Tag Archives: biotech

Stealth mode the new sweet spot for some biotechs

By Steve Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors and Sultan Meghji*

*Sultan Meghji is an entrepreneur and advisor in life sciences, financial services and high tech. He is based in St. Louis, Missouri.

In biotech’s early days, telling a story to a wide audience used to be part of the path to success. Founders would share a compelling early narrative to potential investors, reporters and just about anyone else who would listen. Nature papers were the coin of the realm. Molecular biologists with big dreams even became something of a cliché, memorialized in a joke one of us heard in the early 1990s from one of the scientific founders of Biogen. In the joke, a molecular biologist on his wedding night fails to consummate his marriage. A shocked friend asks the bride what happened and she said, “Oh, he just stood at the end of the bed all night telling me how great it was GOING to be.”

But far from shouting to the rooftops, lately it seems that more and more biotechs are pursuing a different approach. Instead of keeping their technology under wraps until a first financing happens, these companies go into what we call “permanent stealth mode.” The principle here seems to be, “Say no more publicly than necessary and even then, keep it vague.” Meantime, let your actions speak for you: Raise money. Sign partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. And then seemingly out of nowhere, hand consumers and investors a finished product or service.

Lately, we’ve seen some tech companies choose this path. Notably, the company that developed Siri was spun out of SRI International in such a way that Apple acquired it barely three months after the company’s voice recognition app was first offered in the App Store. That route is relatively new in IT and still fairly rare. It seems to be related to the fact that the competitive advantage held by some startups involves algorithms, which can be hard to protect using patents. But such an approach has been even rarer for biotech companies that, until recently, had to fight like rain forest vines for the light and nourishment that publicity could bring.

In this post, we’ll share some examples of three “deep stealth” life sciences companies that chose to stay on the stealthy side well beyond the timeframe of a typical startup: Moderna, Kadmon and Theranos. The first two are developing novel therapeutics and the third is a consumer diagnostics company. We will share what little we can find out about them; offer some analysis about what has motivated the companies to stay stealthy; and ask whether they represent the beginning of a trend and, if so, what that implies for the industry.

Moderna Therapeutics

In less than four years, Moderna has raised over $400 million. It has built a platform around RNA to trigger the production of protein drugs inside the bodies of patients, thus turning the body into a protein factory. We noted back in 2012 that Moderna’s approach turns the traditional dogma of biotech on its head: instead of manipulating the DNA in the lab and then producing proteins in cells or bacteria, then selling these proteins to the patient, Moderna instead takes messenger RNA, does some fancy chemical tricks to it and puts it into the body as RNA, letting the body’s own protein production machinery do the rest. We also noted that the company had chosen not to publish anything, even in scientific journals, leaving open the question of how the RNA would be stabilized and delivered (RNA in its native form is notoriously unstable and subject to destruction by ubiquitous enzymes) and leaving the rest of us to wonder what the platform could really do and how it does it.

Then came a news bulletin: In 2013, Moderna struck a validating deal with AstraZeneca that included an unusually rich up-front payment: $240 million plus an additional $180 million in potential milestone payments. Then in January, 2014, it announced a deal with Alexion for $100 million up front and a $25 million equity investment plus undisclosed milestone and royalty payments. Yet even as of today, the company has put out but a single publication. Recently, the company spun out a subsidiary called Onkaido to focus on oncology. At the same time, its business strategy seems to be shifting. CEO Stephane Bancel told Xconomy in mid-June that it will become a holding company that spins out drug development companies and that “Moderna will most probably never develop and sell a drug.”

Kadmon Corporation

Kadmon, founded by Sam Waksal in 2009, has grown much larger than a typical privately held company ever does. Waksal is known both for founding ImClone in 1984 and for being convicted of securities fraud in 2003. Waksal’s work with ImClone eventually led to the approval and marketing of Erbitux, an early and influential targeted oncology therapy. ImClone was acquired by Lilly in 2008 for $6.5 billion.

Kadmon, which has been built mostly around acquisitions of later stage technologies, is not completely in stealth mode. It does have a web site that lists its clinical pipeline in some detail. Initially focused on oncology, liver disease and metabolic and cardiovascular disease, it now sells the hepatitis drug ribavirin. All of these pipeline products have been brought in by acquisition, beginning with the acquisition of Three Rivers Pharmaceuticals for more than $100 million in 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal. That company had products on the market at the time of acquisition, especially in hepatitis C. Bloomberg reported that Kadmon had reached $25 million in annual revenue by 2012 and was targeting $40 million to $60 million in 2013. Interviewed by Maria Bartiromo on CNBC in January, 2011, Waksal described a new paradigm for building a biotech company with a commercial arm that could serve as a “cash generating machine” so that “we don’t have to go to the [financial] markets to constantly raise money for drug development.”

