Discovery: The Soul of Biotech, the Place For True Believers, and a Retro Way to Bring it Back

9/8/08

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What if all of the above “what-if’s” were possible? Then you would have a company like North Coast Biologics. Nothing fancy – just filling a need both financially and spiritually in such a way that everybody wins.

My goal is to start this paradigm shift that satisfies my need to discover, creates value for everyone involved, creates jobs for our lagging Seattle biotech hub, and brings back a little idealism that we had in the very beginning – from the guys in the leaky warehouse to the enthusiasm of George Rathmann, the Zen of former Icos scientist Patrick Gray, to the determination of Carl Weissman.

In an Xconomy Forum piece a responder quoted Robert Noyce, the founder of Intel, as saying “Look around who the heroes are. They aren’t lawyers, nor are they even so much the financiers. They’re the guys who start companies.” I believe this now because in the last few months, I’ve met many former founders in our biotech community and I’ve met others who can and want to be founders. And these people are heroes in my view. They are my heroes and I’m flattered and grateful to share the founder title with them. Because of our collective passion and willingness to take on new approaches to solving problems, I have a strong sense that tells me I won’t be alone in this new, unconventional approach.

Johnny Stine is founder and president of North Coast Biologics, a Seattle-based company that discovers targeted antibody drugs. Follow @

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  • http://www.lymanbiopharma.com Stewart Lyman

    It seems every biotech these days wants to be the next Immunex, Amgen, or Genentech, but they run from the very thought of following the same path as these successful enterprises! You are exactly right that the current model for big pharma and biotech is unsustainable, and that new solutions are needed. I’m always amazed when I meet someone at a new biotech company, ask them about their research program, and find out that they don’t have one! Instead, they have licensed some protein or target from a University and are moving into the clinic with only the foggiest understanding of the biology involved. Their mission: get clinical data ASAP. It’s no wonder that these companies are flaming out at such a rapid rate! The VC model at present seems to have been modeled at the casinos in Vegas. I consulted once for a biotech that was a one-trick pony. The whole company was riding on a single molecule, but the biological basis for the action of this molecule had been completely misinterpreted. When I pointed this out to them, they decided to move ahead anyway,since they had no substitute at hand and had been funded to put THAT molecule into the clinic. Their subsequent demise was completely predictable. While it would be nice if your technology is as cheap and powerful as you believe, not all biological problems can be solved with monoclonal antibodies, so additional paradigm shifters will be needed as well. Finally, I wish we had only lost 500 jobs in the local biotech arena since 2002. I’ve actually kept track of the numbers, and the real total is over 2200! That’s a lot of critical mass that has left town due to a lack of replacement jobs. We still have a long way to go to get ourselves back to where we were even six years ago.