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Posts Tagged ‘philadelphia’


 

From Technicall.y Philly.com

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Spark Therapeutics’ $4.8B deal confirmed as biggest-ever VC-backed exit in Philly

Quick update on this week’s news: The University City life sciences company’s acquisition by Swiss pharma giant Roche is the biggest acquisition ever of a VC-backed company within city limits, per PitchBook and PACT.

The eye-popping $4.8 billion sticker price on Spark Therapeutics’acquisition deal with Roche announced on Monday is shaping up to be the largest exit ever within city limits for a venture-backed company, according to data from financial data provider PitchBook and the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT).

“Filtering down to just Philadelphia proper does reveal that Spark Therapeutics, once the deal closes, will be the biggest exit ever for Philly-based venture-backed exits,” the company said in an email, citing data from an upcoming report.

According to the Seattle-based company’s data, the current holder of the largest Philly-proper exit title goes to Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, which in 2010 announced its acquisition by Lilly in a deal valued at up to $800 million.

Founded in 2013, Spark is a publicly traded spinout of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which invested $33 million in the company. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that CHOP stands to reap a total return of $430 million for its minority stake in Spark Therapeutics.

As part of the acquisition deal, the company will remain based out of 3711 Market St., and continue to do business as a standalone Roche company.

“This transaction demonstrates the enormous value that global biotech companies like Roche see in gene therapy, a field in which Philadelphia is the unquestioned leader,” said Saul Behar, senior VP of  advancement and strategic initiatives at the University City Science Center, the West Philly research park where Spark began and grew its operations. “[This] further validates Greater Philadelphia’s status as a biotech hub with a very bright future.”

Spark CEO Jeff Marrazzo said the deep pool of resources from Roche, the company plans to “accelerate the development of more gene therapies for more patients for more diseases and further expedite our vision of a world where no life is limited by genetic disease.”

Other articles on Gene Therapy and Retinal Disease on this Open Access Online Journal include:

Women Leaders in Cell and Gene Therapy

AGTC (AGTC) , An adenoviral gene therapy startup, expands in Florida with help from $1 billion deal with Biogen

Artificial Vision: Cornell and Stanford Researchers crack Retinal Code

D-Eye: a smartphone-based retinal imaging system

 

 

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GSK Partners With SG3 Ventures to Add $100 Million to the Pittsburgh Biotech Scene

From Biospace News: Backed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), New VC Firm SG3 Ventures Has $100 Million to Bet on Pittsburg Startups

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Source: http://www.biospace.com/News/backed-by-glaxosmithkline-new-vc-firm-sg3-ventures/412039/source=TopBreaking?intcid=homepage-seekernewssection-tabtopbreakingnews

 

Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs will soon have another funding option for growing early phase startup companies.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has thrown its support behind the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund, which will help meet a need for early stage business startup capital in the Pittsburgh area. Philadelphia-based SG3 Ventures anticipates awarding its first round of funding in about a year, according to Brian McVeigh, vice president of worldwide business development transactions and investment management at GSK.

From Pittsburgh Post Gazette: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/healthcare-business/2016/03/11/New-early-stage-venture-fund-forming-with-eye-on-Pittsburgh-startups/stories/201603090016

New early-stage venture fund forming with eye on Pittsburgh startups

Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs will soon have another funding option for growing early phase startup companies.

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has thrown its support behind the creation of a $100 million venture capital fund, which will help meet a need for early stage business startup capital in the Pittsburgh area. Philadelphia-based SG3 Ventures anticipates awarding its first round of funding in about a year, according to Brian McVeigh, vice president of worldwide business development transactions and investment management at GSK.

“There is a huge untapped opportunity,” Mr. McVeigh said. “Let’s bring the money here.”

New prescription drug treatments will be a priority for fund investments, but a balanced portfolio including life science technologies is planned.

In the venture ecosystem, insurers, pension funds and other institutions use such funds to invest in promising startup companies — both to balance their portfolios and to get a shot at investment returns that would not otherwise be possible. The venture funds oversee allotting capital to a portfolio of startup companies.