The corollary to that is that, if it is funded by revenues, the company’s very exciting research does not have to be disclosed, even to venture capitalists and especially not to the public, in the context of fund-raising. At investor conferences, the company has described some fascinating RNA targeting technology that could represent a new generation for gene therapy. Waksal told Bloomberg in 2013 that Kadmon was considering a spinout of a gene therapy company and an oncology company focused on the Chinese market.

In the meantime, there are not too many publications (none linked on the Kadmon web site) and the company has had to cope with multiple warnings from the FDA over its marketed products.

Theranos

Theranos has recently begun to emerge from stealth mode, although its technology is still secret. This June, 2014, Fortune cover story reported that the eleven-year-old company is valued at $9 billion and that, due to her share ownership, company founder Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout, is worth $4.5 billion on paper.

Theranos’ blood draw technology replaces traditional, slow, overpriced blood testing with pinprick-style small-volume blood tests. By working efficiently on tiny volumes, Theranos is both cutting prices by half or more as well as increasing efficiency by allowing for follow-up tests to be done right away, according to the Fortune article.

How Theranos does all this remains a secret. But this “black box” has not prevented the company from raising what Fortune reports to be more than $400 million nor from striking a distribution partnership with Walgreens, a partnership that extends beyond Walgreens’ 8200 US stores to its European pharmacy partner Alliance Boots. In parallel, the company is working with hospitals to offer its tests in what the CEO of UCSF Medical Center told Fortune is “the true transformation of healthcare.” (USA Today covered much of the same ground in its July 8, 2014, edition here.)

Theranos’ vast ambition, coupled with its lack of publications subjecting its methods to scientific scrutiny, has not gone unnoticed, especially by competitors. Fortune wrote:

‘The most frequent criticism is that Theranos is using purportedly breakthrough technology to perform tests that are relied on for life-and-death decisions without having first published any validation studies in peer-review journals. “I don’t know what they’re measuring, how they’re measuring it, and why they think they’re measuring it,” says Richard Bender, an oncologist who is also a medical affairs consultant for Quest Diagnostics, the largest independent diagnostic lab.’

Why advertise?

The clearest unifying attribute of Moderna, Kadmon and Theranos is “high confidence,” followed closely by “high ambition.” There is no other way to raise the billion-plus dollars these three have raised. There has to be some technical know-how to go along with the bravado. Otherwise multi-hundred-million-dollar partnerships with national pharmacy chains or big pharma companies just do not materialize. Activating a direct commercial channel (in the case of Theranos with Walgreens) or a high-credibility development partner such as Moderna’s partner AstraZeneca is at least a temporary substitute for a look under the hood.

But there is something else going on as well. Let’s call it “stealth as a business model.” All three of these companies seem to share the belief that they will be better off if no one knows what they really do or how they do it. Most notably, they depart significantly from the status quo of publishing and presenting the technologies in an open forum as the gold standard for credibility. This is so unusual in the history of biotech that it made us think about the question the other way around: why would you want to disclose anything about your new biotech company? Just raise the money, sign a partnership and get on with it!

We thought of a good five reasons why many companies share at least the basics of their technical approach. (One company whose chances we like, Heptares of London, UK, published a paper in Nature in 2008 more than a year before they raised their Series A round. That company published in Nature again in early July of this year, gaining credibility from Nature’s name and its peer review process – a more traditional pattern.)

A clue to understanding the trend is the presence or absence of venture capital (VC) money. Of the three companies we chose to examine, only Moderna has disclosed an investment by a traditional VC, Flagship Ventures. It’s fine to stay in stealth if you want to raise money from a single VC, or for that matter from a single VC syndicate. As long as you don’t need “buzz” in the form of news articles and conference hall chatter, you can just go achieve your objectives without sharing much about what you are doing. These days, most early-stage therapeutics investments are done by an initial syndicate that intends to fund the companies through major milestones such as Phase 2 data or partnerships. Therefore the need for buzz is less. Next stop, hedge funds, who couldn’t care less about buzz and whose analysts may in some cases be confident enough to make big-ticket investments decisions based on unpublished data.

