testing and IT infrastructure, and according to Aspinall it has not been decided who will pay for the needed growth in these areas. Personalized medicine is still in its infancy, but promises to bring innovative options to healthcare.

Sponsored by:  

Raising PKU awareness

Following Wednesday’s Keynote Luncheon, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California met with John Adams Jr., a Phenylketonuria (PKU) patient who was diagnosed with the disease as a newborn.

PKU is an inherited metabolic disorder that causes problems with brain development, leading to progressive mental retardation and seizures.

Adam’s father currently serves as the President & CEO of the Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders (CanPKU), a non-profit organization dedicated to help provide peer-to-peer family support, information sharing, research support, public education, and advocacy.

Mr. Adams also volunteers as Treasurer of the Canadian Organization of Rare Disorders.