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37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: News at #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019: Deals and Announcements

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

From Biospace.com

JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Update: FDA, bluebird, Moderna and the Price of Coffee

Researcher holding test tube up behind circle of animated research icons

Tuesday, January 8, was another busy day in San Francisco for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. One interesting sideline was the idea that the current government shutdown could complicate some deals. Kent Thiry, chief executive officer of dialysis provider DaVita, who is working on the sale of its medical group to UnitedHealth Group this quarter, said, “We couldn’t guarantee that even if the government wasn’t shut down, but we and the buyer are both working toward that goal with the same intensity if not more.”

And in a slightly amusing bit of synchrony, U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s keynote address that was delivered by way of video conference from Washington, D.C., had his audio cut out in the middle of the presentation. Gottlieb was talking about teen nicotine use and continued talking, unaware that his audio had shut off for 30 seconds. When it reconnected, the sound quality was reportedly poor.

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bluebird bio’s chief executive officer, Nick Leschlygave an update of his company’s pipeline, with a particular emphasis on a proposed payment model for its upcoming LentiGlobin, a gene therapy being evaluated for transfusion-dependent ß-thalassemia (TDT). The gene therapy is expected to be approved in Europe this year and in the U.S. in 2020. Although the price hasn’t been set, figures up to $2.1 million per treatment have been floated. Bluebird is proposing a five-year payment program, a pledge to not raise prices above CPI, and no costs after the payment period.

Eli Lilly’s chief executive officer David Ricks, just days after acquiring Loxo Oncologyoffered up projections for this year, noting that 45 percent of its revenue will be created by drugs launched in 2015. Those include Trulicity, Taltz and Verzenio. The company also expects to launch two new molecular entities this year—nasal glucagons, a rescue medicine for high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), and Lasmiditan, a rescue drug for migraine headaches.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer interviewed Allergan chief executive officer Brent Saunders, in particular discussing the fact the company’s shares traded in 2015 for $331.15 but were now trading for $145.60. Cramer noted that the company’s internal fundamentals were strong, with multiple pipeline assets and a strong leadership team. Some of the stock problems are related to what Saunders said were “unforced errors,” including intellectual property rights to Restasis, its dry-eye drug, and Allergan’s dubious scheme to protect those patents by transferring the rights to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in New York. On the positive side, the company’s medical aesthetics portfolio, dominated by Botox, is very strong and the overall market is expected to double.

One of the big areas of conversation is so-called “flyover tech.” Biopharma startups are dominant in Boston and in San Francisco, but suddenly venture capital investors have realized there’s a lot going on in between. New York City-based Radian Capital, for example, invests exclusively in markets outside major U.S. cities.

“At Radian, we partner with entrepreneurs who have built their businesses with a focus on strong economics rather than growth at all costs,” Aly Lovett, partner at Radian, told The Observer. “Historically, given the amount of money required to stand up a product, the software knowledge base, and coastal access to capital, health start-ups were concentrated in a handful of cities. As those dynamics have inverted and as the quality of living becomes a more important factor in attracting talent, we’re not seeing a significant increase in the number of amazing companies being built outside of the Bay Area.”

“Flyover companies” mentioned include Bind in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Solera Health in Phoenix, Arizona; ClearDATA in Austin, Texas; Healthe, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota; HistoSonics in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and many others.

Only a month after its record-breaking IPO, Moderna Therapeutics’ chief executive officer Stephane Bancelspent time both updating the company’s clinical pipeline and justifying the company’s value despite the stock dropping off 26 percent since the IPO. Although one clinical program, a Zika vaccine, mRNA-1325, has been abandoned, the company has three new drugs coming into the clinic: mRNA-2752 for solid tumors or lymphoma; mRNA-4157, a Personalized Cancer Vaccine with Merck; and mRNA-5671, a KRAS cancer vaccine. The company also submitted an IND amendment to the FDA to add an ovarian cancer cohort to its mRNA-2416 program.

One interesting bit of trivia, supplied on Twitter by Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, this year at the conference, 33 female chief executive officers were presenting corporate updates … compared to 19 men named Michael. Well, it’s a start.

And for another bit of trivia, Elisabeth Bik, of Microbiome Digest, tweeted, “San Francisco prices are so out of control that one hotel is charging the equivalent of $21.25 for a cup of coffee during a JPMorgan conference.”

Other posts on the JP Morgan 2019 Healthcare Conference on this Open Access Journal include:

#JPM19 Conference: Lilly Announces Agreement To Acquire Loxo Oncology

36th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE January 8 – 11, 2018

37th Annual J.P. Morgan HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE: #JPM2019 for Jan. 8, 2019; Opening Videos, Novartis expands Cell Therapies, January 7 – 10, 2019, Westin St. Francis Hotel | San Francisco, California

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Recents Thoughts of Biotech Innovation: 2015 2016

From WorldofDTCMarketing

Can’t innovate ? Buy small biotech companies that can

cloud-innovationOn a week where a lot of people are taking their final summer vacations the news is that Amgen is buying Onyx and AstraZeneca Plc took a further step to bolster its pipeline of new cancer drugs on Monday by agreeing to acquire privately held U.S. biotech company Amplimmune for up to $500 million.  On paper it’s a good business move but as big pharma companies gobble up small biotech companies they bring with then antiquated processes and business people who are thinking about the bottom line rather than patients.  The results ?  Innovation that led these smaller biotech companies to develop new drugs will be stymied by a bureaucratic business model.

There is a reason why, after being acquired, that so many employees of smaller biotech companies leave.  Either they don’t want to work for big a big pharma bureaucracy or the acquiring company determines that these people are not needed and shows them the door.  Behind all this are people who provided the start-up funding and want to cash in without awaiting the lengthy process of developing new drugs.  In the end however it’s patients who loose.

bureaucracy

Last week Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, announced his resignation.  There is a correlation between what happened at Microsoft and the challenges for big pharma.  Steve was forced out because Microsoft became a huge bureaucracy and could not innovate fast enough.  Those of us who have worked in pharma know of the endless 9-5 meetings to move even small projects forward.  Amgen’s culture revolves around back-to-back meetings with executives from other big pharma companies who are trying to put their power on display.  It’s only a matter of time before people from Onyx leave because of Amgen’s prohibitive culture.