So why publish and share at all? Let’s set out some reasons and see if we can shoot them down: 

  • Fund-raising. As described above, that point seems moot. Atlas Venture in Cambridge has a whole stable of early startups and they keep their technology under wraps for a while – maybe all the way to exit? Third Rock Ventures incubates companies for a year or more before hatching them nearly fully formed and typically not intending to raise more money until the IPO anyway. Why not go all the way in stealth?
  • Corporate partnerships. Roche will find out about you whether you publish or not. If your scientific founder is already known to the therapeutic area head, all the better. If not, maybe better to publish.
  • Clinical trial recruitment. This is usually handled by intermediaries such as clinical research organizations (CROs). Patients are usually tracked down actively. Companies don’t wait for the patients to be pulled in via news stories (though the stories don’t hurt).
  • Hiring. This would seem to be a big one, especially in hotly competitive geographies such as Cambridge or the Bay Area. But now that more and more “virtual drug development” companies are filing for IPO in Phase 2 with staffs of fewer than fifteen people – two of these have been CBT Advisors clients in 2014 and two more have been clients of our co-author – the point seems less relevant
  • Overcoming resistance in society to biotechnology. This may have been a factor at the dawn of the industry in the 1980s but now there seems to be much less resistance, even in traditionally conservative societies like Germany. A more nuanced understanding of advanced biotech seems to be emerging and there is strong demand globally for more biotech companies, not less.

When you think about it, publishing has some downsides too. Most threatening among these is that publishing what you are doing will arm your competition. Yes, your patents will be published anyway eighteen months after you file them. But competition has intensified in the era of the patent troll. Why advertise?

The strong implication of all of these arguments is that biotechs should stay stealthy whenever possible. If founding scientists are not required to publish in order to get tenure or to get the next grant, they should, like our examples here, take it to investors, take it to pharma, fund it to the hilt and don’t look back.

In one sense, this does hark back to the early days of biotech, when companies were able to raise considerably more money for technology platforms that were years away from generating tangible products. That model went away early in the last decade, in part because investors – both hedge funds and venture funds – began to apply financial analysis tools to product portfolios, sharply cutting the valuations and the ability to fund-raise for all but products that already existed. The shift into stealth mode seems to be going hand-in-hand with a shift in investor favor toward early funding of powerful platforms such as Moderna’s. Once again, a company able to raise significant amounts of capital can try out several different things and allow some of them to fail quietly without the market playing a role.

We just want to mention one tiny nagging doubt: much of the research that underpins these companies comes about under the auspices of US government funding, typically from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But in the guidelines we found, there is no formal mechanism requiring disclosure once research is funded. It is not even required to be published. Nevertheless, it strikes us that sooner or later there may be a backlash to all this stealthiness.

And of course the longer term question remains: does having strong financing and a strong commercial channel replace independent peer review of the underlying technology?

In the meantime, we sincerely hope that all of these companies are successful. It would be an amazing day in healthcare if they were. And should that day come, we are imagining a moment when Hollywood decides to make the movie, akin to the way screenwriter Aaron Sorkin imagined the beginnings of Facebook in “The Social Network.” The big difference here is that the script writer will have an awful lot of liberty in shaping a story that no one has ever heard.

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How I stopped worrying and learned to love Twitter: Top Hundred Life Sciences Twitterers to Follow

By Steve Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors

Amsterdam, Monday, March 19, 2012

Twitter last month hit a half-billion users and no wonder. What a valuable business tool! Adoption is accelerating in the biotech world. Initially I was skeptical – “What, me ‘tweet?’ You’ve got to be kidding!” But now I’m a believer.

Twitter has helped me find clients; introduced me to new and interesting people, increased the speed and accuracy of my responses to industry news; and given me ideas for blog posts. I’m even starting to say the dreaded word “tweet.”

For all the hype about Twitter’s role as a real-time wellspring of trivialities, and for all the righteous blather about its disputed role in fomenting revolution, the fact is that Twitter greatly enhances both my network and my appreciation for the news.

Now it’s time to give back, both live and online. Today (Mon. March 19, 2012), two Twitter veterans, Michael Gilman (@Michael_Gilman) of Stromedix (now Biogen Idec) and Simon Meier (@Venture_Invest) of Roche Venture Fund, and I will share some of Twitter’s benefits with the audience at a panel discussion at the BioEurope Spring conference (hashtag #BES12) in Amsterdam. This post will give my Boston Biotech Watch readers a quick way to increase the value they can derive from Twitter.

Below, my associate Ovid Amadi and I have created ten “Top Ten” lists of whom to follow on Twitter. Once you have opened a free account on Twitter, go to my feed and simply subscribe to whichever one of these lists you like. Or pick and choose among these top Twitterers as you build your own custom feed.

For those who cannot attend the session, you can still get an in-depth and hands-on intro to Twitter from this video, kindly posted by EBD Group after the “social media and biotech” panel that I moderated at the BioPharm America conference in Boston last September. On it, you will see how biotech execs and communications pros are using Twitter and other social networks to improve their access to industry intelligence, find jobs and project a strong professional image.

