Bio Bigwigs from Boston and Beyond Gather in Cambridge to Discuss Future of Drug Development, Venture Capital, and Deals with Pharma

4/8/09

There’s little arguing (at least from me) that the hottest ticket in town yesterday was the Boston Red Sox’ opening day game at Fenway Park—but for ardent biotech fans in the Hub there was arguably no better place to be than across the Charles River in Cambridge for the Boston Biotech Business Development Conference. The conclave featured senior-level professionals—representing a cross section of industry stakeholders from Big Pharma, large biotechs, and venture firms—who discussed and debated the opportunities and obstacles facing the embattled life sciences sector.

The event at the Charles River Hotel was no PowerPoint snoozer. There were some lively talks given by the top dealmakers from Cambridge-based biotech heavyweights Genzyme (NASDAQ:GENZ) and Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) as well as drug giants GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Merck (NYSE:MRK), among others. Several discussions focused on the importance of innovation in healthcare to surviving the economic slump and on challenges such as healthcare reform and generics competition. There was also some debate about whether innovation means breakthroughs in science, drugs that deliver substantial benefits for patients, products that garner premiums from healthcare payers, or some combination of the three.

Yet collective wisdom appeared to be that innovation—in various manifestations—is critical to survival of the life sciences industry. Many biotech firms are operating with less than enough cash to last a year, which means they must be innovative in how they use it, and companies raising money during the economic slump must clear a high bar with investors to show they have products that are truly novel and valuable. On the flip side, venture firms must prove that they can profit from innovation to garner limited capital from their limited partner investors. And with biotech investment dollars scarce, drug companies are wielding even more clout than before the economic meltdown—putting them in a position to gain rights to or ownership of innovative assets on the cheap.

Here are some of the highlights and colorful moments from the gathering:

—The line of the day (in my book) went to Ad Rawcliffe, senior vice president of worldwide business development for GSK: “Big Pharma is often the 800-pound gorilla … Next Page »

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  • john

    In light of the fact that Biogenidec codevelops its drugs with other companies and consequently co owns marketing rights isn’t it a bit difficult to dell this company. Take Tysabari for example, co-owned with Elan. Also there areother tie ups with Genentech soon to be Roche/// Also, why is this company woth any more that its current market cap when more efffective or palatable MS treatments are on the horizon, Tysababri’s patent expiration is an issue, it may cause PPL and get taken off the market again, and it has still not hit goals set by the comapnmny in terms of usage. Add ont this Obama’s push toward “generic biologicals”. So, why is BIIB even woth currentmarket cap???? Or is this Carl Icahn just trying to get his investment back by talking the stock up???