Who Should Biotech Pros Follow on Twitter? An Update for 2013

8/19/13Follow @xconomy

[Updated: 12:07 pm PT] Twitter is where the biotech industry comes to trade news, analysis, and gossip every day. This has been true for a couple years. The 140-character blogging platform just keeps gaining strength every day as more people join, more people figure out how they can contribute in a meaningful way, and more people learn what sources to tune in and tune out.

Last year, I attempted to compile my first list of people with interesting things to say about biotech on Twitter. Any essential biotech news feed, in my view, has to cast a pretty wide net to include people who know what they are talking about in a variety of fields. You need to follow certain scientists, physicians, company executives, journalists, venture capitalists, stock traders, and patient advocates who all have different perspectives.

Now that I’ve been using Twitter for more than four years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time filtering through different sources, or, you could say, weeding the garden. I still recommend the folks on that first list, but I’ve encountered quite a few others that weren’t worth following. If I don’t think you’re adding much to my stream of news and commentary on Twitter, I unfollow you. If you’ve been on Twitter for a year, and have only sent 10 Tweets, and they all say something like, ‘Wow, my company is so awesome, we totally care for patients, and visited sick children at the hospital today,’ then I’ll unfollow you. If all you do is pass along press releases, I’ll unfollow you. If you’re an investor and all you do is brag about your wins (while, naturally, ignoring your losses), I’ll unfollow you.

I’m sure quite a few other users on Twitter are doing this same thing—trying to find the signal and cut down on the noise. I’m always looking for people who have meaningful things to say and share. I’m not saying I agree with everything these people say, or that I endorse them, just that they add something of value to the industry conversation.

While I wish more people in the industry would join Twitter and let it rip, I understand it’s not for everybody. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, aren’t permitted by your company to say anything, or you’re just afraid you’ll say something bad for your business, there’s a simple answer: Don’t say anything. You can still join and follow what others are saying.

So, in that spirit, here are a bunch of new people that I’ve discovered in the past year, or people that I somehow forgot to include in last year’s list. If you have other suggestions, please shoot me a note on Twitter @ldtimmerman or by email at ltimmerman@xconomy.com.

Company Insiders/Executives

@ksbosley Katrine Bosley is the former CEO of Bedford, MA-based Avila Therapeutics. This last week, she added her perspective as a venture-backed entrepreneur to a conversation about an interesting new crowdfunding initiative. She also sometimes sends out bio-humor: “This is very funny… @TheOnion Scientists Finally Pronounce Human Genome | ‘It’s Gatcaatgaggtggacaccagaggc…’

@biotech69 Ron Renaud is the CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Idenix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDIX), and as the boss of a publicly traded company, he needs to be more careful about what he says than the average Joe. But he did show some intellectual curiosity with this recent message about how long it would take to fall down a tunnel through the Earth. “We have all wondered this at some point as a kid!”

@mkoeris Michael Koeris is the founder of Sample6, a diagnostics company in Boston. He recently tweeted: ”Bluebirdbio reports loss 6X worse than expected. welcome to the world of prexlinical public companies!”

@steen1969 Andy Steen is trying to build up a biotech cluster in Louisville, KY. He has plenty to say about regional economic development and startups.

@lindaavey Linda Avey, the co-founder of 23andMe and Curious Inc., has a lot to say about digital health, startups, and sometimes gender issues in business. She recently called out a well-known Silicon Valley investor for investing in a company called Bustle that seeks to serve female readers. “New media outlet, Bustle, apparently aimed at women. Ugh in so many ways.” She followed up directly with investor @davemcclure to say “you guys supported this? Say it isn’t so.” And he wrote back to defend the Bustle founder, saying “pls give him & the biz a chance b4 u make a decision.”

@divabiotech Ruby Gadelrab is a veteran of the genomics business, now at InVitae, an interesting startup led by Genomic Health co-founder Randy Scott.

@peterdilaura Peter is the CEO of Second Genome, a company focused on developing drugs based on the emerging science around the microbiome.

@JasonPaulRhodes When I was editing a story about his company the night of its IPO, I put a question directly to the president of Cambridge, MA-based Epizyme on Twitter. He answered, if memory serves, within about 10 minutes. Cool.

@kevintoshio Kevin Chow handles business development for Bothell, WA-based Alder Biopharmaceuticals. He can’t say anything newsy about Alder, but he will occasionally share a little competitive intel, such as a tip to a journalist about Novartis and Roche potentially scrapping their PCSK9 drug development programs.

@biotechbythebay Geoff Benton, a scientist at 23andMe, rounds up news about biotech in the San Francisco Bay Area.

@rofrechette Roger Frechette, an entrepreneur in Boston, shared this item recently: “So, can you patent genes or can’t you?” along with a link to a well-written blog post by a biotech patent attorney. More on him later.