According to the invaluable summary graciously provided by blogger and tweeter Maude Tessier (@Maude_Tessier), “the savvy panelists made a compelling case for Twitter as:

An ideal source for real time data/news to inform business strategies

  • A helpful forum to poll the community on a subject
  • A platform to comment on the state of the life science industry
  • A way to better understand how people think
  • A tool to make new connections with companies and patient groups
  • A medium to build credibility for you and your organization.”

Another ringing endorsement for Twitter in life sciences came from Xconomy’s indefatigable Luke Timmerman (@ldtimmerman): http://www.xconomy.com/national/2011/09/12/what-most-biotechies-are-missing-by-avoiding-twitter-a-huge-networking-opportunity/

I can enthusiastically vouch for all that. Twitter: it’s the bomb.

# # #

Ten “Top Tens” for Twitter in Life Sciences

Compiled and annotated by Ovid Amadi and Steve Dickman (@cbtadvisors), CBT Advisors

Each tweeter’s name and handle is accompanied by a brief description as well as a classification as “PERSP” – providing primarily perspective, commentary, and opinions on topics; “INFO” – providing timely factual information and news stories; or both.

CONTENTS
I. Genomics
II. Health IT
III. Investing/Finance
IV. General News
V. Biotech News
VI. Science
VII. Healthcare/Medicine
VIII. VC/Entrepreneurship
IX. Service Providers
X. Benchmark Biotech/Life Sciences Twitter Users
Appendix

I. Genomics

1. INFO, @genome_gov – National Human Genome Research Institute
– Provides useful information and headlines in concise uncluttered format.
– Does not draw upon a single resource.
– Includes technical, policy, and commercial headlines
– Moderate tweet frequency

2. INFO, @GenomeBiology – Genome Biology
– In addition to scientific news features multiple links to blogs and opinion articles
– High tweet frequency

3. INFO, @genomeresearch – Genome Research
– Covers broad range of genomics topics
– Presents some opinions and personality in posts
– Multiple retweets from a variety of sources
– Moderate tweet frequency

4. INFO/PERSP, @23andME – 23andME
– Offers perspective articles with less focus on news
– Includes social perspective on implications of human genomics advancement
– Limited self promotional content and maintains relevance of such posts
– Exhibits noticeable personality and tone.
– Moderate tweet frequency

5. PERSP, @dgmacarthur – Daniel MacArthur
– Postdoc in genetics whose interests extend well into societal and commercial realm.
– A member of the genomes unzipped project aiming to disseminate information on and analysis of the field of genetic testing.
– Participates actively in conversations, retweeting, and original links
– Maintained an active blog.
– Informal tone.
– High tweet frequency

6. PERSP, @genomicslawyer – Dan Vorhaus
– Editor of Genomics Law Report
– Offers unique perspective of legal advisor specializing in genomics and personalized medicine.
– Much of linked content includes personal/professional opinions with nuanced and detailed discussions.
– Clear conventional and twitter specific syntactical organization
– Moderate tweet frequency

7. PERSP, @MishaAngrist – Misha Angrist
– Explores ethical, social, and health implications of personalized medicine
– Recently published a unique text and maintains populated blog
– Generally maintains focus on relevant issues while expressing commentary
– Moderately high tweet frequency

8. INFO, @NatureRevGenet – NatureRevGenetics
– Provides “Ahead of Publication” notifications of pertinent scientific reviews (more tractable than primary article)
– Moderate Frequency, useful for those interested in details of scientific advance

9. PERSP, @DivaBiotech – Ruby Gadelrab
– Affymetrix employee with primarily genomics focus
– Presents appropriate balance of retweet and original content and extraneous information is minimally distracting
– Abundant dialogue and interaction
– High frequency

10. INFO, @Knome – Knome, Inc
– Life sciences company interpreting human genomes
– Very little self-promotion
– Very few retweeting and content is noticeably interesting/unique (less mundane compared to similar providers)
– Low frequency

II. Health IT

1. PERSP/INFO @jhalamka – John Halamka
-CIO of BIDMC
-Tweets are introductions to his very active blog (contains personal elements) and numerous insights into healthcare IT as a field and career.
– No retweets
– Moderate frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @ahier – Brian Ahier
– Maintains a well populated blog on healthcare IT
– Provides a large sum of content with brief commentary/recommendation
– Broad range of health IT topics punctuated with unrelated, but interesting information
– High frequency

