Biotech in New York: Scientists and Entrepreneurs Gather to Banter About the City’s Challenges and Opportunities
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companies to the area. Barbara Wood, who worked at OSI Pharmaceuticals in Long Island before it was acquired by Astellas Pharma, said during Tinker’s panel that when her company was looking to consolidate all its offices in one location, its executives were heavily courted by Pennsylvania—but not New York. “The governor of Pennsylvania met with us,” she said. “The mayor of Philly met with us. Not once did that happen in New York.”
Another panel at the conference featured the tale of Vivaldi Biosciences—a flu vaccine developer that was spun out of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Patrick McGrath, executive director of Mount Sinai’s office of technology and business development, said he had to beg the Vivaldi’s CEO, Douglas Given, to keep the company in the city. “Doug politely told me that he wasn’t going to do that,” McGrath recalled. “His office was on the West coast. He thought the appetite by investors would be better there.” Given, who also spoke, didn’t dispute McGrath’s account. Ultimately, though, he agreed to keep Vivaldi in New York—and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to recruit good scientists to the new company. “An ad in Science magazine brought us all our scientists. We didn’t need recruiters,” he said.
Local industry experts understand why life in the big city isn’t always easy for tiny biotechs. Part of the problem has been a lack of coordination between the scientists who make the discoveries and the entrepreneurs who can bring them to market. “NYC has been recognized as a leader in scientific development for quite some time, with intellectual assets that are on par with any other city in the world,” said Derek Brand, director of business development for the New York Academy of Sciences, in an interview as the conference was coming to a close. “One of the challenges in advancing entrepreneurial bioscience in the region has been the level of interconnectivity between academic scientists and entrepreneurs.Thankfully, this is improving. This meeting is a good example.”