@michaelpellini The CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Foundation Medicine still seems to be getting the hang of blogging, because he’s more quotable in person than he is on Twitter. But he recently moaned about an editorial on ADHD in the Wall Street Journal that he didn’t care for. Pellini will surely go quiet for a while now that his company is angling to go public, but as a savvy operator, I expect him to find a way to keep his voice alive even if his lawyers try to muzzle him.

Venture Capitalists:

@bmgallagherjr Brian Gallagher is a partner at SR One in Boston. He has some intelligent things to say, although he has a mysterious allegiance to the Michigan Wolverines. (What can I say, I’m a Wisconsin Badger.)

@davidasteinberg David Steinberg is a partner at Puretech Ventures in Boston, easily the most Twitter-savvy biotech venture group from top to bottom. He recently challenged a post from Business Insider founder @hblodget.

@bernatolle Bernat Olle is part of the Puretech Ventures crew, and pays attention to the latest developments in the micobiome.

@venturevalkyrie Lisa Suennen of Psilos Group is one of the best VC bloggers out there, with a keen eye for what’s new in health IT. She’s also not afraid to call out gender bias she sees in the business world. For example, she chimed in to support @lindaavey with her view of the financing of Bustle, the women’s website. “ugh is right. Guys in charge, guys funding, guys clueless. #neverendingstory”

Physicians

@SeattleMamaDoc Wendy Sue Swanson is a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital who comes from a new generation of doctors that believes in using the tools of online media to better communicate with patients. She has interesting thoughts on this in a TEDx talk.

@drClaire Claire McCarthy is a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and not surprisingly, she has some things in common with @SeattleMamaDoc. Here was a recent message she sent: “It really is amazing. RT @SeattleMamaDoc: “Jenny McCarthy continues tireless crusade to kill us”

@DrGreene Alan Greene is a pediatrician in Palo Alto, CA. What’s with pediatricians that makes them social media savvy?

@Doctor_V Bryan Vartabedian, is, you guessed it, another pediatrician. But he has wide-ranging things to say about medicine, such as, “Doctors r universally obsessed w/ what they can’t control online. This happens at the expense of what they can control: making gr8 content.”

@GlassHospital John Schumann, an internist at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa, OK, calls himself a “medical hipster.” In a field full of egotists, a little self-deprecating humor goes a long way. I just started following him, but anybody who has a blog with a tagline that says “demystifying medicine one week at a time” is at least worth giving a chance.

@Kennylinafp Kenny Lin is a family doctor and the director of the Primary Care Health Policy Fellowship at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C. He follows healthcare costs, and what’s happening in healthcare reform.

@drval Val Jones is the CEO of Better Health, a network of healthcare bloggers. She’s followed by Sally Church (@MaverickNY) so I figure it’s worth listening for a while to what Dr. Val says.

@daviesbj Benjamin Davies is a urologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has strong opinions and a great sense of humor.

Scientists

@eperlste Ethan Perlstein is an independent scientist, and probably the first scientist I’d want to ask about anything to do with crowdfunding. He and I just had an interesting discussion last week on Twitter about a story I wrote about a new initiative called “Project Violet” at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

@leonidkruglyak Leonid Kruglyak is a geneticist at UCLA, and notes that in his bio that he was “analyzing large datasets since long before Big Data became cool.”

@ctitusbrown Titus Brown is a genomics professor at Michigan State University. He gleefully mocks academic pretensions, noting in his Twitter bio that he’s “so interdisciplinary I occasionally risk being relevant.”

@dereklowe Derek Lowe is a chemist who writes the must-read biotech and pharma industry blog “In the Pipeline.”

@phylogenomics Jonathan Eisen of UC Davis is a prolific writer on microbes, genomics and open science.

@drbachinsky David Bachinsky writes about biochemistry, genomics and other biotech issues from his post in Boston.

@kyleserikawa Kyle Serikawa is a Seattle-based scientist who knows a lot about baseball, and how to write about both. [Updated:6:15 am PT 8/19/13]

Journalists:

@benthefidler Ben Fidler is the new East Coast biotech writer for Xconomy.

@ScripMandy Mandy Jackson covers West Coast biotech for Scrip Intelligence

@BioPharmaJosh Josh Berlin is the head of emerging markets at Elsevier Business Intelligence and the publisher of PharmAsia News.

@vikasdandekar Vikas Dandekar, a reporter for PharmAsia News based in Mumbai, India, got a scoop this past week. It was on Roche’s decision to let biosimilar companies make copies of the hit breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) in India, even though the drug is protected by a patent until 2019. The decision may be just symbolic (there is no biosimilar version of the drug approved in India), but it says something about the evolving state of the law and politics around pharmaceutical patents in the world’s second most-populated country.