3. PERSP/INFO @IyaKhalil – Iya Khalil
– Co-founder of GNS Healthcare
– Comments on a range of topics including data analytics, genomics, and the biotech innovation
– Personalized tone connotes author’s perspective
– High frequency

4. PERSP/INFO @john_chilmark – John Moore
– Maintains a thorough blog with frequent in-depth discussion
– Frequently expresses opinions in tweets with good balance of perspective in information
– High frequency

5. INFO @iHealthBeat.org – iHealthBeat.org
– Content rich and well focused on Health IT field
– Includes links to news, analysis, and editorials
– High frequency

6. INFO @HITNewsTweet – Healthcare IT News
– Content rich, relevant posts primarily to parent site
– High frequency

7. INFO/PERSP @JohnSharp – John Sharp
– Primarily focuses on patient/clinical component of Health IT
– Provides daily summary of news pertaining to electronic medical records
– Perspectives often found within links not twitter posts
– Moderate frequency

8. PERSP @Anthony_Guerra – Anthony Guerra
– Links to parent site (healthcaresystemCIO.com) that features interviews with health care CIO’s with deep commentary and analysis
– Moderate frequency

9. PERSP/INFO @DonFluckinger – Don Fluckinger
– Generally features recommendations for and analysis of health IT components
– Maintains analytical/critical approach despite large number of posts
– Views are sometimes shared in twitter conversations
– High frequency

10. PERSP/INFO @boltyboy – Matthew Holt
– Eclectic mix of health IT topics and the author’s opinions
– User personality is apparent
– High frequency

III. Investing/Finance

1. INFO @businessinsider – Business Insider
– Mix of business and financial news with topics for a general audience
– Links primarily to Business Insider website
– Posts are designed to attract attention with tint of sensationalism
– High frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @zerohedge – Zero Hedge
– Offers a particular mix of opinion and information with links to parent blog
– Zero Hedge blog authors maintains anonymity to protect site integrity
– Exhibits a clear and unique activist/sarcastic tone
– Primarily original posts
– High frequency

3. INFO @StockTwits – Stock Twits
– Provides a less pedestrian description of financial news for a more seasoned investor
– High frequency

4. PERSP @PIMCO – Pimco
– Consists entirely of comments by Pimco’s co-chief investment officers
– Bill Gross posts express opinions and news without links
– El-Erian comments via links to newly published articles
– Moderate frequency

5. PERSP @jimcramer – Jim Cramer
– Former hedge fund manager, Mad Money host, and TheStreet founder
– Offers commentary and dialogue with regular references to Mad Money program
– Style is tailored to educated but not expert audience with casual tone
– High frequency

6. PERSP @herbgreenberg – Herb Greenberg
– CNBC senior stocks commentatory
– Engages in dialogue with users
– High frequency

7. PERSP @DougKass – Douglas Kass
– Journalist and investment manager
– Opinions, dialogue for the more informed investor
– News is dispensed primarily via short descriptions rather than links
– High frequency

8. INFO @MarketWatch – MarketWatch
– Comprehensive news headlines from MarketWatch website
– High frequency

9. PERSP/INFO @BioRunUp – BioRunUP
– Specializes in biotech trading
– High frequency

10. PERSP @BiotechtraderHB – Tony Pelz
– Active dialogue discussing investment strategies and events in the biotech industry
– High frequency

IV. General News

1. INFO @WSJ – Wall Street Journal
– Wall Street Journal headlines
– High frequency

2. INFO @nytimes – The New York Times
– The New York Times headlines
– High frequency

3. INFO @nprnews – NPR News
– NPR News headlines
– High frequency

4. INFO @TheEconomist – The Economist
– The Economist headlines
– High frequency

5. INFO @washingtonpost – The Washington Post
– The Washington Post headlines
– High frequency

6. INFO @TheOnion – The Onion
– The Onion headlines
– High frequency

7. INFO @cnnbrk – CNN Breaking News
– CNN headlines
– High frequency

8. INFO @bloombergnow – BloombergNow
– Bloomberg headlines and editorials
– High frequency

9. INFO @digg – Digg
– Digg headlines
– High frequency

10. INFO @AJEnglish – Al Jazeera English
– Unique perspective on international events
– High frequency

V. Biotech News

1. PERSP/INFO @gautamkollu – Gautam Kollu
– VP Marketing at Exelixis
– Range of topics include development drug, capital markets, and cancer
– Succinct posts with commentary and relevant retweets
– Engages in dialogue regularly
– High frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @pharmalot – pharmalot
– Most original tweets link to a very active blog written by Ed Silverman
– Each morning provides collection of headlines from various sources
– Blog content highlights interesting events with author’s commentary
– Tweets offer provocative/intriguing introductions
– Moderate tweet frequency

