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TimmermanReport.com - Your Edge In Biotech
Your Edge in Biotech.
13
Apr
2015

The Big Boys Love Kendall Square. Let’s Hope They Don’t Squeeze The Life Out of It

Something magical has been happening in Cambridge’s Kendall Square for years. All kinds of biotech companies, big and small, have thrived on it. Now the big guys have to be careful not to squeeze the life out of it.

The biotech real estate market in Kendall Square is about as hot as it gets. Genzyme is building a new headquarters along what a spokesman calls “the biotech Champs-Elysees.” Biogen, after a brief foray in the suburbs, keeps gobbling up more space. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals ambitiously planted its flag on a nearby property, and, quietly, snagged first dibs to bid for the house that Henri built–Genzyme’s iconic, glassy headquarters. After realizing that many isolated suburban campuses are a dead zone for drug discovery, giants like Pfizer, Novartis and others have decided over the past 10 years that they’ve just gotta weave themselves into that web around Kendall Square, near MIT.

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9
Apr
2015

Which Big Public Investors Are ‘Crossing Over’ Into the Private Arena?

Big-time money managers on Wall Street have all heard of biotech giants like Amgen, Biogen, Celgene, and Gilead Sciences. Those stocks are part of many diversified portfolios. But funds with really deep pockets, as one of my editors used to say, see the rest of biotech as “a bunch of little companies nobody has ever heard of.”

Not anymore. As biotech stocks continue to beat the market, investors have been looking further down the food chain for more opportunities. Some of the bolder and most sophisticated are regularly reaching all the way down to private, fledgling, venture-backed companies that have a chance to go public within a couple years. This is where the “crossover” investor operates. They invest in a broad spectrum of private biotech companies, little public biotech companies, Big Biotech, and sometimes Big Pharma. (Subscribers can read on to see who they are, and how they stack up with traditional VC firms)

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6
Apr
2015

Baseball Meets Biotech, Where Hope Springs Eternal

Baseball season is here, and I can’t wait. It’s time to draw some analogies between these two passions of mine.

Plenty of writers have observed that baseball is basically a microcosm of life in all its messy glory, filled with hope and disappointment. This time of year, the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal.” Fans are optimistic, and maybe even believe in the most positive outcome, even when the road is hard and the odds are slim.

Sound familiar, biotech pros?

With that, here’s a look at a few parallels between baseball and biotech in 2015.

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4
Apr
2015

Will We Just Give Up on Federal Funding for Research? I Sure Hope Not

Most people on the street have no idea where the money comes from to support basic research into diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes. The issue only gets muddier when research centers complain about federal funding cuts, which sounds self-serving and whiny to many ordinary taxpayers

This week, the folks at my local public radio station, KUOW in Seattle, asked me to help explain the changing landscape in research funding for a general audience.

They wanted to know more about a prominent local institution, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and especially its unusually clever business deal with Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics. I talked about that, and about striking the right balance between government and industry-sponsored research. The segment runs a little more than 6 minutes.

 

3
Apr
2015

Sarepta’s Controversial CEO is Out, But Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy R&D is Rising

Sarepta Therapeutics is one of those rare biotech stories with Hollywood appeal. Its CEO was ousted this week, and it may never deliver the happy ending so many desperate parents are counting on for children with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. But no matter what, the company has helped spark a renaissance of R&D for this crippling rare disease.

To get a sense of how the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy treatment landscape has been transformed in recent years, I’ve compiled a list of 23 companies with active drug R&D programs in the field, and two formidable biotech companies that may be nibbling on the edges. (Timmerman Report Subscribers can read on for the full list, and a brief description of what each company is doing, complete with relevant links).

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30
Mar
2015

Cancer Combos Force Companies To Do Some Re-Thinking

Cancer drug developers like to say they follow the science, work well with partners, and that their prices are designed to make sure every patient gets access. But those statements are being put to the test now by combination therapies for cancer, where two or more companies will have to work together in novel ways to make the biggest impact for patients.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that a single magic bullet for cancer isn’t going to happen. Physician/scientists looking at the biological rationale and clinical trial evidence that say combinations of novel drugs are where it’s heading. A similar story has played out before with antivirals, and cardiovascular disease. Hang around any scientific meeting, and you’ll hear exciting conversations about new opportunities in the treatment of cancer.