The investment money enables startups to mature and eventually bring in other investors through a public offering or acquisition by a larger company, generating money to repay the initial investors.

GSK and other big pharmaceutical companies are making similar investments to maximize returns and keep their product pipelines full, but GSK has been focusing on earlier stage companies, shifting its focus to pre-clinical technologies about five years ago, Mr. McVeigh said.

In addition, Big Pharma is increasingly relying on outsourced research and development operations, often in collaboration with universities, to fill industry product pipelines. GSK has funded a number of these initiatives, including a cancer collaboration with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center.

SG3 Managing Director Keith Marmer said the new venture fund will be committed to technologies developed outside the better known tech hubs of Silicon Valley and Boston-Cambridge.

“We’re here, we’re from here, and we want to be here,” he told a group of entrepreneurs at a recent breakfast meeting in Oakland. “Sustaining technology through research funding isn’t happening anywhere.”

Parsippany N.J.-based GSK closed its consumer health care operations in Moon in 2015, eliminating 274 jobs a year after the company’s merger with Swiss vaccine maker Novartis. Mr. McVeigh works at the company’s offices in King of Prussia, Pa.

With federal research dollars flat in recent years, universities nationwide have been turning to commercialization of intellectual property as a new source of revenue.

At the same time, Pittsburgh’s startup community is showing signs of new life.

Among the signs: Patrick Gallagher’s commitment to the commercialization of faculty research since becoming University of Pittsburgh chancellor 18 months ago, awakening a sleeping giant of economic development and innovation and hospital system UPMC’s creation of a commercial enterprises arm to fund promising technologies.

The timing couldn’t be better for venture capital funds like SG3.

Nationwide, early stage funding has been chasing fewer deals, according to a report by Money Tree, which was compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.

Early stage investments nationally last year totaled $19.8 billion, a 23 percent increase from $16.1 billion in 2014. But the number of deals were essentially flat from the previous year, suggesting that some companies were left out in the cold.

What’s more, the amount of money available to Pittsburgh-area entrepreneurs after the earliest rounds of investment isn’t keeping pace with the innovations coming out of the city’s universities, said Dietrich Stephan, a serial entrepreneur who also chairs the human genetics department at Pitt.

“There’s real substance here,” he said. “Without money, we can’t build.”

Seed investment funding — the earliest level of funding — is not a problem in Pittsburgh, said Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC lawyer Jeremy Garvey, who also chairs the Bridgeville-based Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association.

“The predominance of funding in this market comes in the earliest stages,” he said. “Institutional funding is much harder to get in this market.”

Early stage venture funding began drying up with the stock market crash of 2008, which also chilled the financial markets for initial public offerings for biotech companies, Mr. McVeigh said. Eventually, conditions thawed for IPOs, but the lower valuations for new companies than before 2008 made that less attractive than before.

“We’re really energized by the energy there” in Pittsburgh, Mr. McVeigh said. “We’re looking to bring venture capital to the region.”

Kris B. Mamula: kmamula@post-gazette.com

About SG3 Ventures

SG3 Ventures is an early stage life science venture capital firm. Our primary focus in on therapeutics and digital health; however, we will invest opportunistically when presented with a potential vehicle to drive superior returns for our limited partners. We are active in company formation, deploying financial and human resources to help deliver value. In addition, we access deep industry networks to ensure a path to market with strong commercial partnerships built into our companies from the beginning. SG3 prefers to invest in the greater Philadelphia Region (Princeton to the north, Baltimore to the south and Pittsburgh to the west). We prefer to make initial investments at the formation or seed stage with a focus on providing financing through mature rounds of investment.