3. PERSP/INFO @rleuty_biotech – Ron Leuty
– San Francisco Business Times Biotech reporter
– Links to blog compiling San Francisco Bay Area biotech stories running in the San Francisco Business Times and Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal
– Retweets from a diverse group of users
– High frequency

4. INFO @FierceBiotech – FierceBiotech
– Links to broad range of biotech science and industry news
– Concise tweets
– High frequency

5. PERSP/INFO @eyeonfda – eyeonfda
– Author, consultant/attorney Mark Senak, specializes in regulatory issues
– Perspective on impact and implications of regulatory events
– Includes many links to general biotech/pharma news
– Moderate tweet frequency

6. INFO @Genbio – GEN
– Links to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News website
– Features biobusiness, drug discovery, omics, bioprocessing, and translational medicine
– Frequent use of twitter hash tag syntax
– High frequency

7. INFO @FiercePharma – FiercePharma
– Broad range of pharmaceutical industry news with occasional retweets
– High frequency

8. INFO @BioMedReports – BioMedReports
– Healthcare stock and investing headlines and related news
– Retweeting is rare
– High frequency

9. INFO @BioPharmaToday – Josh Berlin
– Elsevier Business Intelligence – publishers of The Pink Sheet, IN VIVO and PharmAsia News
– Focused on business development strategy, drug development, and regulation
– High Frequency

10. PERSP/INFO @reutersBenHir – Ben Hirschler
– Pharma, health and science correspondent for Reuters in London
– European news and perspective related to pharmaceutical industry
– Includes general worldwide financial/economic commentary
– High frequency

VI. Science

1. PERSP/INFO @NatureNews – Nature News & Comment
– News and opinion (not research articles) from Nature Magazine
– Engages in dialogue
– High frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @wiredscience – Wired Science
– Wired Science blog from Wired magazine
– Themed for general public and science enthusiasts
– Moderate frequency

3. INFO @sciam – Scientific American
– Scientific American article and blog posts
– Content from additional sources provided via retweets
– High frequency

4. PERSP/INFO @newscientist – New Scientist
– New Scientist Magazine covering space, tech, environment, health, life, physics/math, and science in society
– Includes original articles, blogs, and opinions
– Content from additional sources provided via retweets
– High frequency

5. PERSP/INFO @nytimesscience – New York Times Science
– Science, environment and space news from the New York Times
– Features articles, blogs, letters and opinions
– Few retweets
– High frequency

6. PERSP/INFO @carlzimmer – Carl Zimmer
– Prolific science writer, maintains blog “Loom” at Discover Magazine
– Covers broad range of science topics and news
– Frequent retweets and dialogue with users
– High frequency

7. PERSP/INFO @guardiansciblog – Guardian Science Blogs
– Science blogs from The Guardian covering general science, physics, and nature, and science in the general news
– Moderate frequency

8. INFO @DiscoverMag – Discover Magazine
– Discover Magazine content with additional sources
– Includes content about science and scientists
– High frequency

9. PERSP/INFO @NatureBiotech – Nature Biotechnology
– Journal covering the science and business of biotechnology
– Diverse content: research articles, science news, business news, and blogs
– Contains relevant retweets
– Moderate frequency

10. PERSP/INFO @mattwridley – Matt Wridley
– Author of books on evolution, genetics, and society
– Maintains and links to a blog: “The Rational Optimist”
– Provides content at the interface of science and its social implications
– Moderate tweet frequency

VII. Healthcare/Medicine

1. INFO @nytimeshealth – NYTimes Health
– Health news from the New York Times
– High frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @HarvardHealth – Harvard Health
– Links to Harvard Health Publications, news and information about treatments and disorders
– Includes “Ask Doctor K” section
– Moderate frequency

3. INFO @AmerMedicalAssn – AMA
– American Medical Association provides news and information relating to the health professions
– High frequency

4. PERSP/INFO @WSJHealthBlog – WSJ Health Blog
– Links to blog entries providing both information and commentary on health and health business topics
– Moderate frequency

5. PERSP/INFO @MayoClinic – Mayo Clinic
– Articles from the Mayo Clinic concerning health issues and treatments and advice
– Moderate frequency

6. PERSP/INFO @Health_Affairs – Health_Affairs
– News and opinions regarding health, healthcare, and public health/policy
– Moderate frequency

7. INFO @NPRHealth – NPR Health News
– NPR Health news articles ranging from research advances to social issues
– Moderate frequency

8. INFO @NEJM – New England Journal of Medicine
– Variety of content from the New England Journal of Medicine
– Moderate frequency

