Boston Biotechs Seek Scarce Funds Amid Market Famine at Annual Pitch Event

12/4/08

Many biotech firms in the Boston area and elsewhere are starved for capital, and initial public offerings appear to be off the table due to the economic recession. These harsh realities are likely to flavor the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council’s (MBC) annual MassBio Investors Forum next week, when 17 biotech outfits (including a new regenerative medicine startup with a new approach to developing stem cell therapies) plan to make the case for betting on their firms.

Due to the constraints on raising cash from venture firms and the other traditional biotech backers who usually attend the forum, the MBC has expanded its guest list of potential investors to include some 10 disease foundations—including the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research—as well as an official from the National Cancer Institute who is launching a new Small Business Innovation Research grant program, MBC president Bob Coughlin told me.

The weakened financial market also presented fresh challenges for the MBC to have the annual event, Coughlin says. “A lot of the companies that used to sponsor these events were financial services institutions, and that money’s dried up,” he says. “By the same token, it’s very easy to get our member companies to participate because capital formation is the number one issue facing [many firms] in our industry.”

For instance, Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDRA), a Cambridge, MA-based developer of drugs that modulate immune-system receptors to treat infectious diseases and other illnesses, is presenting at this year’s MassBio event to attract new equity investors and partners, CEO Sudhir Agrawal says. “I think our [target] audience is always the long-term shareholders, who can see the investment grow in time,” he adds.

Here’s an early glimpse of all the biotech firms … Next Page »

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