The eighth edition of BioPharm America™ 2015 kicked off today in Boston. An estimated 800 biotech and pharma executives from around the world participated in one-to-one partnering meetings, informative panels and discussions, and a lively exhibit floor featuring pharma lounges.
The morning began with Pharma and Large Biotech presentations, introduced by Sam Murphy of IMS Health Capital, Inc., who gave an overview of their analysis of data sets from four recent EBD Group life science partnering events. One interesting finding related to stage of financing was that early stage companies had twice the rate of meeting request acceptances as seed-stage companies at partnering events. Another finding was that the number of Phase II stage meeting acceptances was higher than Phase I. The full IMS EBD Analysis report will be the feature in an upcoming partnering360® blog post.
The “Perfect Pitch” workshop had a standing-room only crowd of company executives eager to pitch to a panel of seasoned investors. Douglas MacDougall of MacDougall Biomedical Communications moderated the workshop. In between pitches, investors gave valuable advice on how to pitch and and to “remember the ask.” MacDougall reminded presenters of a rule in communications, to give one message three times for maximum impact. Look for the list of tips from the investors in an upcoming blog post.
The concurrent panel “Big data: Going from buzzword to business” included panelists Chirag Patel of Harvard Medical School,Timothy Danford of Tamr Inc. and Keith Elliston of tranSMART Foundation. Patel touched on big data in the realm of phenomic data collection, and stated that precision medicine is understanding phenotype as a function of genotype and environmental factors. In particular, new capabilities in quantifying data results from genetic classification methods for hereditary markers, combined with the effect of environmental factors within a given data set. The expectation is that the ability to make these classifications by effectively analyzing big data will procure significant advances in the field. Elliston remarked that better technology would enable researchers to collect more data, and thus advance R&D.
Welcome remarks by EBD Group’s Anna Chrisman and John Hallinan of MassBio were followed by the opening plenary discussion, “Giving up the corporate jet and going back to the trenches: Insights from biotech disrupters” moderated by Francois Maisonrouge of Evercore Partners, and featuring panelists Deborah Dunsire of FORUM Pharmaceuticals; Jeffrey B. Kindler of Centrexion Corp.; Jeremy Levin of Ovid Therapeutics Inc.; and Christopher A. Viehbacher of Gurnet Point Capital. Maisonrouge commented that the risk-reward of going into biotech has improved over the last 20 years, but the risk-reward of going into a big company has not. He asked the panelists, “How do you maintain relevance in these large companies?” Levin said that the challenge is to create and maintain an innovative culture. “Failure in leadership is when you no longer inspire people to be innovative,” he said. Dunsire added that to stay innovative, “You need to build that spirit of risk back into the company.” Kindler had a slightly different view, stating that there is no better place to get educated about the industry than within a pharma company. “To me, it’s like a graduate education,” he said. Viehbacher agreed, “A person at a big pharma has deep experience you’re not going to get at a small biotech,” and to learn about manufacturing, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, pharma has a mass of experience. “I think there should be a little more osmosis in career development these days,” Viehbacher said.
“Rare diseases: The new norm?” was a hot topic in the afternoon, and featured a truly inspiring exchange between moderator Jeremy Springhorn of Flagship Ventures and panelists Ilan Ganot of Solid Biosciences; John Orloff of Baxalta; and Henri Termeer formerly of Genzyme Corporation. “It is very much about kids” since many rare diseases are genetic, said Ganot. The impact that these diseases have on families and the community is often not considered, said Ganot. “It’s up to us, science, to look after them,” he said. Termeer told a moving story to accentuate the role of passion and patient advocacy in driving therapies for rare diseases. The panel was videotaped and will be available on partnering360 Insight soon.
A dynamic panel on digital health moderated by Steve Dickman of CBT Advisors focused on how digital health is changing the relationship of the patient with pharma. “Patients need to be involved in drug discovery not just as the patient, but as the drug developer,” said Dickman. Thomas Klein of Cytolon gave a preview of their disruptive registry and communication platform “Be The Partner” as a means to create dialogue with patients. Klein said that a pharma company typically spends USD 20 to 50 million to have a patient participate in a trial, but as soon as the trial ends, the relationship is severed. Their software gives researchers and pharma a means to maintain connectivity to the patient. John Brownstein of Boston Children’s Hospital discussed the use and integration of historical data from social profiles to create a digital phenotype using the platform MedWatcher. Eddie Martucci of PureTech said that digital could be the therapy but the idea is often at odds with the pharma industry. “VCs are still trying to get a handle on digital medicine,” said Martucci.
The program was so packed, it’s impossible to convey the vast information relayed. Look for upcoming video coverage of BioPharm America 2015 on partnering360 Insight.