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26
Mar
2015

See the Photos: Timmerman Report West Coast Launch Party

Entrepreneurs know what it’s like to dream big and take risk, so they naturally tend to support people who do the same. For that, I’m immensely thankful.

I was blown away, and humbled, by the words of encouragement I heard last week at the Timmerman Report launch party in my hometown of Seattle. There was a great mixed crowd of biotech entrepreneurs, executives, students, postdocs, journalism friends, and my family (including a certain scene-stealing toddler).

Special thanks go out to Alexandria Real Estate Equities for allowing me to use the Agora Conference Center for the party. Seattle-based photographer Robert Wade was on hand, and took all of the great candid photos you see in the gallery below. Matt and Carlin Pressnall unfortunately couldn’t make it, but I wanted to make sure to thank them for designing and developing a first-rate reading experience for biotech professionals who use laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

With that, here are some of the photo highlights. There will be many more at the East Coast launch party on Apr. 16 at Pfizer Cambridge. You can click on the thumbnail images for a larger view.

24
Mar
2015

Come to Pfizer Cambridge for the East Coast Launch Party

Timmerman Report is coming to Boston next month for, oh, two of the bigger events of my life.

Please mark your calendars for the first event—the Timmerman Report East Coast Launch Party. It will be 4-6 pm Thursday, Apr. 16 at Pfizer Cambridge, 610 Main Street, Cambridge, Mass.

This will be a free gathering to thank the first wave of subscribers to this new independent biotech journalism venture. I expect a high-powered crowd of biotech CEOs, scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs. There won’t be any official program, just some food and drink and fellowship. There will also be a door prize or two. Sources say some slick New Balance running shirts may be involved.

That brings me to the question of beer. Adult beverages and snacks will be available, but sadly, I will not partake. Water will be my drink of choice. That’s because the party is just 3.5 days before I’m set to run in the Boston Marathon for the first time. I’m not going to let some beer and snack cravings slow me down.

I have one request. Although the event is free, please RSVP here so we have an accurate headcount and you can sign in seamlessly at the front desk at Pfizer Cambridge. That’s it. See you there Apr. 16.

 

23
Mar
2015

Company Subscriptions: You Asked, and You Will Get

Timmerman Report is off to a fast start, more than halfway to the 1-year goal on subscriptions in the first six weeks. Subscriptions, at $99 a year for individual professionals, are rolling in every day.

But one thing I’ve consistently heard is that many companies don’t want to buy subscriptions one at a time. So based on popular demand, I’m now offering group subscriptions for organizations of varying sizes. As Jalen Rose from Grantland likes to say, “You Got to Give the People What They Want.”

Here’s the deal:

Companies can now place orders on bulk licenses to Timmerman Report content, with internal sharing privileges. The price on a per-unit basis is the same as an annual individual subscription ($100), and the total amount will be based on estimated readership at companies that are small, medium, large, and extra-large.

Pricing tiers are as follows:

Small companies. These are defined as having 50 employees or less, and generally with five regular readers at the vice president level and above. Price: $500 for an annual subscription.

Medium-sized companies. These organizations have between 50-500 employees, and have 15 readers. Price: $1,500 for an annual subscription.

Large companies are those with 500 to 5,000 employees. They would be assumed to have 35 readers. Price: $3,500 for an annual subscription.

Extra-large companies. These are the giants with more than 5,000 employees. Subscriptions are $10,000 a year, based on the estimate of 100 in-house readers in research and development, business development, finance, and corporate strategy.

To be clear, these licenses allow sharing of Timmerman Report content internally. Sharing the content outside your company is not allowed under the copyright terms of use. Since selling subscriptions is the way I make my living, it’s essential that my copyright be protected, much like how drug patents must be protected. I reserve the right to terminate subscriptions of repeat copyright violators. As a reminder, Timmerman Report doesn’t sell any advertising, and I intend to keep it that way to provide a first-rate reader experience with independent biotech journalism.

