The San Francisco Bay Area has a storied tradition as the birthplace and leading hub of biotechnology, but something curious has happened the past couple years. Most of the scientifically groundbreaking, medical-textbook rewriting, financially lucrative new biotech drugs of the 21st century are coming from somewhere else.
This dawned on me last week as I started thinking about the 20-year outlook for the Bay Area life sciences cluster, in advance of the Bay Area Life Sciences 2031 event I’m organizing in San Francisco on Wednesday evening. It forced me to think about the really innovative drugs that still have a chance to generate billions of dollars in revenue two decades from today, that will help people live longer and better lives, and that are blazing new scientific trails. I’m talking about drugs that are a scientific, clinical, and business trifecta—drugs like Gleevec, Avastin, Herceptin, and Enbrel.
Plenty of molecules in the hopper today have that kind of potential, but for the purposes of this subjective parlor game I wanted to focus on the ones that have generated proof through pivotal clinical trials, and have either recently won FDA approval or are clearly on the verge of approval. That makes for a pretty short list:
• Human Genome Sciences’ treatment for lupus
• Dendreon’s immunotherapy for prostate cancer
• Seattle Genetics’ “empowered antibody” for rare lymphomas
• Amgen’s antibody for osteoporosis and cancer
• Plexxikon and Roche’s genetically tailored treatment for melanoma
• Genentech’s souped-up version of Herceptin for breast cancer
A couple of things jump out at me right away. Of these eight new molecules, two are coming from Boston, two are from Seattle, one is from Washington, D.C., one is from greater Los Angeles, and only the last two are from the San Francisco Bay Area. These products are important not just for shareholders, patients, and scientists, but also for their respective regions, because they stir up … Next Page »
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