Unknown

Until the costs of developing and launching new drugs is lower more and more innovative biotech firms are going to have a for sale sign hanging in the window hoping big pharma can help investors cash in.

And in a Commentary on CNBC

This is biotech’s real problem

Robert J. Mulroy, president and CEO of Merrimack

Thursday, 1 Oct 2015 | 9:38 AM ET

1

COMMENTJoin the Discussion

Here’s a challenge — name a biotech that’s not a small company with one potential blockbuster in the works or an industry giant that’s acquiring the hottest new technologies. Got one? Great! Now try to name four more.

Biotech

Jian Wan | Vetta | Getty Images

The fact is, midsize biotechs (Ironwood Pharmaceuticals andMedivation are couple of examples) are a rarity these days, and that’s a problem for patients, doctors and investors. Start-ups that are in the process of developing and drawing from a foundation of knowledge are often acquired once they have a promising candidate in the pipeline. If the associated research teams aren’t immediately jettisoned (just when their potential for broader breakthroughs is surging), the top innovators go off to launch another venture that doesn’t build on their current research.

There’s also enormous pressure to focus on that “next big thing” that can crowd out other innovations for patients, while blocking valuable, in-depth examination of existing treatments. In oncology, drug combinations (like Genentech’s combination of Herceptin, pertuzumab and docetaxel to treat HER-2 breast cancer) are making huge strides in prolonging patients’ lives. Such combinations require understanding how specific tumors grow, and designing diagnostics that tell doctors whether a patient’s tumor fits that profile. The problem? Not enough small biotechs have the luxury of developing that understanding before they’re acquired so that big biotechs can gain another drug candidate.

As the CEO of a cancer-focused biotech that’s spent the last 15 years building a diverse product pipeline — the lead candidate is under FDA review with a decision expected next month — my view is that pursuing individual drug targets will bring limited success. Cancer is the ultimate engineering challenge, and effective treatments need to address more than a single facet of the problem.

The real winners in the industry will be the companies that understand how their therapies work in combinations with their own and competing therapies, and help physicians make sense of the explosion of new treatments via companion diagnostics. In fact, regulators could potentially require a more integrated approach to manage the ever-increasing influx of new drugs and data. In August, the American Society of Clinical Oncology issued guidelines for doctors on interpreting multi-gene tests for cancer susceptibility, acknowledging the need for more education and regulation.

Most oncology biotech start-ups dream of developing such an integrated approach. But it takes time and money, and an environment that prioritizes in-depth scientific research.

Doing well by patients, doctors and investors means pursuing sustainable innovation, not just one-offs or single-use purchases. Innovation drives value and can build on itself to address complex challenges. And while innovation takes time and entails risk, it mitigates that risk in the long term.

For example, if you have a deep understanding of how your drug works — say, the tumor-growth mechanisms it disrupts — you can determine whether there are signs that the mechanism it targets is present in a particular patient and then enroll only those patients in clinical trials. That allows for smaller, less expensive trials — and a higher chance of success.

An integrated approach across the industry would allow drug developers to identify responders, and then eliminate the non-responders from clinical trials and from the target population post-approval, ensuring patients only receive treatments likely to benefit them and don’t waste their time enrolling in irrelevant trials.

The current cycle of big pharma acquiring start-ups and dismantling the research teams while divesting in their own R&D appears self-perpetuating, but cracks are showing in the high cost — now in the billions — of bringing a single drug to market.

These companies are dealing with outside pressures that stymie progress. Less than 10 percent of experimental oncology drugs ever get approved. A tactical approach to the pipeline makes sense from a risk-aversion perspective. But sustainable growth requires strategy and investments in the fundamental science work that drives innovation.

Commentary by Robert J. Mulroy, president and CEO of Merrimack, a biotech company focused on cancer treatments. Prior to joining Merrimack, Mr. Mulroy worked as a management consultant in the pharmaceutical and health-care industries. He has served as an advisor to multiple start-up companies in the biotechnology industry.

The New Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Jim's CornerAt BIO, new discoveries in research and development are constantly being made by our members. We take pride in the contributions they have made across a diverse range of biotechnology industries, including: healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental.

As one of the world’s strongest catalysts for innovation, our role within the biotechnology community requires us to reflect on who we are, what we do and how we can better serve our members in future.

Biotechnology scientists and entrepreneurs are not just industrious – they are revolutionary, imaginative, inspired, creative, ingenious and inventive. It is these traits that produce innovation.

BIO Logo Vertical RGBAs you may already know, starting today, the Biotechnology Industry Organization will become the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. It’s a one-word name change – from industry to innovation – but the implications are substantial.

Today is a time of tremendous innovation. So much so that our current name no longer best describes our members and our role as one of the world’s leading innovators.

BIO’s members are on the cutting-edge of science and we believe our new name will allow us to build upon our relationships, create new ones and provide our members with better educational and research opportunities.

Our members are discovering scientific breakthroughs and bringing new and innovative therapies to the marketplace. With the help of biotechnology, people are living longer and healthier lives. Our industry embodies innovation and made the world a better place for people everywhere.

Our meaningful innovations also provide the tools to help feed more people, develop new sustainable fuels and products to help protect the planet and devise unique clean technologies to make our environment safer.

In the more than 22 years since its founding, BIO has united scientists, policymakers and the public in a partnership to drive our remarkable progress even further.

It’s important to note that we are not becoming a different organization. We are not altering our mission or the value we deliver to our members.

We will, however, continue to blaze the trail to accelerate cures – connecting thought leaders, building a stronger, more advanced economy and creating jobs to raise the world’s standard of living.

In the coming years, BIO’s diverse membership – from promising startups to global companies in a wide array of biotechnology and related fields – will drive health, life expectancy and improve quality of life for millions of people.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization will be there to support our members in their tireless effort to make the world a better place to live.