9. INFO @Lancet – Lancet
– Content from the Lancet Journal
– Moderate frequency

10. PERSP @PaulFLevy – Paul Levy
– Former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA
– Authors prolific healthcare blog which is frequently the subject of tweets
– Moderate tweet frequency

VIII. VC/Entrepreneurs

1. PERSP/INFO @venturehacks – Venture Hacks
– Advice for startups
– News, employment, funding opportunities
– Much content provided via retweets
– Moderate frequency

2. PERSP @RealEndptsEllen – Ellen Licking
– Editor and writer for Value and Innovation Blog
– Each original post features author’s opinion or commentary
– Frequent retweets with new author comments
– Moderate frequency

3. PERSP/INFO @DavidASteinberg – David Steinberg
– Partner at PureTech Ventures, co-founder of 6 startups
– Early stage investment in novel therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, and research technologies.
– Topics include general science, regulation, and biotech innovation/investing
– Primarily dialogue and commentary reflecting author’s view with occasional links
– High frequency

4. PERSP/INFO @bijans – Bijan Salehizadeh
– Managing Director at NaviMed Capital
– Late stage investors in medical technology, healthcare services and health IT
– Dialogue, retweets, and abundant commentary
– Moderate frequency

5. PERSP/INFO @GoogleVentures – Google Ventures
– Google’s venture capital arm
– IT/technology specific content in addition to general discussion on entrepreneurship and career resources
– Moderate frequency

6. PERSP/INFO @ScottKirsner – Scott Kirsner
– Boston Globe columnist
– Focused on start-ups, venture capital and innovation in New England
– Dialogue, retweets, and abundant commentary
– High frequency

7. INFO @BioStartUp – Ed Y Lu PhD
– Industrial researcher
– Links to news articles relating to medical innovation in research and business
– Concise tweets
– Moderate frequency

8. INFO @Sequoia_Capital – Sequoia Capital
– Venture firm in energy, finance, healthcare, energy, mobile, internet and technology sectors
– Provides promotional content and resources for entrepreneurs
– Moderate frequency

9. PERSP @msuster – Mark Suster
– Entrepreneur turned VC – blog Both Sides of the Table
– Primarily dialogue with recommended links to blog or via retweets
– Moderate frequency

10. INFO @peHUB – peHUB
– Venture capital and private equity headlines with links
– Concise tweets
– High frequency

IX. Service Providers

1. INFO @BostonBioTech – BBCR
– Boston Biotech Clinical Research – Clinical strategy and trial design specialists
– Links to content focusing on rare disease, orphan indication and clinical trials
– Moderate frequency

2. PERSP/INFO @PearlF – Pearl Freier
– Founder of Cambridge BioPartners, Inc
– Innovative networking, recruiting and strategic business development
– Primarily dialogue
– Moderate frequency

3. PERSP/INFO @Comprendia – Comprendia
– Biotechnology and life science marketing, social media and business development
– Engages in dialogue and occasionally posts links
– Moderate frequency

4. PERSP/INFO @ideapharma – IDEA Pharma
– Pharmaceutical design consulting company
– Commentary and links concerning innovation in biotech industry
– Technical and strategic approaches
– Moderate frequency

5. PERSP/INFO @biotechPatent – Brian R. Dorn, PhD
– Patent attorney working on biotech, biosimilars, nanobiotech, and phamaceuticals
– Moderate frequency

6. PERSP/INFO @ipwatchdog – Gene Quinn
– Patent attorney
– Provides news and commentary while engaging in significant dialogue
– Moderate frequency

7. PERSP/INFO @McKQuarterly – McKinsey Quarterly
– Business journal of McKinsey & Company
– Articles on aspects of managerial strategy
– Moderate frequency

8. PERSP/INFO @StevenRothberg – Steven Rothberg
– President of CollegeRecruiter.com
– Advice and commentary and employment searches and recruiting
– Moderate frequency

9. INFO @WJNPharma_Jobs – Wiley Pharma Jobs
– Pharmaceutical and biotech recruitment service
– High frequency

10. INFO/PERSP @achrismanEBD – Anna Chrisman
– EBD Group Senior Manager, Conferences and Program – facilitating strategic partnerships in the biotechnology/pharmaceutical industries
– Provides information on conferences, events, and partnerships
– Tweets are focused, concise, and clearly express opinions
– Relatively lower frequency of link tweeting; the tweet itself is often the extent of the commentary
– Low frequency

X. Benchmark Biotech Twitter Users

These are individuals in the biotech industry actively engaged in social and professional Twitter activity. While focused on the industry, they are engaged across a broad spectrum of topics and discussions.

