California Biotech To Add Jobs, Merck’s Bet on Biotech Drugs in Palo Alto, & More Bay Area Life Sciences News

2/4/11Follow @xconomy

We had a number of national stories with local angles in Bay Area biotech this week.

—California biotech CEOs have a lot to complain about with high taxes and a lousy state budget predicament making it hard to do business. But despite the headwinds, the California Healthcare Institute, BayBio, and PwC said this week that C-level biotech executives they surveyed are planning to add jobs in the year ahead.

—Pharmaceutical giant Merck (NYSE: MRK) made news yesterday with a brutal $1.7 billion write-off associated with a blood clot drug, and for taking a stand in defense of its R&D budget. Last Friday, I heard straight from Merck’s chief strategy officer and top biotech drug officer why they believe the company has got to bet big on biologic drugs in the future. A big part of their plan is based on discovering new biotech drugs at a facility in Palo Alto, CA formerly owned by Schering-Plough.

NanoString Technologies usually makes news on the Seattle site, but this time it did something noteworthy in the Bay Area by prying away a senior official from Redwood City, CA-based Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX) to become the startup’s new chief medical officer. This story says something about where molecular diagnostics are going, as this former Genomic Health officer is keen on factoring in health economic analysis into clinical trials at the very beginning of development, in hopes of avoiding tedious arm-wrestling matches with insurers years from now.

—We’re in the throes of quarterly earnings season, but what will the Bay Area biotech cluster look like 20 years from today? That’s the theme we have in mind for the next big Xconomy event, which we’re producing in collaboration with the folks at QB3 and BayBio. Tickets are going fast for this event on March 16, which will feature UCSF’s Jeff Bluestone, Genomic Health’s Randy Scott, Plexxikon’s Peter Hirth, and venBio’s Corey Goodman.

—Why does Uncle Sam appear to be favoring new drug development over medical devices? That was the question posed by our new med tech editor, Thomas Lee, in this national story with implications for a lot of medical device companies in the Bay Area. Tom is based in Detroit and leading our local coverage there, but he has a lot of experience covering medical devices at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and MedCity News, and you can expect to see him writing in this space from time to time about med device happenings in the Bay Area.

—Genomic law expert Dan Vorhaus penned a guest editorial warning about the potential for piecemeal state-by-state regulation of personalized medicine, which he sees as potentially derailing more helpful efforts on the federal level.

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