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11
Jun
2015

NEA, Polaris Bet $22M on Startup, Xtuit, to Break Down Tumor Microenvironment

Logic would say cancer drugs can’t work if something is keeping them out of the tumor. The latest startup from the Bob Langer/Polaris Partners factory floor just got $22 million to clear out some of the barriers around tumors, and make it easier for some of the exciting new immuno-oncology drugs to do what they do best. Cambridge, Mass.-based Xtuit Pharmaceuticals,...
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8
Jun
2015

Bristol-Myers Should Drop the Bully Act. Non-Competes Are Bad for Biotech

Big Pharma talent has been migrating to biotech startups the past couple years, and that’s good. Lots of people with skills and rare experience are being matched with exciting new opportunities. This dynamic labor market is healthy for the industry, and increases its ability to create innovative healthcare products. Foolishly, some company had to try to squash all that.
5
Jun
2015

Cancer is Hot, Diabetes is Not: Watch for Drug Safety and Cost Debates at ADA

The Internet was crackling this week with stories of progress against a disease that kills lots of people, and costs society billions in lost productivity. That was cancer. Don’t expect such hopeful scientific narratives this weekend, as physicians gather in Boston to discuss another common scourge—diabetes. Compared with innovation in cancer, diabetes is dullsville. This drug market is more about...
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1
Jun
2015

Big Pharma Talent Is Flocking to Biotech Startups. Nobody’s Saying ‘Are You Nuts?’

Look at some of the high-science, high-risk, venture-backed companies in biotech and you’ll see something that wasn’t so common five years ago. The management teams of these startups are often stacked with people who quit high-paid, high-powered jobs in Big Pharma. Last week, the cancer immunotherapy startup Juno Therapeutics poached a chief scientific officer, Hyam Levitsky, from Roche. Microbiome drugmaker...
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29
May
2015

Cancer Immunotherapy’s Amazing Four-Year Run: A Timeline of Events

The biggest idea in cancer R&D, for a couple years, has been the notion that you can unleash the immune system to attack cancer cells like a foreign invader. Immunotherapy, in various permutations, is on everyone’s mind this weekend at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. The buzz is there because of the evidence. Researchers are raising...
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26
May
2015

Long-Term Relationships May Not Count in Many Businesses, But They Do in Biotech

Cynicism runs through just about every business, if you read the news or follow pop culture. The Netflix show “House of Cards” portrays dirty politics of Washington, D.C. A new “Entourage” movie delves into Hollywood manipulation. Prosecutors in real life last week showed traders cackling about rigging interest rates that harm millions of people, so they can sail away on...
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22
May
2015

The Genentech Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Genentech is almost 40 years old, and still has spring in its step. Through ups and downs, the company has never stopped attracting first-rate talent, and still develops people with the itch to do big things in healthcare. Last week, a trio of Genentech veterans came together to start a neuroscience company called Denali Therapeutics that raised initial financing of...
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21
May
2015

Why a Pfizer R&D Exec Joined Synlogic to Make ‘Therapeutic Synthetic Life’

One of Pfizer’s well-connected R&D leaders, Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, quit recently to run a startup with technology that’s just a little too early, a little too risky, for just about any Big Pharma company. JC, as he is commonly known, said today he has joined Cambridge, Mass.-based Synlogic as president and CEO. It’s a two-year-old company with $35 million in venture...
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15
May
2015

More than Moderna: Who’s Who in mRNA Therapeutics?

Biotech doesn’t usually make for must-see TV. It scares most people. Something must be up if a biotech company can get extended air time on television. Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna Therapeutics captured more than its share of attention this week when it succeeded Elon Musk’s Mars exploration company as the “No. 1 Disruptor” in corporate America by CNBC. Many in biotech...
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14
May
2015

Baseball, Regression to the Mean, and Avoiding Potential Clinical Trial Biases

It’s baseball season. Which means it’s fantasy baseball season. Which means I have to keep reminding myself that, even though it’s already been a month and a half, that’s still a pretty short time in the long rhythm of the season and every performance has to be viewed with skepticism. Ryan Zimmerman sporting a 0.293 On Base Percentage (OBP)? He’s...
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7
May
2015

Gates Foundation VC Portfolio: Where is the Global Health Investment Going?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, decided about five years ago that instead of just giving out grants to researchers and hoping for the best, it sometimes made more sense to invest in startups. That way, the Seattle-based foundation could put some of its $43.5 billion to work with entrepreneurs developing high-impact vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs...
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29
Apr
2015

Q&A With Illumina CEO Jay Flatley on Where Genomics Is Growing

Walk into any biomedical lab these days, and chances are you’ll see Illumina’s orange logo. Many scientists, diagnostics makers, physicians, and Wall Street analysts look upon the dominant maker of DNA sequencing machines with a mix of respect, fear, and awe. Much like Intel became the company that sparked so much of the computer revolution, Illumina has risen to prominence...
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27
Apr
2015

It’s Time to Re-Think How We Train and Develop Biomedical Scientists

A strange feeling hit me the other day at one of the world’s great biomedical research centers. There I was, at the end of a long table at MIT, surrounded by two dozen young researchers. While munching sandwiches over the lunch hour, they fired away with questions about the biotech industry. It was a great back-and-forth. The questions were sharp...
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20
Apr
2015

Hungry for Cash, Academia Reaches For a Bigger Piece of Biotech Action

Cash is gushing through the pharmaceutical industry at the same time its allies in academia are scraping for every nickel. The gap between these haves and have-nots is wide and getting wider. But at least in a couple recent cases, the poor people in academia have figured out clever ways to get a piece of the biotech action, at least...
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16
Apr
2015

AACR Conference Preview: Five Themes To Watch In Immunotherapy

This coming weekend is the annual American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) meeting in Philadelphia. This conference is known as a showcase for research in its early, exploratory stages, and occasionally as the place where late-stage, practice-changing clinical trial data get presented. I wanted to offer a preview of what to expect. Once again, immunotherapy promises to be a major...
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15
Apr
2015

Who Should Biotech Pros Follow on Twitter?

Many people in biotech are still afraid of Twitter, even as it has accumulated more than 280 million users. Drug companies want to advertise to patients and doctors on social media, but they’re afraid the FDA will slap them for misleading promotions. They want to engage with investors, but they’re afraid someone (rightly or wrongly) will question their clinical trial...
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