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Bad News this Week for Biotech Deals?

 

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D

 

Last week in biotech ( 3/7-3/11/2016) had a plethora of disappointing stories related to biotech drug development and hits to biotech investing and VC.  Since October of 2016 the biotech index has lost 35% to today (see Biotech ETFs Hit 52-Week Lows: Time to Buy?) however were the hit back in October a signal of some of the listed events below (as shown on Biospace News) and includes:

  •  an long-time biotech startup with failure of mesothelioma trial who has struggled in the past
  • multiple clinical trial failures forces the de-listing of a NASDAQ company (other biotechs this year had similar problems)
  • more problems with drug development for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy

GlaxoSmithKline dumps Five Prime’s cancer drug in the midst of Phase I

March 11, 2016 | By Damian Garde

GSK gave Five Prime a 180-day notice that it’s nixing its license to the company’s FP-1039, which is designed to block the spread of cancer by interrupting protein signaling. The decision follows GSK’s January move to stop developing FP-1039 in squamous non-small cell lung cancer due to the rise of immuno-oncology therapies from Merck ($MRK), Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and others, citing a “change in treatment paradigms.”GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is cutting ties with Five Prime Therapeutics’ ($FPRX) in-development cancer therapy, backing out in the middle of a mesothelioma trial.

Now GSK is set to abandon a drug it inherited through its $3 billion acquisition of Human Genome Sciences in 2012, leaving Five Prime to go it alone in an ongoing Phase Ib study testing FP-1039 against mesothelioma. Five Prime said it plans to work with GSK to complete enrollment in the study, adding that it “continues to be encouraged” by the drug’s potential in mesothelioma.

Embattled Bay Area XOMA  (XOMA) Terminates Gevokizumab Trials, Slashes Headcount by 50%

3/11/2016 6:39:17 AM

March 11, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

BERKELY, Calif. – Troubled XOMA Corp. (XOMA) is terminating half of its workforce after a late-stage failure of its experimental drug gevokizumab for treatment of pyoderma gangrenosum, the San Francisco Business Times reported this morning.

Following the announcement, Xoma’s stock is down this morning about 5 percent, trading at 91 cents per share as of this writing.

Xoma said it is interested in divesting itself of gevokizumab. In a statement, the company said several companies have approached Xoma about acquiring the drug. Gevokizumab binds to interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), a pro-inflammatory cytokine. Xoma said it will make all information about the drug and study information available to potential buyers. Gevokizumab has had a troubled history with Xoma. The company has halted several trials with the drug for various diseases, including diabetes and a blinding eye disease, the Times reported. In 2014, Xoma was forced to stop testing gevokizumab as an arthritis treatment after the drug did not show significant benefit against placebo after a six-month period.

Struggling Eleven Biotherapeutics (EBIO) Gets Delisting Notice from Nasdaq After Back-to-Back Clinical Trial Failures

3/10/2016 6:07:38 AM

March 10, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

With one piece of bad news after another, Cambridge, Mass.-based Eleven Biotherapeutics Inc. (EBIO) filed a Form 8-Kwith the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, addressed a delisting notification it received from the Nasdaq on Mar. 3.

The Nasdaq informed the company that its stock dropped below $1 a share, and that the stockholder equity didn’t comply with the $5,000,000 minimum stockholders’ equity requirement. As a result, it has 180 days to comply with Nasdaq rules.

On Jan. 10, the company announced that its Phase III clinical trial of EBI-005 (isunakinra) for severe allergic conjunctivitis did not meet its primary endpoint.

In May 2015, the company reported that its drug, EBI-005, for moderate to severe dry eye disease, failed to prevent damage to the cornea or reduce eye pain in comparison to the control group.

In a January statement, Abbie Celniker, president and chief executive officer of Eleven Biotherapeutics, said, “We are disappointed that isunakinra failed to meet its primary endpoint, and based on these overall results we see no immediate path forward in allergic conjunctivitis. Our efforts will be focused on submitting an investigational new drug application (IND) for EBI-031 in diabetic macular edema in the first half of 2016.”

EBI-031 was designed for intravitreal delivery using the company’s AMP-Rx platform. The drug blocks both free IL-6 and IL-6 complexed to the soluble IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). The compound is being developed to treat diabetic macular edema (DME) and uveitis.

DMD Setback Prompts Sarepta (SRPT) to Shutter West Coast Location and Consolidate to Massachusetts, 30 Jobs Gone

3/9/2016 6:13:13 AM

March 9, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Cambridge, Mass.-based Sarepta Therapeutics (SRPTannounced yesterday that it was shuttering its research-and-development manufacturing facility in Corvalis, Ore. Most of the employees there are expected to move to Sarepta’s facilities in Andover and Cambridge, Mass. About 30 people are expected to be laid off.

On Jan. 21, Sarepta announced that, with an impending snowstorm on the east coast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s meeting to review the company’s New Drug Application (NDA) for eteplirsen to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) was postponed.

DMD is a muscle wasting disease caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. The disease is progressive and generally causes death in early adulthood. Complications include serious heart or respiratory-related problems. It mostly affects boys, about 1 in every 3,500 to 5,000 male children.

On Jan. 15, an FDA advisory committee decided to reschedule the meeting, at which point a recommendation or approval decision will be made. That meeting of the Peripheral and Central Nervous System Advisory Committee has not been rescheduled yet, but Sarepta believes it will be prior to May 26, which is the PDUFA date. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) is a law that allows the FDA to collect an application fee from drug companies when an NDA or Biologics License Application (BLA) is submitted.

The DMD drug arena has been fraught with failures and bad news this year. San Rafael, Calif.-based BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc. (BMRN)’s application for its DMD drug Kyndrisa (drisapersen) was turned down by the FDA on Jan. 15. The FDA argued that Kyndrisa didn’t show enough benefit.