1. Steven Dickman @cbtadvisors – Founder/CEO of CBT Advisors
2. Bruce Booth @LifeSciVC – Biotech VC
3. Cynthia Clayton @Alnylam – RNAi Biopharmaceutical Company
4. Adam Feuerstein @adamfeuerstein – Sr. Columnist TheStreet
5. John Fierce @JohnCFierce – editor FierceBiotech
6. Michael Gilman @Michael_Gilman – Founder/CEO Stromedix
7. Carlos Velez @LacertaBio – Pharma/Bio Business
Development, Licensing, & Consulting.
8. Daphne Zohar @daphnezohar – Founder & Managing Partner,
PureTech Ventures
9. John LaMattina @John_LaMattina – Sr. Partner PureTech
Ventures
10. Carol Gallagher @carol_gallagher – Past CEO of Calistoga Pharma
11. Richard Pops @popsalks – CEO Alkermes
12. Richard Heale @ThinkingPharma – CEO ThinkingPharma
13. Tim Walbert @HorizonPharmaCEO – CEO Horizon Pharma
14. David Williams @HealthBizBlog – Co-founder MedPharma
15. Bill George @Bill_George – former CEO Medtronic
16. Chris Hogg @cwhogg – CEO 100plus
17. James Tayloer @JTBiotech – CEO Precision Nanosystems
18. Tim Ravenscroft CEO @Lentigen – CEO Lentigen
19. John Halamka @jhalamka – CIO of BIDMC
20. Omar Ishrak @MedtronicCEO – CEO Medtronic

Appendix: Approach

These “Top 10” Twitter lists represent groups of Twitter users who in sum create a thorough and diverse ensemble of twitter users in a specific subject area. The lists were compiled for an audience of life science professionals and are partially based on the preferences of our “Benchmark Biotech Twitter Users” as well as the authors’ own preferences. Each tweeter’s name and handle is accompanied by a brief description as well as a classification as “PERSP” – providing primarily perspective, commentary, and opinions on topics; “INFO” – providing timely factual information and news stories; or both.

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Biogen Idec Lets Stromedix Do the Hard Part

Stromedix’ Exit to Drug’s Source Shows Why We Need VC More Than Ever

by Steve Dickman, CEO, CBT Advisors

February 14, 2012

For anyone wondering about the value that can be added by entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to the drug discovery and development process, look no further than Stromedix. This venture-backed company in Cambridge, MA, was acquired today by Biogen Idec for $75 million up-front and up to $487.5 million based on the achievement of certain development and approval milestones. The driver for the acquisition is a monoclonal antibody known as STX-100, about to enter Phase 2 in the tough indication of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a nearly always fatal disease characterized by lung scarring. STX-100 is one of several early entrants in the race to apply modern biologic therapies to fibrosis and its challenging biology.

Now let’s consider the value-add. First the return. As of early 2011, Stromedix had raised $29.4 million plus at least an additional $5M in debt financing in September, 2011, most of which has likely not been drawn down. (Stromedix investor Bruce Booth of Atlas Venture states in his blog post that the total cash in, including the debt facility, was $38 million). That makes the up-front price worth about 2X to the Stromedix investment syndicate, which includes NLV Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Red Abbey Venture Partners and Frazier Healthcare Ventures as well as Atlas Venture. Considering that most of this capital did not flow in until the 2008 Series B round, that’s not a bad internal rate of return (IRR) for the investors. If STX-100 hits any milestones at all, that return will rise, of course, possibly to an impressive 5X or even, in the unlikely event that all milestones are achieved, 19X. For the venture investors, the combination of certainty of the initial exit and possible upside later – with no more board meetings to attend! – makes this deal a sweet one.

Stromedix logoBut the deal becomes even more impressive – and instructive – when one considers that the asset STX-100, which comprises essentially the full value of Stromedix, was in-licensed from Biogen Idec back in 2007 for a price that I’ve heard was less than $5 million and perhaps even less than $2 million up front. This would fit with the company’s financing history. Before the 2008 $25 million Series B round, less than $5 million had been raised, some of which went to pay salaries, rent and development costs. So not much of this could have paid for the asset. One assumes that Biogen Idec had some milestones and royalties coming to it from the initial licensing deal and that these were negotiated away as part of the sale transaction. But the fact remains: Biogen Idec gave up the asset for a very low price and is buying it back for a much higher one. Why?

Read the rest of my post on Xconomy here or click/copy-paste the link:

http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2012/02/14/biogen-idec-lets-stromedix-do-the-hard-part/?single_page=true

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