If you’re interested in purchasing a bulk subscription, please contact me via e-mail at luke@timmermanreport.com or call 206-419-7575. If you’re at a company that already has several individual subscriptions, and you’d like to upgrade to a bulk subscription, that can be arranged as well.

Thank you for all the encouragement in the early days of this new media company. Great things are still to come.

23
Mar
2015

Salaries are Inching Up in the Biotech Boom, Not Booming

If you think people and companies make rational economic decisions in their own self-interest, then you probably reason this must be a great time to be a worker in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

Biotech stocks are way up, investment is flowing, and good new drugs keep hitting the market. As the economic tide rises, logic says companies will compete for the best people who can deliver the goods. That ought to drive up salaries, like how sports teams compete for athletes.

Nope. Not happening.

This past week, I’ve been digging through data, and talking to people immersed in the biotech labor market. I wanted to know: Has the boom lifted up the job market, which has been tough for workers ever since the financial crisis?

Here’s what I see.

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20
Mar
2015

NASH is the Next Monster Pharmaceutical Market. Here Are The Players

People in rich countries like the U.S. eat lots of junk food and sit around. That gives rise to some of the biggest opportunities that exist for pharmaceutical companies. Obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are the ones everyone knows about.

A little over a year ago, another huge opportunity became clear. It’s called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH. New York-based Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a once-obscure drug developer for this poorly understood disease, reported positive clinical trial results in January 2014 that caused its stock to triple overnight. That headline, more than anything before, forced a whole lot of people to do a whole lot of homework on this thing called NASH.

Simply put, NASH is a disease of the liver, in which fat builds up slowly over time, leading to damaging inflammation and fibrosis. In the worst cases, liver transplants are needed. The disease often lurks, undiagnosed for many years, because it occurs in those who drink little or no alcohol. Nobody really knows how many people in the U.S. have it, but it’s in the millions.

There are no drugs specifically approved by the FDA for NASH, although doctors sometimes prescribe the generic diabetes drug metformin. Now, 15 months after Intercept’s breakout moment, there are at least 28 companies actively developing new drugs with multiple ways of working against this disease. (For the full rundown of who’s who, subscribers can read on).

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18
Mar
2015

Third Rock’s Revolution Medicines Tears Apart Antifungals, Atom By Atom

Mother Nature has provided scientists with a lot of odd chemical structures that work as drugs, and offers inspirational templates for new drugs. But good drugs derived from scorpion venom, tree bark, and other strange sources aren’t easily cooked up in the lab.

Now a group from the University of Illinois, backed by Third Rock Ventures, says it has hit upon an efficient way of automated synthesis of small molecules based on natural products, and tweaking them so they have a better shot at becoming drugs.

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16
Mar
2015

The Top 20 Early-Stage Biotech Investors (And 2 Resuscitated By the Boom)

It takes brains, nerves, absurd self-confidence, and above all, patience, to invest in early-stage biotech companies. In a world fixated on quick and easy returns, these venture investors—from the 15 or 20 firms that survived the Great Recession—are strange birds. But now that boom days are here, some of them are making big bucks, and fast.

Lately, I’ve been wondering: Are more firms getting into the early-stage investing game? Have any long-suffering early-stage investors been resuscitated by the boom?

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13
Mar
2015

Ember Therapeutics, After Shutting Down, Pools IP With Mariel

Quick follow-up on a story I broke here last month. Third Rock Ventures shut down its obesity drug company Ember Therapeutics late last year, and spent a few months looking to hand over its intellectual property to someone else. Now it has found that someone else, as was noted by FierceBiotech.

Boston-based Ember said yesterday it has agreed to merge with another small private company, New York-based Mariel Therapeutics.

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12
Mar
2015

Antibiotic R&D Is Getting More Attention. Who’s Doing What?

Bacteria, when confronted with the same old antibiotics, find ways to survive and sometimes kill people. Drugmakers haven’t paid much attention in recent years. But now, after repeated warnings about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and some new profit incentives, the industry is coming around to the fight against “superbugs.”