On Jan. 25, Cambridge, Mass.-based Akashi Therapeuticsannounced that it had halted its DMD trial for HT-100 after one of its patients developed serious, life-threatening health problems. In that DMD is a serious, life-threatening health problem in itself, it’s not clear if the patient’s problems are directly related to the drug. The patient was receiving the highest dose in the HALO trial, while others in the trial with lower doses were not showing adverse side effects.

 

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Starting a Biotech the European Way

Author:  Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

A wonderful post by Tony Marcel in Nature Biotechnology highlights some of the structural differences in the way biotech startups are formed in Europe contrasted with bio-entrepreneurship as conducted in the United States.  Tony Marcel is currently the CEO of FGene S.A. and gives a personal experience  of the European biotech startup scene and highlights the differences, as he sees it, in the unique business development models occurring in Europe versus the US.  This post will highlight features from the article.

  • US model of biotech is not easily transferable to how Europe does business
  • US model involves developing a specific technology platform then selling that tool, service or platform to pharma for R&D $ and royalties
  • European perspective is to build networks instead of platforms which can deliver capabilities or one product to pharma
  • The article discusses three weaknesses identified in the biotech world with respect to Europe and the US

Three ” weaknesses” identified which may affect decision to start a biotech in Europe include:

  1. European academic scientists have trepidation making deals with big pharma
  2. European scientists are not as eager as US counterparts to start a biotech
  3. biotechs still are not as good as pharma in drug development so even their pipeline of “hits” are failing in clinical trials

The article aims to use these weaknesses to define a European way involving

  • defining management players and market niche early on
  • reducing the barriers to entry (i.e. legal)
  • establishing the relationships to increase viability

 

The full article can be found at the following link:

http://www.nature.com/bioent/2003/030101/full/nbt0299supp_9.html

 

An emerging European model for bioentrepreneurship

Tony Marcel

Tony Marcel is CEO of FGene S.A., 91, Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris, France

e-mail:  tonymftmcgene@compuserve.com.

The US model for biotechnology is not easily exportable to Europe, but an alternative European business model may be adaptable everywhere.

There is a widespread opinion that biotechnology companies worldwide need to follow business models initiated in the US. These models, generally speaking, are based on development of a specific technology platform. The prevailing wisdom suggests this technology can be sold as a tool or service to pharmaceutical companies or can be used to develop a lead compound that can then be sold to big pharma for R&D dollars and single-digit downstream royalties.

But my experience as a former academic medical researcher who has helped discover, develop, and market drugs for Hoechst, Laboratoires Roussel, Roussel-Uclaf, Rhône-Poulenc Sante, and Amgen has taught me that there is an appealing alternative to this model that may be more practical from the European perspective. Rather than building technologies, one can build networks that have the capability of delivering to big pharma the one product they cannot refuse: validated lead compounds for unmet medical needs.

Identifying a market niche

My background has taught me that an effective way to find solutions is to look at weaknesses perceived by the status quo, and then to develop a strategy to turn them into strengths. Biotechnology’s biggest weakness was its lack of products, in traditional pharmaceutical terms. Relatively few lead compounds have made their way through clinical trials and onto the market. So to separate your company from the crowd, my first conclusion is that it needs to be product-based. It should develop lead compounds that can be sold to big pharma, or take those compounds through clinical trials and to the market.

How do you accomplish this in Europe? I identified three weaknesses from a traditional biotechnology or pharmaceutical perspective that I felt could be developed into strengths. The first was that European scientists are much more risk averse than their American counterparts when it comes to setting up their own business. The legal, financial, and cultural infrastructure to take such a step is far more developed in the US than elsewhere.

The second was that European academic scientists tended to be mistrustful of big pharma’s intentions in licensing discussions. Taking the fruits of their research and developing it into a business is an uncharted area for most, and their unfamiliarity with this process made them cautious.

Finally, biotechnology startups everywhere, not just in Europe, are usually not very efficient in conducting pharmaceutical development. In general, they are discovery-focused companies that lack both the expertise and the contacts in these areas to efficiently manage this process.

These three weaknesses provide the basis for my product-based business plan. The fact that European scientists are not as ready to start companies as in the US makes Europe a source of world-class research not already tied up commercially. In addition, my experience in the pharmaceutical world has demonstrated that a commitment to building a relationship based on trust with scientists and their university licensing departments tremendously enhances the quality of these exchanges and, over time, provides remarkable access to a pipeline of innovative lead compounds.

Finally, the pharmaceutical industry’s move to outsource much of the development and clinical trials process has created a remarkable infrastructure for moving lead compounds through development. One only needed to know when this was appropriate and to have the money to commit to that project to realize a major portion of the development process.

The business model that results from uniting these strengths is a company dedicated not to a specific technology platform, but rather to the development of innovative compounds discovered and patented by academia. The company’s niche is to license in molecules at an early stage and demonstrate proof of principle, and take them through regulatory preclinicals, as well as phase I/II clinicals. At that point, the company licenses its products to big pharma. Profit is generated by the substantial risk-to-reward ratio between the cost of licensing in molecules and the outlicensing price to big pharma.

Management

Contrary to the way many US biotechnology companies are run, the management structure of such a company is not a one-person show. This strategy relies heavily on a supervisory board made up of representatives from European ministries and major European banks. It is also dependent on a scientific advisory board (SAB) with members from key European states. Unlike the boards of some biotechnology companies, the individuals selected are not merely figureheads. They must be committed to an operational role in which they are regularly consulted about the company’s plans.

The key to making this work is to maintain permanent links with academia, the source of new molecules, through publications, meetings, and also through SAB members. One also needs to develop comparable relationships in the pharmaceutical industry in order to keep abreast of licensing-in needs. Using this dual approach, a company will be able to identify discoveries relevant to a major pharmaceutical market before they are published. The company can then select candidates for licensing based on demonstrations of their potentially useful activity, the proof of pilot synthesis and purification capability, and sufficient intellectual property protection.

Given the academic scientist’s aversion to starting a business, where will this network of managers come from? In Europe, the merger and acquisition fever that has hit both the pharmaceutical and banking industries has created a large pool of experienced professionals, acquainted with science, marketing, and business. Some of these individuals will be at a point in their lives where setting up companies is an exciting alternative career.

