Monday, May 7, 2007

Monday Day 2: Legs Are Aching…

What an action packed day. I live, eat and breathe in the world of seed-stage start-ups via my work with the Fitzsimons BioBusiness Incubator. Achieving a first institutional round (i.e. VC, PE or IB) financing is what we are constantly striving for, thus I found myself immersed in the finance tract for the morning, first in Creative Financing Options for Development-Stage Companies then moved into New Funding Alternatives for the Biotech Industry. Two very interesting financing strategies came on my radar, the first Development Company model courtesy of Mark Kessel at Symphony Capital and then the Special Purpose Acquisition Corp. courtesy of Robert Easton of Easton Strategy.

It was off to lunch next where I stood in perhaps the longest line of my life, people numbered in the thousands, but time passed quickly as I met and spoke with David DeLucia, CEO of Hanover, NH based ImmuRx. The wait was worth it as we had the opportunity to listen to Senator Edward Kennedy and Michael J. Fox speak.

Following lunch I had an incredible networking session at the Biozona (Arizona) pavilion with the exceedingly intelligent Angela Lutich, director of the Snell & Wilmer bioscience group. Thank you Angela for your insight and assistance! Then it was off to check in at the Colorado pavilion, a meet and greet with my fellow BIO2007 bloggers and topped off the day with an incredible networking dinner at Legal Sea Foods in Kendall Square. A great day at BIO2007 indeed and looking forward to an early start tomorrow.

Sights and Sounds:

Stairway to Amgen...

What an oasis the press room has been. Thanx for the credentials Doug!

BIO2007 Exhibits in Full Swing

The BIO2007 Conference Exhibitor Hall has been jam-packed with events. With 1,900 exhibitors, 60 pavilions and 60 countries available to stop by and visit, it's difficult to meet with all those you want and to spend enough time visiting.

For readers of BioVoice, I'm passing on some insider information. The best chocolate can be found at the Switzerland pavilion. The best theme-based, game playing is the mini-curling at Saskatchewan. Best new trinket is at novo nordisk, offering some slick, colorful pedometers. Ireland even had a visit from Bono -- although my pictures are blurry*.

And forget about all the iPod give-aways. The best raffle prize is at the Scientist Magazine, which is offering a chance for a cool red Vespa. They're also handing out the premier issue of Biotech360, a quarterly magazine for leaders in the biotech industry, which asks the question "Can Biotech Save the Developing World?" A question for all of us, indeed.

(*Note: I'm just having some fun. I think it was just someone that looked like Bono. Of the two gentlemen at the Ireland booth, one believed it was Bono, the other thought it was a look-a-like. I can't offer any proof either way but somehow I image he would be followed around by cameras.)

Fox Outlines the Pharmaceutical Pipeline and the Need for New Treatments

In a session entitled "Driving the Development and Availability of Novel Therapies," Michael J. Fox gave a keynote address today about the need for new approaches to speed translation of investments in research and discovery into patient-relevant advances in human health.

He wants the industry to look for strategies and solutions to lower the risk to the high cost investment in novel therapeutics for the biotechnology industry and academia alike. Noting the need for more developments, he pointed out that he has been treated for the last 15 years with a drug that was developed 40 years ago.

Fox believes that in the $100 billion a year drug discovery pipeline, the need is not for more money but for re-purposing the money available. While joking that anti-depressants are available for his dog (and his dog is thankful), he noted that perhaps more groups could work together to define different standards for success. That is, better treatments for devastating diseases.

Fox noted that it's a high-stakes game and that companies need to be successful financially, too. He wants more investment in the early stages of development -- effectively bridging the funding gap left between the early-stage, fundamental research supported by the NIH and the vast amounts of money spent on clinical trials by the private sector -- so that more drugs can be developed with a lower risk to companies. A strategy to "de-risk" the drug pipeline.

Fox contends that more dollars earlier in the game will bring greater break-throughs in therapeutics, even if it doesn't increase profits for the industry. For his part, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research for raising research funding for and awareness about Parkinson's disease. He is certainly a very powerful speaker and a motivating force as a spokesperson for change. It is impossible to hear his words without being moved to get involved.

Well, I Don't Get to Meet the Queen

After registering at the BIO2007 conference, I found out that I won't get to meet with Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan after all. Queen Noor has requested that no members of the media attend her keynote address tomorrow. She is an avid activist regarding issues of world peace and justice and will be giving a speech entitled "Biotechnology and Its Impact on Global Health." I would love to hear it.


It turns out that I don't get to see Michael J. Fox, either. After waiting in a massive crush of humanity to get into the ballroom, I made it to within about two dozen people when the hall was full. Looks like I'll be watching on video in the press room.

Where Are All The Protestors?

A big question asked by many attendees on the way into the conference today was "Where are all the protesters?" Blame it on lackluster youth or the fact that there are so many other bigger problems in the world but either way, the BIO2007 conference is proceeding on a very upbeat mood.

While protesters plan to hold seminars, rallies and parades during the conference through Wednesday, the number of actual protesters is reported as quite a bit "more modest” compared to 2000, when Boston hosted its last biotech convention when as many as 3,000 people marched down Boylston Street during one parade.

It seems that people have become more familiar with biotech as a whole and it is no longer as frightening as it once was from the sci-fi movies. While there was a protest Saturday at a rally opposed to a high-security, BSL-4 research laboratory now under construction at Boston University Medical Center, the majority are more concerned about animal rights -- an issue that concerns many industries -- rather than a protest against biotechnology itself.

The broader base of biotech as it touches most geographic areas in some way seems to have brought a more pragmatic understanding of the industry.