Drugmakers have long seen bigger opportunities to make money elsewhere. The number of new antibiotics approved by the FDA has slowed to a trickle, even as data accumulates on the dangers of multi-drug resistant C.difficile, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other nasty pathogens. That trend has scared many public health officials and infectious disease researchers, especially when they see only three dozen or so antibiotics in clinical trials, many of which aren’t novel. New government incentives, in place for a couple of years, are starting to bring innovators back to the cause. (Read on for a rundown of 45 companies in the field).

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9
Mar
2015

2015 Power Rankings: Biotech Investment Banks

Which banks have the most power in biotech?

You could just flip to the bottom of the press release on AbbVie’s $21 billion acquisition of Pharmacyclics last week. Morgan Stanley, Centerview Partners, and JP Morgan cashed in big-time on that megadeal.

But there are a lot of banks making hay while the sun is shining in biotech, in their own particular ways. To get a better sense of who’s making the most of the boom, and in position to stay strong, I’ve put together a Power Ranking of biotech investment banks. There are two main elements–financial data, and an anonymous survey I conducted of 14 public and private biotech CEOs last week.

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6
Mar
2015

Esperion Jockeys For Place Between Statins and the Next Big Class of Heart Drugs

Millions of people have been taking statins for years. These pills are cheap, simple to take, and effective at reducing heart attacks and strokes. They are a tough act to follow.

Now here comes a new class of drugs that inhibit a molecular target called PCSK9. Elegant genetics, profound clinical trial results, and deep corporate pockets are all lined up behind them. It’s probably the most exciting innovation story in cardiology of the past 20 years.

Where exactly does that leave a little company like Esperion Therapeutics? Read More

3
Mar
2015

Come Celebrate at the Timmerman Report Launch Party

Timmerman Report turned on the lights one month ago. Thanks to you and many other subscribers like you, it’s off to a terrific start.

Now it’s time to celebrate.

Please mark your calendars for 4 pm Friday, Mar. 20 at the Agora Conference Center at 1551 Eastlake Avenue East in Seattle. This will be a free gathering to thank the first batch of subscribers, and future subscribers. There won’t be any official program, just some food and drink and fellowship of leaders from the Seattle biotech community who are supporting this biotech journalism venture. There will also be a couple door prizes. Sources say a FitBit may be involved. East Coast readers, never fear, I am planning a similar launch party for you next month in Boston.

I have one request. Although the event is free, if you plan to attend, please RSVP here so that I can get an accurate headcount for the food and drink order. That’s it. See you in Seattle on March. 20.

2
Mar
2015

Margaret Hamburg: One of the Best Commissioners in FDA History

The one time I saw FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg speak was memorable only for its dullness. Firebrand liberal Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, woke everybody up before Hamburg put everyone to sleep. Nothing Hamburg said was even close to newsworthy.

That sums up the brilliance of a public servant who will go down as one of the best food and drug regulators of all-time. Hamburg wasn’t flashy, and wasn’t an obvious change agent. But in a near-impossible job, she had it all: The vision of a CEO, the brain of a scientist, the empathy of a good doctor, the heart of a public servant, and the skin of a rhinoceros. If there were a Mount Rushmore for those who run the scientific agency that regulates about one-quarter of the U.S. economy, she would be smack in the middle.

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26
Feb
2015

How Pharma and Biotech Companies Can Compete for Talent in a Hot Job Market

Success in biotech, as in almost every industry, is all about the people. Build a team of A-players, and winning will almost certainly follow. But how to attract and retain those players — when more than 10,000 biotech companies around the world are now competing fiercely for them, not to mention big pharma, medical technology companies, and healthcare systems?

Ken Banta, Founder and Managing Partner of the Vanguard Group for Leadership

Ken Banta

What a change from just five years ago, when the sector looked in deep decline. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies were laying off thousands of workers, and great resumes were stacking up in the HR in-boxes of companies who essentially ignored good candidates they felt they couldn’t afford to hire. Today, the opposite is true. It takes special efforts to win that war for talent, and many companies feel they can’t afford to let the best people go somewhere else.

Here are five keys to doing that, learned from my work with very successful organizations in this space:

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