  • Website

    http://sg3ventures.com

  • Industry

    Financial Services

  • Type

    Partnership

  • Headquarters

    3711 Market Street Suite 800Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States

  • Company Size

    1-10 employees

More articles on the Open Access Journal on Biotech Investing Include

J.P. Morgan 34th Annual Healthcare Conference & Biotech Showcase™ January 11 – 15, 2016 in San Francisco

New Values for Capital Investment in Technology Disruption: Life Sciences Group @Google and the Future of the Rest of the Biotech Industry

Bristol-Myers Squibb: A global BioPharma leader – Tracing the innovative biotech core of $3.7 billion R&D Investment and $16.4 billion in Net Sales

 

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Meeting Announcement: Pharmaceutical Consultant Consortium International Announces Presentation by ViFant and Penn Center For Innovation

As announced on the PCCI website:

PCCI invites you to attend a presentation by:

VIFANT (Penn Center for Innovation)

Monday, November 9, 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

Vifant is committed to delivering innovative, cost-effective, mobile solutions for the early identification of vision impairment in verbal, non-verbal and pre-verbal patients as young as two months of age.

Early detection of vision problems improves treatment outcome, simplifies treatment and may prevent irreversible neurological damage and blindness. Accurate vision testing in pre-verbal and non-verbal patients is an unmet goal of pediatricians, family doctors, ophthalmologists, early education programs and parents who are interested in discovering vision programs in infants and children as early as possible in order to optimize vision outcomes. Unfortunately, only one-third of all children in the US have had a vision screening test or visual examination prior to entering school as  existing early childhood screening devices detect only risk factors with high false-positive and false-negative rates.

Vifant’s vision acuity test app uses the established principle of optcokinetic nystagmus (OKN) which is the eyes’ reflexive, spontaneous  response to moving patterns that does not need to be instructed or learned. The app is downloaded to a mobile tablet form and the tablet’s front-facing camera and screen provide stimulus and detection of eye movement to allow for identification of the eyes’ response to moving targets. The Vifant vision acuity test is patent protected and is reimbursable under the existing CPT code 99174. In addition to conventional points of service, Vifant’s mobility and ease of use fit well in a telemedicine strategy broadening the patient pool that will benefit from the test.

PROGRAM

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

8:30 Beth DeSouza, CEO, will deliver the Company”s “Elevator” pitch to the group.

8:20: A panel will address three major issues crucial to helping the Company reach the next level. Vifant has submitted the following questions:

  1. Reimbursement challenges and opportunities:Does return on investment on early detection and intervention for a large number of patients outweigh costly treatments later from the payers perspectives and therefore warrant coverage in health plans? What is the role of consumers (parents, caretakers) as payers.
  2. Business model: Subscription fee per HCP or fee per test? Is there a play for remote result interpretation (telemedicine) right away or should it wait?
  3. Competitive landscape: What will be the competitors’ response to Vifant’s entry into the pediatric vision screening space.

 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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Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence Presentation at The Life Sciences Collaborative

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D. Website Analytics: Adam Sonnenberg, BSc Leaders in Pharmaceutical Intelligence presented their ongoing efforts to develop an open-access scientific and medical publishing and curation platform to The Life Science Collaborative, an executive pharmaceutical and biopharma networking group in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area.

Our Team

Slide1

For more information on the Vision, Funding Deals and Partnerships please see our site at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/vision/

Slide2

For more information about our Team please see our site at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/contributors-biographies/

Slide5

For more information of LPBI Deals and Partnerships please see our site at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/joint-ventures/

Slide4

For more information about our BioMed E-Series please see our site at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/

E-Book Titles by LPBI

LPBI book titles slide Slide8Slide3

Slide6

For more information on Real-Time Conference Coverage including a full list of Conferences Covered by LPBI please go to https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/press-coverage/

For more information on Real-Time Conference Coverage and a full listing of Conferences Covered by LPBI please go to:

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/press-coverage/ Slide7

Slide10

The Pennsylvania (PA) and New Jersey (NJ) Biotech environment had been hit hard by the recession and loss of anchor big pharma companies however as highlighted by our interviews in “The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene” and other news outlets, additional issues are preventing the PA/NJ area from achieving its full potential (discussions also with LSC)

Slide9Download the PowerPoint slides here: Presentationlsc

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Protecting Your Biotech IP and Market Strategy: Notes from Life Sciences Collaborative 2015 Meeting


