The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Category Archives: Biotech Trends in 2010

Biotech Trends in 2010: Top Three Reasons Why Biotech Companies Should Use Social Media

Tech startups use social media avidly [rabidly?], but biotech companies? Not so much.  Biotech companies should be blogging, tweeting and linking in like mad, though.  Here’s why:

  1. Your customers (pharma companies) do it.  More and more pharma companies are active in social media. Take a look at this article in the December issue of Life Science Leader (h/t @FiercePharma) or read the Dose of Digital blog any day of the week and you’ll be directed to interesting information about how products are being developed, tested and marketed. These are things you need to keep in mind as you move through your own product development process. Also, lots of pharma folks are on LinkedIn, so if you are as well, you’ll maximize your ability to reach out through personal connections when you’re building a constituency for your partnering deals.  Here’s my Twitter list of BioPharma news and analysis.
  2. Your investors do it.  Check out this Twitter List of Canadian VCs, Angel investors and other funders.  Look at what they’re talking about, and you’ll see you don’t have to tell people what you ate for lunch (or disclose your latest lab results) to convey that you’re doing something interesting that other people are interested in.  Check out the CVCA’s blog, Capital Rants or the Maple Leaf Angels blog.  In Toronto? Stop in at the MaRS blog or the R.I.C. blog to see where investors will be and what they’re thinking about.
  3. Your peers (other startups) do it.  If you’re not participating in online conversations, you’re missing a world of good advice and perspectives.  Click over to Rick Segal’s blog or  StartupCFO, Mark MacLeod’s Blog. It doesn’t really matter that these guys aren’t involved in biotech. Lots of startups are facing similar issues to yours — funding, staffing, etc. and getting out of the biotech bubble from time to time can be a good thing.  Plus, being at a startup is isolating, particularly in biotech with its strong incentives to run a virtual company, so go online to find peers, mentors and other resources.

If this all sounds reasonable, but you’re still skeptical, or not interested, then find someone in your organization who’s excited about it, regardless of their actual job, and set him/her loose.  [Not totally loose, of course. Common sense is critical online because it's hard to hit "undo" on the web, and appropriate confidentiality remains key to biotech ventures.  But all your people have common sense and discretion, right?]

We’ll be keeping an eye out for biotechs and other bioscience companies that are making good use of social media as part of our Biotech Trends series this coming year.  Other suggestions for 2010 biotech trends?  Let us know

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Biotech Trends Update — Synthetic Biology: Smallest Genome May Not Provide the Best Roadmap

One of the trends we’ll be following for 2010 is synthetic biology — efforts to create entirely novel organisms and systems from “scratch.” A fundamental question in the quest to create novel life forms is what the minimal genome is that will comprise a living organism.

Scientists have been looking for, and at, existing organisms with small genomes to try to answer that question; but a series of reports on the genome of one such organism suggests they may be looking in the wrong place.

Mycoplasma pneumoniae has one of the smallest known genomes among free-living organisms — just 816,000 base pairs — so it seemed like a good candidate for understanding life’s minimal requirements. However, three Science papers this week show that the organism uses a bunch of very sophisticated tricks to squeeze a lot of function out of its small genetic pantry.

My guess is that it will be easier to deduce minimal requirements by experimenting on organisms with better characterized, though larger, genomes than by trying to decipher all the tricks of the Mycoplasma trade.

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Québec’s $122 million New Biopharmaceutical Strategy Includes $30 million for Genomics, May Include SR&ED Tax Credit Financing

mdeieThe Province of Québec rolled out a new “biopharmaceutical strategy” Thursday that they say aims to provide “development support for biotech and biopharmaceutical firms.”

The Roll-Out:

The announcement was beautifully coordinated with the relevant constituencies, as illustrated by the near-immediate chorus of support:

The Big News:

BIOQuébec can’t help bragging a little that “the Minister has retained some of the recommendations made by BIOQuébec.” The pride is justified, though.  Biotech advocates have been asking — since before the last federal budget — for a way to monetize the refundable tax credits they’ve been banking.  As part of the new strategy, BIOQuébec says the government will allow

“biotechnology companies within the human health industry [to] benefit from a short term support measure thanks to the quarterly financing of their tax credits.”

Interestingly, BIOQuébec appears to have some information about that initiative that is missing from the government publications (nope, not even in the French version), which only say it aims to “implement new methods of funding R&D tax credits adapted to the specific needs of health-related biotechnology firms.”

Money Talks:

On the financial front, the initiative also highlights a 10-year tax holiday (sparse on details, but expect it to look a lot like the OTEC in Ontario) and Teralys Capital.

Finally, the strategy notes “three specialized start-up funds aimed at the technology sectors” with $41 million each that will be supported by “private-sector partners.”  Is the Pfizer-FRSQ Innovation Fund one of these?  Wednesday, that fund announced grants totalling $2.3 million for genomics studies of inflammatory bowel disease and metastatic colorectal cancer.

My Bottom Line:

This looks like a broad set of initiatives that aims to improve everything from student recruitment through R&D and commercialization to purchasing and reimbursement decisions.  I particularly can’t wait to see what the SR&ED monetization program looks like.  Hopefully we’ll learn in time to work with other governments *cough*Ontario*cough* as they start 2010 budget processes.

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Biotech Trends in 2010: Crowdsourced Edition

We’ve been running with a number of trends since the blog started early in 2009, and though many of them will continue to be critical stories in 2010, I’ve been turning my thoughts lately to possible additions for next year:

Thoughts? Other suggestions?  Let us know

Update: Timely – see this New Yorker article on synthetic biology and a report on a poll on the topic via ScientificBlogging (both via @gw_dailyscan).

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