The challenge for this new generation of European bioentrepreneurs will be to develop their ability to create a new level of cross-talk between inventors and developers. Their core responsibility will be much in keeping with their training: Build and nurture a portfolio of molecules at various stages of development.

Barriers to entry

If this model is so straightforward, why do pharmaceutical companies not eliminate the biotechnology middleman and reap the rewards directly? One of the three premises of this model is that a small biotech company is more able to concentrate on an academic alliance than a large pharmaceutical company. Biotechnology’s close identification with academia through the training of both its management and staff gives it a cultural advantage in assuming this role.

Historically, the model in which big pharma establishes a direct relationship with academia has never proven successful. For example, SmithKline and French invested much of its Tagamet earnings into developing academic alliances to fill its pipelines. Nonetheless, investing a substantial amount of money in these relationships over a significant period of time did not prevent this group from having to merge with Beecham. Nearly every working pharmaceutical executive today has a similar war story.

The reason it has failed for the past 20 years, and is likely to continue to fail for the next 20, is that it concentrates efforts in the hands of the most powerful pharmaceutical companies and key research institutions. The resulting bureaucracy is so overwhelming it not only alienates the scientific innovators, but creates a stifling atmosphere in which decisions simply cannot be made.

But old habits die hard, and this model has long been a tradition in Europe—particularly in France. Therefore, it is likely, if for no other reason than to reap the potential financial returns of such a model, that pharmaceutical companies will continue to make this model work.

However, the important role that biotechnology can play in this process is being recognized by some individuals now in positions of responsibility in pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and government offices. These individuals are doing their best to support biotechnology’s role in the development of innovative new medicines.

Viability

If you have read this far, you are probably persuaded by the arguments, but may wonder, “If it is such a great business model, why hasn’t anyone done it before?” Well, they have. In 1995, FGene was founded in France as a company devoted to the development of biopharmaceutical products. The company was initiated by the willingness of the Paris-based Institut Pasteur, a major European academic institution, to license molecules to it. This relationship allowed the beginning of the process I have just described.

The resolve of the French government, key players in academia, the investment community, and the pharmaceutical industry to enhance the growth of biotechnology in France is an opportunity we have seized. We have tried to duplicate in Europe the remarkable links developed between biotechnology startups and academia in the US, and hope to create a viable business serving the needs of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies that are literally in our backyard.

In three years of existence, FGene already boasts five products in its active development portfolio: a recombinant protein for the treatment of traumatic spinal section; a peptide for the prevention and therapy of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular ischemia, such as coronary diseases; a selective IL2 receptor agonist for the treatment of cancer; a peptide active on kidney and bone for the treatment of bone and mineral balance disorders, such as osteoporosis; and a peptide for improving male pattern sexual arousal.

We are encouraged that we have made this much progress in such a short time. While this model is still not proven in terms of financial success, it provides a much stronger foundation for growing a biotechnology company than most biotechnology business plans currently in use because costs are directly related to the development of marketable products.

Conclusions

For budding European bioentrepreneurs, this model recommends itself for three reasons: First, it uses unexploited resources that are difficult to access through traditional biotechnology or pharmaceutical models. Second, it is based on pharmaceutical customers’ high-priority needs. And third, it provides a company with a burn rate that is in direct proportion to the realization of a marketable product.

This model has first taken hold in France because of a unique set of circumstances, but its applicability seems uthe commitment of a network of individuals to build a new kind of biotechnology company.

My vision is that companies formed will reinvigorate the European pharmaceutical industry. In the end, everyone wins. Academic science has a new route to receive fair payment for their innovations, biotechnology companies show a rapid timeline to profitability, making investors happy, and pharmaceutical companies fill their pipelines with truly innovative medicines. But the real winner in the end will be the consumer—the rapid translation of genomic products will lead to medicines that improve healthcare at an affordable price, in a much shorter time frame than previously possible.

 

source: http://www.nature.com/bioent/2003/030101/full/nbt0299supp_9.html

More articles on BioEntrepreneurship in this Online Open Access Journal Include:

11:00AM – 10/1/2014: Scientific Collaborations @14th Global Partnering & Biotech Investment, Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

9:00AM 10/1/2014: Partnering I @14th Global Partnering & Biotech Investment, Congress Center Basel – SACHS Associates, London

BioTech Partnerships and the National Model in Israel

Four Startups After One Year: BioDesign Entrepreneurship Program @ Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center

Biotech Chinese and Israeli Strategic Collaboration: Pontifax and WuXi PharmaTech (Cayman) Inc. (NYSE: WX)

Top 10 Israeli medical advances to watch in 2014 @ ISRAEL21c

Israel’s Innovation System: A Triple Helix with Four Sub-helices

Helix Model of Innovation in Israel: The Global Scheme and its Local Application

i-CORE Participation In Israel: Hebrew University faculty leads and holds Scientific Management Positions in Five I-CORE Centers

Stem Cell Research — The Frontier is at the Technion in Israel

Next-generation Universal Cell Immunotherapy startup Adicet Bio, Menlo Park, CA is launched with $51M Funding by OrbiMed

Recent Breakthroughs in Cancer Research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology- 2015

BEYOND THE “MALE MODEL”: AN ALTERNATIVE FEMALE MODEL OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

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The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: PCCI Meeting Announcement, BioDetego Presents Colon Cancer Diagnostic Tool

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

PCCI invites you to attend a presentation by:

BioDetego, A cancer diagnostics development company (see meeting announcement here)

Monday, December 14, 2015, 6:30PM; at the Chesterbrook (Wayne, PA) Embassy Suites Hotel (directions below)

Sponsored by:

To register please click on www.rxpcci.com and follow directions

BioDetego is developing the next generation of cancer diagnostics – identifying people that will benefit from chemotherapy with unprecedented accuracy.