@erika_check Erika Check Hayden covers biomedical news for Nature. She had an interesting Twitter exchange about journalism ethics with a scientist who is clearly confused about what journalism is all about. I learned something valuable—I won’t waste my time interviewing that scientist.

@theraltweet Theral Timpson runs the @mendelspod podcast.

@mmarchioneAP Marilynn Marchione is a medical writer for the Associated Press, and covers the big clinical trials that change the practice of medicine, and will impact patient care in the here and now.

@carlaKjohnson Carla Johnson writes about medical research and health policy for the AP out of Chicago.

@cardiobrief Larry Husten is a veteran medical writer focused on cardiology. He writes for Forbes.com and cardiobrief.org.

@lizszabo Liz Szabo writes about medical news for a big, general interest audience at USA Today.

@dslevine Danny Levine is the editor of The Burrill Report, based in San Francisco. He gets the business and financial side of the industry like few others.

@duncande David Ewing Duncan is an author and magazine journalist with a strong interest in genomics and personalized medicine.

@bmahersciwriter Brendan Maher is a writer and editor at Nature. It’s not exactly news that Nature is an influential publication, but Maher got a big hat tip recently from Amy Harmon, the New York Times’s excellent writer on genetics and society. Harmon said that she used a Nature feature on GMOs to educate her editors and convince them that one of her story ideas wasn’t crazy.

Stock Market Investors:

@AndyBiotech This anonymous financial industry pro has taken Twitter by storm, firing off all kinds of newsy and sharp analytical tweets in just a few months on the platform. “He’s become somewhat of a must-follow news aggregator,” says Brad Loncar, @bradloncar, an individual investor in biotech. Andy still has a ways to go as a news source, however, in my opinion. His profile says he’s got a PhD in physiology, and I have no reason to doubt it, but I also can’t verify it, because he won’t reveal his name or company affiliation (I asked). Come on, Andy, if you want people to see you as a credible source, you have to identify yourself and let everybody consider the source.

@ColfaxCapital ColfaxCapital is an investor in public biotech companies and a prolific Tweeter. I got into a minor argument on Twitter with him a while back when I criticized Array Biopharma for trying to bury its layoff news, and he defended the company.

@MartinShkreli There are a lot of people on Wall Street who insist on anonymity, but love to play the role of ventriloquist, being the ones to make other people’s lips move. Not Martin Shkreli, at least on Twitter. Shkreli, who’s also the CEO of a biotech company called Retrophin, puts his name out there and lets his opinions fly, for better or worse. “$JNJ finally at $90+. Buffett should have been more patient despite crap management team,” Shkreli recently wrote.

Other commentators:

@ScottGottliebMD Scott Gottlieb is a physician, author, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former deputy commissioner of the FDA under George W. Bush. He’s a conservative, and he hammers away at the Affordable Care Act every chance he gets. Agree or disagree, Gottlieb’s point of view is well worth reading.

@biologypartners David Maizenberg follows intellectual property issues as a consultant, marketer, and writer.

@cbtadvisors Steve Dickman is a Boston-based biotech consultant. He recently tweeted out a link to a guest post he wrote for Xconomy about how venture capitalists are turning to royalty financing as a new strategy to lift their returns.

@bengoldacre Ben Goldacre is an influential critic of the pharma industry, with more followers (289,000) than probably every pharma company on Twitter combined. Goldacre, based in London, recently mocked Pfizer in the following message. “Dear NHS please give all your money lol love pfizer RT @David_E14: Pfizer’s ad at Westminster tube pic.twitter.com/97z8u0V0zf I’m sure he irritates plenty of folks in pharma, but his voice is one that can’t be ignored.

@LifeSciIP Konstantin Linnik is an IP attorney in Boston at Nutter, McClennen and Fish. He recently blogged about the ramifications of the high-profile Myriad case on gene patenting that went before the Supreme Court.

@AlecGaffney Alexander Gaffney writes about the regulatory bodies that affect biotech in Washington D.C. He also recently compiled a list of 300 accounts worth following for folks who look through a regulatory lens.

@oli_rayner Oli Rayner is a patient with cystic fibrosis in the U.K., with a background in investment banking. He’s a smart consumer and commentator.

@Paul_Sonnier Paul Sonnier is a tireless promoter for all things that fall under the banner of digital health. He sees a future full of wireless health apps and sensors keeping us all healthy. I think he goes to bed dreaming about sleep sensors, and wakes up dreaming about gizmos to monitor your caffeine intake.

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  • http://www.mendelspod.com/ Theral

    I could recommend a host of others. But I’ll keep it to one since you haven’t listed a category for this: @davidbrin. Beyond the business, policy, science, media, etc., are the sci-fi writers. They do the heavy lifting.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/ Luke Timmerman

    Thanks, Theral. I need to carve out a little more time for sci-fi reading.

  • Amarshall

    You might also follow certain stuffy outdated journals @naturebiotech