 

Protecting Your Biotech IP and Market Strategy: Notes from Life Sciences Collaborative 2015 Meeting

Achievement Beyond Regulatory Approval – Design for Commercial Success

philly2nightStephen J. Williams, Ph.D.: Reporter

The Mid-Atlantic group Life Sciences Collaborative, a select group of industry veterans and executives from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device sectors whose mission is to increase the success of emerging life sciences businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region through networking, education, training and mentorship, met Tuesday March 3, 2015 at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USP) to discuss post-approval regulatory issues and concerns such as designing strong patent protection, developing strategies for insurance reimbursement, and securing financing for any stage of a business.

The meeting was divided into three panel discussions and keynote speech:

  1. Panel 1: Design for Market Protection– Intellectual Property Strategy Planning
  2. Panel 2: Design for Market Success– Commercial Strategy Planning
  3. Panel 3: Design for Investment– Financing Each Stage
  4. Keynote Speaker: Robert Radie, President & CEO Egalet Corporation

Below are Notes from each PANEL Discussion:

For more information about the Life Sciences Collaborative SEE

Website: http://www.lifesciencescollaborative.org/

Or On Facebook

Or On Twitter @LSCollaborative

Panel 1: Design for Market Protection; Intellectual Property Strategy Planning

Take-home Message: Developing a very strong Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and strategy for a startup is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for its long-term success. Potential investors, partners, and acquirers will focus on the strength of a startup’s IP so important to take advantage of the legal services available. Do your DUE DIGILENCE.

Panelists:

John F. Ritter, J.D.., MBA; Director Office Tech. Licensing Princeton University

Cozette McAvoy; Senior Attorney Novartis Oncology Pharma Patents

Ryan O’Donnell; Partner Volpe & Koenig

Panel Moderator: Dipanjan “DJ” Nag, PhD, MBA, CLP, RTTP; President CEO IP Shaktl, LLC

Notes:

Dr. Nag:

  • Sometimes IP can be a double edged sword; e.g. Herbert Boyer with Paul Berg and Stanley Cohen credited with developing recombinant technology but they did not keep the IP strict and opened the door for a biotech revolution (see nice review from Chemical Heritage Foundation).
  • Naked patent licenses are most profitable when try to sell IP

John Ritter: Mr. Ritter gave Princeton University’s perspective on developing and promoting a university-based IP portfolio.

  • 30-40% of Princeton’s IP portfolio is related to life sciences
  • Universities will prefer to seek provisional patent status as a quicker process and allows for publication
  • Princeton will work closely with investigators to walk them through process – Very Important to have support system in place INCLUDING helping investigators and early startups establish a STRONG startup MANAGEMENT TEAM, and making important introductions to and DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIOPS with investors, angels
  • Good to cast a wide net when looking at early development partners like pharma
  • Good example of university which takes active role in developing startups is University of Pennsylvania’s Penn UPstart program.
  • Last 2 years many universities filing patents for startups as a micro-entity

Comment from attendee: Universities are not using enough of their endowments for purpose of startups. Princeton only using $500,00 for accelerator program.

Cozette McAvoy: Mrs. McAvoy talked about monetizing your IP from an industry perspective

  • Industry now is looking at “indirect monetization” of their and others IP portfolio. Indirect monetization refers to unlocking the “indirect value” of intellectual property; for example research tools, processes, which may or may not be related to a tangible product.
  • Good to make a contractual bundle of IP – “days of the $million check is gone”
  • Big companies like big pharma looks to PR (press relation) buzz surrounding new technology, products SO IMPORTANT FOR STARTUP TO FOCUS ON YOUR PR

Ryan O’Donnell: talked about how life science IP has changed especially due to America Invests Act

  • Need to develop a GLOBAL IP strategy so whether drug or device can market in multiple countries
  • Diagnostics and genes not patentable now – Major shift in patent strategy
  • Companies like Unified Patents can protect you against the patent trolls – if patent threatened by patent troll (patent assertion entity) will file a petition with the USPTO (US Patent Office) requesting institution of inter partes review (IPR); this may cost $40,000 BUT WELL WORTH the money – BE PROACTIVE about your patents and IP

Panel 2: Design for Market Success; Commercial Strategy Planning

Take-home Message: Commercial strategy development is defined market facing data, reimbursement strategies and commercial planning that inform labeling requirements, clinical study designs, healthcare economic outcomes and pricing targets. Clarity from payers is extremely important to develop any market strategy. Develop this strategy early and seek advice from payers.