Today there are no clear treatment guidelines for many people with cancer and routinely people are undertreated (the lack of chemotherapy treatment for people at risk of disease relapse) or overtreated (the unnecessary, harmful treatment of people not at risk). The resulting human and economic burden is enormous. Those undertreated face increased mortality at a cost of >$150,000 per relapse, and those overtreated suffer the harmful effects of unnecessary chemotherapy at a cost of $25,000 per person.

Supported by compelling clinical data in multiple cancer types, BioDetego is developing VASPfore, a disruptive cancer diagnostic platform that addresses this critical gap in cancer care by accurately determining each person’s risk of relapse and need for chemotherapy. The lead product, VASPfore-CRC, is poised to change the standard of care in colorectal cancer diagnosis and treatment. The test will:

– Accurately determine individual risk of relapse and chemotherapy need

– Provide 100% actionable information to reduce harmful under- and overtreatment

– Improve health outcomes

– Deliver savings by reducing payor costs

BioDetego’s lead product VASPfore-CRC targets 150,000 patients per year diagnosed with stage II or III a/b colorectal cancer in the US, Europe and Australia excluding those unsuitable for chemotherapy due to age or health. Based on pricing of a competitor test with payor coverage the target market is valued at $1Billion. Ongoing development of the VASPfore platform in additional cancer types (e.g. breast, lung and prostate) will substantially increase market size. The total addressable market for the VASPfore platform is comprised of the 1.5 million patients per year diagnosed with an early/intermediate stage epithelial cancer in the US, Europe and Australia and is valued at $6.5 Billion.

PROGRAM

6:30: Cocktails and Dinner; there will be a cash bar and a special two-entrée buffet

8:00 David Zuzga PhD, CEO, will deliver the Company”s “Elevator” pitch to the group.

8:20: A panel consisting of Maria Maccecchini, Dennis Fujii and Caroline Hoedemaker will address three major issues crucial to helping the Company reach the next level. BioDetego has submitted the following questions:

  1. BioDetego is a virtual company without full-time employees and is open-minded about the composition of itd eventual management team. Given the company’s planned next steps, what mix of experience and commitment (potentially draw from its founders, current advisory board members, or from outside the company) would be desirable to potential investors?
  2. VASPfore has the potential to inform oncology clinical trials where enrolling cancer patients likely to relapse may increase the power of a study to determine treatment efficacy. How might BioDetego pursue and structure a co-development deal with a potential strategic partner?
  3. Clinical development milestones, such as the completion of large clinical validation studies and expansion of the platform to additional cancers, represent significant value inflection points. How should these inflection points be integrated into an exit strategy which best manages investor risk and potential for return.

 9:00: Q&A session

Remember to register: click on www.rxpcci.com and follow directions

Dinner price for members is a flat $40; Parking is free!

Lifetime dues for new members are still $100; join PCCI and your first dinner will be ON US!

Bring a friend and/or a business colleague! You know that our meetings a livelier and more interesting than ever.

The Embassy Suites Hotel provides an excellent facility, more room and a fine menu.

Every PCCI meeting is webcast. The webcast recording of the PCCI meetings will be posted on the PCCI website “rxpcci.com” and webcast live via the internet during the event.

Directions: Take Rt 202 to the Chesterbrook exit (that’s two exits South of the Devon exit), turn Right at the end of the Exit ramp and you’ll see the hotel at your Right. If you are going North on 202, get off at the Chesterbrook Exit and turn Left at the traffic light and drive back over Rt 202. You’ll see the hotel at your Right. Proceed to the traffic light and turn Right into the parking lot of the hotel. Their phone is: 610 647 6700.

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Allergan, Pfizer Deal Goes Through with Allergan Bigger Than Pfizer: But at What Cost to R&D?

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Just recently this site had a post entitled Pfizer Near Allergan Buyout Deal But Will Fed Allow It? 

Now, as Bloomberg reports the international deal between Allergan and Pfizer has gone through, resulting in a tax inversion and nary a discouraging word from the US Federal Government (their blessing for future tax inversions?).  And as Bloomberg Go guest speculate finally it may spark Congress to do something about it, or perhaps not.  For details see Bloomberg transcript below:

 

Pfizer Inc. and Allergan Plc agreed to combine in a record $160 billion deal, creating a drugmaking behemoth called Pfizer Plc with products from Viagra to Botox and a low-cost tax base.

QuickTake Tax Inversion

Pfizer will exchange 11.3 shares for each Allergan share, valuing the smaller drugmaker at $363.63 a share, according to a statement Monday. That’s a premium of about 27 percent above Allergan’s stock price on Oct. 28, before news of the companies’ discussions became public. Pfizer investors will be able to opt for cash instead of stock in the combined company in exchange for their shares, with as much as $12 billion to be paid out.

The transaction is structured so that Dublin-based Allergan is technically buying its much larger partner, a move that makes it easier for the company to locate its tax address in Ireland for tax purposes, though the drugmaker’s operational headquarters will be in New York. Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Ian Read will be chairman and CEO of the new company, with Allergan CEO Brent Saunders as president and chief operating officer, overseeing sales, manufacturing and strategy.

The deal will begin adding to Pfizer’s adjusted earnings starting in 2018 and will boost profit by 10 percent the following year, the companies said. Pfizer’s 11 board members will join four from Allergan, including Saunders and Executive Chairman Paul Bisaro.Pfizer dropped 2.1 percent to $31.51 at 9:34 a.m. in New York, while Allergan fell 2 percent to $306.17. The combined company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange.Pfizer said it will start a $5 billion accelerated share buyback program in the first half of 2016. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Unprecedented Deal

Pfizer, based in New York, makes medications including Viagra, pain drug Lyrica and the Prevnar pneumococcal vaccine, and Allergan produces Botox and the Alzheimer’s drug Namenda. Together, barring any divestitures, the companies will be the biggest pharmaceutical company by annual sales, with about $60 billion. The deal will be unprecedented on many levels. It’s the largest acquisition so far this year. It’s the largest ever in the pharmaceutical world, eclipsing Pfizer’s purchase of Warner-Lambert Co. in 2000 for $116 billion. And if the new company is able to establish itself abroad for a lower tax rate, a controversial process called an inversion, it will be the largest such move in history. The U.S. Treasury Department has increasingly targeted such strategies, most recently announcing new guidance on how it will value assets owned by U.S. companies that undertake inversions. The U.S. has the highest tax rate for businesses in the world, at 35 percent, and is one of the only countries to tax corporate profits wherever they are earned. Previous moves by the U.S. Treasury have derailed other proposed inversions, including AbbVie Inc.’s plan to buy Ireland’s Shire Plc for an estimated $52 billion. Pfizer and Allergan’s deal appears structured to avoid the tax inversion rules.

Read has already reached out to lawmakers in both houses of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and is calling the White House Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. His pitch is that that the deal will help the companies invest in more innovative drugs and that Pfizer Plc would have 40,000 U.S. employees at the close of the transaction.

Facilitate Split

An agreement may also facilitate the widely discussed potential for Pfizer to reconfigure itself by splitting the newly enlarged company into two: one focused on new drug development, the other on selling older medications. Pfizer said Monday it will decide on a potential separation by the end of 2018. Pfizer earlier this year bought Hospira Inc., the maker of generic drugs often administered in hospitals, in a transaction valued at about $17 billion. The deal bolstered Pfizer’s established-drugs business, which combines strong cash flow and slow growth. Allergan itself has been recently transformed, created through an acquisition by Actavis Plc that kept the Allergan name. The company agreed to sell its generics business to Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. for about $40.5 billion and has been on a buying binge of its own. It now has more than 70 compounds in mid-to late-stage development.

But What About Pfizer R&D?  Will that be put on the Back Burner?

A little while ago this site posted a talk given by Pfizer on their foray into personalized medicine in

11/19/2015 8 a.m. Building a Personalized Medicine Company & Keynote: President, Worldwide R&D, Pfizer Inc. 11th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, November 18-19, 2015, Harvard Medical School

Here Pfizer had emphasized its commitment to discoveries in the personalized medicine area however the emphasis on worldwide may have been a hint of what is to come.

Just a few days ago Allergan CEO wrote a guest post in Forbes  (edited by Matthew Herper)

Allergan CEO Brent Saunders: Here’s What I Really Think About R&D

There has been a lot of discussion about my views about pharmaceutical research and development. Let me cut to the chase. I’m pro-R&D, but I don’t believe that any single company can corner the market on innovation in even one therapeutic area. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do basic research where they have special insights, but even then they need to be open to the ideas of others. Innovation in healthcare is more important than ever. Other companies have had success with different models based on different capabilities, and we applaud every new drug approval. Here at Allergan, we’ve adopted a strategy we call “Open Science.” It is based on a simple concept: Sometimes great ideas come from places where they are least expected.

Allergan’s CEO goes on to stress innovation centers around academic centers such as in Boston and an emphasis on Alzheimer’s research and development but is this just shop talk or is there a agenda and strategy here?

It is known that Allergan has not felt that building big labs to support an R&D strategy was in their best interests but Derick Lowes Science blog In the Pipeline shows the changes in feeling about R&D, that Allergan is in fact pro-R&D they just don’t feel it is in their best interests to do it “in house”. (see Come to Think of It, Brent Saunders Likes R&D, Too! and the comments)

And check out CEO Saunder’s Twitter feed which gives some insight into his feeling on in house R&D.

Retweeted

on a R&D approach that can deliver big for patients.

This is all very interesting and might mean, with the size of this deal and that Allergan owns 40% of Pfizer, a massive sea-change in the way big pharma conducts R&D, possibly focusing on smaller “open-sourced” smaller players.

Our Open Science approach allows us to strategically invest in innovation and be more nimble so that we can increase our R&D efficiency. It has led to a robust pipeline of experimental medicines. We currently have 70 mid- to late-stage programs in the pipeline, and since 2009, we have successfully brought 13 new drugs and devices to the market.

It also allows us to invest in areas that other companies have abandoned, like central nervous system (CNS) treatments. In CNS, clinical development costs are higher, and market approval probability is lower. But treating these disorders can bring hope to patients of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, one in 68 children has autism spectrum disease. Alzheimer’s affects one in three people over the age of 85, based on data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Yet despite the 634 current open clinical trials for these diseases, there are no approved medicines for autism’s three core characteristics, nor drugs that treat Alzheimer’s underlying disease or delay its progression.

Other related articles published in this Open access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

On Allergan

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/?s=Allergan

On Pfizer

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/?s=Pfizer

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The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Computer-Aided Drug Design and Gfree Bio, LLC

Curator and Interviewer: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

 

philly philly2night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is the second in a series of posts highlighting interviews with Philadelphia area biotech startup CEO’s and show how a vibrant biotech startup scene is evolving in the city as well as the Delaware Valley area. Philadelphia has been home to some of the nation’s oldest biotechs including Cephalon, Centocor, hundreds of spinouts from a multitude of universities as well as home of the first cloned animal (a frog), the first transgenic mouse, and Nobel laureates in the field of molecular biology and genetics. Although some recent disheartening news about the fall in rankings of Philadelphia as a biotech hub and recent remarks by CEO’s of former area companies has dominated the news, biotech incubators like the University City Science Center and Bucks County Biotechnology Center as well as a reinvigorated investment community (like PCCI and MABA) are bringing Philadelphia back. And although much work is needed to bring the Philadelphia area back to its former glory days (including political will at the state level) there are many bright spots such as the innovative young companies as outlined in these posts.

efavirenz_med-2In today’s post, I had the opportunity to talk with molecular modeler Charles H. Reynolds, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Gfree Bio LLC, a computational structure-based design and modeling company based in the Pennsylvania Biotech Center of Bucks County. Gfree is actually one of a few molecular modeling companies at the Bucks County Biotech Center (I highlighted another company RabD Biotech which structural computational methods to design antibody therapeutics).