Panelists:

David Blaszczak; Founder, Precipio Health Strategies

Terri Bernacchi, PharmD, MBA; Founder & President Cambria Health Advisory Professionals

Paul Firuta; President US Commercial Operations, NPS Pharma

 

Panel Moderator: Matt Cabrey; Executive Director, Select Greater Philadelphia

 

Notes:

David Blaszczak:

  • Commercial payers are bundling payment: most important to get clarity from these payers
  • Payers are using clinical trials to alter marketing (labeling) so IMPORTANT to BUILD LABEL in early clinical trial phases (phase I or II)
  • When in early phases of small company best now to team or partner with a Medicare or PBM (pharmacy benefit manager) and payers to help develop and spot tier1 and tier 2 companies in their area

Terri Bernacchi:

  • Building relationship with the payer is very important but firms like hers will also look to patients and advocacy groups to see how they respond to a given therapy and decrease the price risk by bundling
  • Value-based contracting with manufacturers can save patient and payer $$
  • As most PBMs formularies are 80% generics goal is how to make money off of generics
  • Patent extension would have greatest impact on price, value

Paul Firuta:

  • NPS Pharma developing a pharmacy benefit program for orphan diseases
  • How you pay depends on mix of Medicare, private payers now
  • Most important change which could affect price is change in compliance regulations

Panel 3: Design for Investment; Financing Each Stage

Take-home Message: VC is a personal relationship so spend time making those relationships. Do your preparation on your value and your market. Look to non-VC avenues: they are out there.

Panelists:

Ting Pau Oei; Managing Director, Easton Capital (NYC)

Manya Deehr; CEO & Founder, Pediva Therapeutics

Sanjoy Dutta, PhD; Assistant VP, Translational Devel. & Intl. Res., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

 

Panel Moderator: Shahram Hejazi, PhD; Venture Partner, BioAdvance

  • In 2000 his experience finding 1st capital was what are your assets; now has changed to value

Notes:

Ting Pau Oei:

  • Your very 1st capital is all about VALUE– so plan where you add value
  • Venture Capital is a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP
  • 1) you need the management team, 2) be able to communicate effectively                  (Powerpoint, elevator pitch, business plan) and #1 and #2 will get you important 2nd Venture Capital meeting; VC’s don’t decide anything in 1st meeting
  • VC’s don’t normally do a good job of premarket valuation or premarket due diligence but know post market valuation well
  • Best advice: show some phase 2 milestones and VC will knock on your door

Manya Deehr:

  • Investment is more niche oriented so find your niche investors
  • Define your product first and then match the investors
  • Biggest failure she has experienced: companies that go out too early looking for capital

Dr. Dutta: funding from a non-profit patient advocacy group perspective

  • Your First Capital: find alliances which can help you get out of “valley of death
  • Develop a targeted product and patient treatment profile
  • Non-profit groups ask three questions:

1) what is the value to patients (non-profits want to partner)

2) what is your timeline (we can wait longer than VC; for example Cystic Fibrosis Foundation waited long time but got great returns for their patients with Kalydeco™)

3) when can we see return

  • Long-term market projections are the knowledge gaps that startups have (the landscape) and startups don’t have all the competitive intelligence
  • Have a plan B every step of the way

Other posts on this site related to Philadelphia Biotech, Startup Funding, Payer Issues, and Intellectual Property Issues include:

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
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on KannaLife Sciences and the Discipline and Potential of Pharmacognosy
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Computer-Aided Drug Design and Gfree Bio, LLC
The Vibrant Philly Biotech Scene: Focus on Vaccines and Philimmune, LLC
The Bioscience Crowdfunding Environment: The Bigger Better VC?
Foundations as a Funding Source
Venture Capital Funding in the Life Sciences: Phase4 Ventures – A Case Study
10 heart-focused apps & devices are crowdfunding for American Heart Association’s open innovation challenge
Funding, Deals & Partnerships
Medicare Panel Punts on Best Tx for Carotid Plaque
9:15AM–2:00PM, January 27, 2015 – Regulatory & Reimbursement Frameworks for Molecular Testing, LIVE @Silicon Valley 2015 Personalized Medicine World Conference, Mountain View, CA
FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg on HealthCare for 310Million Americans and the Role of Personalized Medicine
Biosimilars: Intellectual Property Creation and Protection by Pioneer and by Biosimilar Manufacturers
Litigation on the Way: Broad Institute Gets Patent on Revolutionary Gene-Editing Method
The Patents for CRISPR, the DNA editing technology as the Biggest Biotech Discovery of the Century

 

 

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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

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

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D

I am intending to do 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.

First up I got to talk with Florian Schodel, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Philimmune, which provides expertise in medicine, clinical and regulatory development and analytical sciences to support successful development and registration of vaccines and biologics. Before founding Philimmune, Dr. Schodel was VP in Vaccines Clinical Research of Merck Research Laboratories and has led EU vaccine clinical trials and the clinical development of rotavirus, measles, mumps, hepatitis B, and rubella vaccines. In addition Dr. Schodel and Philimmune consult on several vaccine development efforts at numerous biotech companies including:

 

\His specialties and services include: vaccines and biologics development strategy, clinical development, clinical operations, strategic planning and alliances, international collaborations, analytical and assay development, project and portfolio integration and leadership.

Successful development of vaccines and biologics poses some unique challenges: including sterile manufacturing and substantial early capital investment before initiated clinical trials, assay development for clinical trial support, and unique trail design. Therefore vaccines and biologics development is a highly collaborative process between several disciplines.

The Philadelphia area has a rich history in vaccine development including the discovery and development of the rubella, cytomegaolovirus, a rabies, and the oral polio vaccine at the Wistar Institute. Dr. Schodel answered a few questions on the state of vaccine development and current efforts in the Philadelphia area, including recent efforts by companies such as GSK’s efforts and Inovio’s efforts developing an Ebola vaccine.

In his opinion, Dr. Schodel believes our biggest hurdle in vaccine development in a societal issue, not a preclinic development issue. Great advances have been made to speed the discovery process and enhance quality assurance of manufacture capabilities like

however there has not been a great history or support for developing vaccines for the plethora of infectious diseases seen in the developing world. As Dr. Schodel pointed out, there are relatively few players in the field, and tough to get those few players excited for investing in new targets.

 

However, some companies are rapidly expanding their vaccine portfolios including

 

 

Why haven’t 3rd world countries developed their own vaccine programs?

 

  1. Hard to find partners willing to invest and support development
  2. Developing nations don’t have the money or infrastructure to support health programs
  3. Doctors in these countries need to be educated on how to conduct trials, conduct vaccine programs like Gates Foundation does. For more information see Nature paper on obstacles to vaccine introduction in third world countries.

 

Lastly, Dr. Schodel touched on a growing area, cancer vaccine development. Recent advances in bladder cancer vaccine, cervical, and promising results in an early phase metastatic breast cancer vaccine trial and phase I oral cancer vaccine trial have reinvigorated this field of cancer vaccinology.

 

Historic Timeline of Vaccine Development

vaccine development timeline

Graphic from http://en.pedaily.cn/Item.aspx?id=194125

 

Other posts on this site related to Biotech Startups in Philadelphia and some additional posts on infectious disease include:

 

RAbD Biotech Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

LytPhage Presents at 1st Pitch Life Sciences-Philadelphia

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

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

The History of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology in the late 19th and 20th Century

 

 

 

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