Below is the interview with Dr. Reynolds of Gfree Bio LLC and Leaders in Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence (LPBI):

LPBI: Could you briefly explain, for non-molecular modelers, your business and the advantages you offer over other molecular modeling programs (either academic programs or other biotech companies)? As big pharma outsources more are you finding that your company is filling a needed niche market?

GfreeBio: Gfree develops and deploys innovative computational solutions to accelerate drug discovery. We can offer academic labs a proven partner for developing SBIR/STTR proposals that include a computational or structure-based design component. This can be very helpful in developing a successful proposal. We also provide the same modeling and structure-based design input for small biotechs that do not have these capabilities internally. Working with Gfree is much more cost-effective than trying to develop these capabilities internally. We have helped several small biotechs in the Philadelphia region assess their modeling needs and apply computational tools to advance their discovery programs. (see publication and collaboration list here).

LPBI: Could you offer more information on the nature of your 2014 STTR award?

GfreeBio: Gfree has been involved in three successful SBIR/STTR awards in 2014.   I am the PI for an STTR with Professor Burgess of Texas A&M that is focused on new computational and synthetic approaches to designing inhibitors for protein-protein interactions. Gfree is also collaborating with the Wistar Institute and Phelix Therapeutics on two other Phase II proposals in the areas of oncology and infectious disease.

LPBI: Why did you choose the Bucks County Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center?

GfreeBio: I chose to locate my company at the Biotech Center because it is a regional hub for small biotech companies and it provides a range of shared resources that are very useful to the company. Many of my most valuable collaborations have resulted from contacts at the center.

LPBI: The Blumberg Institute and Natural Products Discovery Institute has acquired a massive phytochemical library. How does this resource benefit the present and future plans for GfreeBio?

GfreeBio: To date Gfree Bio has not been an active collaborator with the Natural Products Insititute, but I have a good relationship with the Director and that could change at any time.

LPBI: Was the state of Pennsylvania and local industry groups support GfreeBio’s move into the Doylestown incubator? Has the partnership with Ben Franklin Partners and the Center provided you with investment and partnership opportunities?

GfreeBio: Gfree Bio has not been actively seeking outside investors, at least to date. We have been focused on growing the company through collaborations and consulting relationships. However, we have benefitted from being part of the Keystone Innovation Zone, a state program that provides incentives for small technology-based businesses in Pennsylvania.

LPBI: You will be speaking at a conference in the UK on reinventing the drug discovery process through tighter collaborations between biotech, academia, and non-profit organizations.  How do you feel the Philadelphia area can increase this type of collaboration to enhance not only the goals and missions of nonprofits, invigorate the Pennsylvania biotech industry, but add much needed funding to the local academic organizations?

GfreeBio: I think this type of collaboration across sectors appears to be one of the most important emerging models for drug discovery.   The Philadelphia region has been in many ways hard hit by the shift of drug discovery from large vertically integrated pharmaceutical companies to smaller biotechs, since this area was at the very center of “Big Pharma.” But I think the region is bouncing back as it shifts more to being a center for biotech. The three ingredients for success in the new pharma model are great universities, a sizeable talent pool, and access to capital. The last item may be the biggest challenge locally. The KIZ program (Keystone Innovation Zone) is a good start, but the region and state could do more to help promote innovation and company creation. Some other states are being much more aggressive.

LPBI: In addition, the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center in Bucks County appears to have this ecosystem: nonprofit organizations, biotechs, and academic researchers. Does this diversity of researchers/companies under one roof foster the type of collaboration needed, as will be discussed at the UK conference? Do you feel collaborations which are in close physical proximity are more effective and productive than a “virtual-style” (online) collaboration model? Could you comment on some of the collaborations GfreeBio is doing with other area biotechs and academics?

GfreeBio: I do think the “ecosystem” at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center is important in fostering new innovative companies. It promotes collaborations that might not happen otherwise, and I think close proximity is always a big plus. As I mentioned before, many of the current efforts of Gfree have come from contacts at the center.   This includes SBIR/STTR collaborations and contract work for local small biotech companies.

LPBI: Thompson Reuters just reported that China’s IQ (Innovation Quotient) has risen dramatically with the greatest patents for pharmaceuticals and compounds from natural products. Have you or your colleagues noticed more competition or business from Chinese pharmaceutical companies?

GfreeBio: The rise of Asia, particularly China, has been one of the most significant recent trends in the pharmaceutical industry. Initially, this was almost exclusively in the CRO space, but now China is aggressively building a fully integrated domestic pharmaceutical industry.

LPBI: How can the Philadelphia ecosystem work closer together to support greater innovation?

GfreeBio: A lot has happened in recent years to promote innovation and company creation in the region. There could always be more opportunities for networking and collaboration within the Philadelphia community. Of course the biggest obstacle in this business is often financing. Philadelphia needs more public and private sources for investment in startups.

LPBI: Thank you Dr. Reynolds.

Please look for future posts in this series on the Philly Biotech Scene on this site

Also, if you would like your Philadelphia biotech startup to be highlighted in this series please contact me: sjwilliamspa@comcast.net or @StephenJWillia2.
Our site is read by ~ 570,000 readers, among them thousand international readers daily and followed by thousands of Twitter followers.

 

Other posts on this site in this VIBRANT PHILLY BIOTECH SCENE SERIES OR referring to PHILADELPHIA BIOTECH include:

RAbD Biotech Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Vaccines and Philimmune, LLC

What VCs Think about Your Pitch? Panel Summary of 1st Pitch Life Science Philly

1st Pitch Life Science- Philadelphia- What VCs Really Think of your Pitch

LytPhage Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

Hastke Inc. Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

PCCI’s 7th Annual Roundtable “Crowdfunding for Life Sciences: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters?” May 12 2014 Embassy Suites Hotel, Chesterbrook PA 6:00-9:30 PM

Pfizer Cambridge Collaborative Innovation Events: ‘The Role of Innovation Districts in Metropolitan Areas to Drive the Global an | Basecamp Business

Mapping the Universe of Pharmaceutical Business Intelligence: The Model developed by LPBI and the Model of Best Practices LLC

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