The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

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

Category Archives: Jeremy Grushcow

Bloom Burton & Co. Open the TSX

Leading up to their inaugural healthcare conference later this week, Bloom Burton & Co opened trading on the TSX this morning. In a feat of multimedia wizardry, the moment was captured on film:

Monday Biotech Deal Review: April 16 2012

Welcome to your Monday Biotech Deal Review for April 16, 2012. Highlights include deals by Bioniche, Valeant and Bunge and $5 million of equity financings.  Read on to learn more.  Read more of this post

Biotech Trends Update — IP Constituencies: Innovator-Generic Mixing Continues in Canada

As traditional pharma companies continue to diversify their revenue sources in the face of their pending patent cliffs, we have followed their entry into and expansion of their generics business lines. We have also noted activity in the reverse – generics companies developing novel products to build their margins and take advantage of their production capacity and expertise.

This week saw a Canadian example of the latter trend in Pharmascience’s purchase of Aegera for undisclosed terms. Pharmascience is a Montreal-based generics company and Aegera is a cancer-focused clinical stage company that has been backed by a raft of mostly Canadian venture capital outfits.

Canada’s domestic “generics” companies are now almost uniformly mixed generic / innovator businesses. Apotex carries out R&D through its ApoPharma subsidiary and has at least one novel product on the market. Valeant (nee Biovail) has a number of novel products in its pipeline as well. This should be particularly noteworthy in the innovation and economic development communities given recent decreases in Canadian R&D activity by global innovator pharma companies.

BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing — Day 1 Review

We attended several sessions yesterday and learned about biofuels and bioproducts investment; bioingredients for food and nutrition; and strategies for profitable commercialization of renewable chemicals, among others.

One of the highlights was the lunch plenary, where panelists Brian J.M. Ames (DOW Chemical),  Balu Sarma (Praj Matrix), Feike Sijbesma (DSM) and Peter Williams (INEOS Technologies) addressed a panel discussion entitled “A Global View from Corporate Leaders”.

In an exchange that points to the reasons over 1000 people now attend the conference, the moderator noted that few large chemical companies have invested in industrial biotech, and asked whether more will begin to do so, and whether early adopters will get a lasting advantage…

Peter Williams’ view was that other large chemical companies will move into industrial biotech and that early entrants won’t get a lasting advantage over well-funded followers. He expects a big focus on industrial biotech in China.

Brian Ames agrees that we are at the beginning of the adoption cycle and points to Dupont’s Danisco bid as a signal. He is confident that cost-driven decisions will continue to be key.

Balu Sarma agrees as well, and sees good news for young industrial biotechnology companies as he expects that large chemical companies will rely on partners to develop their own capabilities.

Fieke Sijbesma followed that comment noting that there has never been a major technological shift without the emergence of brand-new companies.

Everyone in the audience is trying to be, fund, or partner with the giants in waiting that are sure to emerge over the next 10 years in this industry. Stay tuned…

BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing

This year’s World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology starts today in Toronto.

A report from The Milken Institute released into the lead-up before the conference includes some interesting data:

  • Industrial biotechnology received $1.48 billion in venture investment from 2004 to 2009, compared to $1.99 billion for biofuels and $17.48 billion for therapeutic biotech plays.
  • Up to 78% of industrial biotech ventures cite “operational income” as a funding source — an impressive number of revenue-generating companies.
  • Some notable joint ventures include Metabolix joining with Archer Daniels Midland to form Telles, a plastic biorefinery; Cargill and Dow partnering on Natureworks; and DuPont’s pending offer for Danisco.

My colleague Lucas Thacker and I will be providing coverage of the conference over the next few days, so stay tuned for posts and for tweets @crossborderbio or under #WCIBB and let us know if you’re at the conference…

Myriad Genetics v ACLU in the Federal Circuit

The ACLU had its day in court at the Federal Circuit yesterday, with oral arguments occupying 70 minutes of the court’s time in front of an audience of “hundreds” according to coverage from The Salt Lake Tribune (Myriad’s hometown paper). This case, you will recall, is a challenge to the patentability of isolated DNA. When the District Court ruled in favour of the ACLU, I argued that the decision was not a big deal. One of the reasons — that the Federal Circuit would overturn the decision — is one step closer to being tested. In the meantime, I stand by the other four.

The arguments are online, if you want to listen to the whole thing (thanks to @genomicslawyer for the link), and FierceBiotech and The Atlantic also have coverage.

Stability at the Top: A Look at Top Biotech VC Deals from 2007-2010

FierceBiotech published the top 15 biotech VC deals of 2010 last week, measured by dollars invested. Since they noted an overall uptick in investments in 2010, it seemed like a worthwhile time to look back. Here’s what U.S. VC investment in biopharma and medical devices looked like from 2007 to 2010 (normalized to 2007 levels):

Not unexpectedly, a huge decline between 2007 and 2009, though not as big as the overall decline in VC investments. Here’s the really interesting part — the average amount invested (±1σ) among the top 15 deals each year:

Remarkably stable. Even during a period of steeply declining investment there will be standouts that generate real excitement, proving that as FierceBiotech said in 2008 “[g]ood science will attract funding in any market.”

It’s not a surprise that good ideas always get some funding, but why do the top investees always attract the same amount?  The price of admission to the top 15 between 2007 and 2010 has ranged only between $39 and $42 million.

It must be that (once a concept reaches a certain stage) the amount of money needed to really propel a life sciences company to success is constant — apparently an average of $50 – $60 million — and recognizing that, VCs will fund their best prospects to that level even at the expense of other investments.  So the next time you’re contemplating a $10 million C round, keep in mind that you’re more than two standard deviations off the mean investment made when VCs really mean it. It’s an interesting idea the other way too: Pacific Biosciences, which IPO’d in the middle of its range at $16/share last October, was the top deal twice in four years (including the +2.4σ variant of $109m in 2010). It’s currently trading at $15.74, giving it  a market cap of $831.43 million, just over double the reported $370 million of VC that it raised prior to the IPO.

Check out FierceBiotech’s list of the top VC investments from 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 and apply your own 20:20 hindsight to your heart’s content. Also, keep your fingers crossed that a 3% increase stops feeling like such a victory when we see the 2011 data.

Biotech Trends in 2011: Biosimilars

In our original post on biosimilars, Lumira Capital’s Beni Rovinski set out the business opportunities, the technical challenges and the regulatory hurdles facing follow-on biologics in 2009. Since then, as Beni predicted, a series of pharma deals have followed Merck’s Insimed acquisition, and the regulatory framework in North America has been clarified substantially, with final Health Canada guidance having been issued and the the U.S. BCPI Act working its way through the FDA’s rule-making process.

The biosimilars market has also evolved in a couple of unexpected ways: 

  1. Teva decided not to wait for a distinct U.S. biosimilars pathway, and instead submitted a full BLA for Neupoval (which was accepted). Although Neupoval’s approval is now delayed, with the 12-year exclusivity period in the BCPI Act far exceeding similar periods in the EU and Canada, more companies may follow Teva’s approach instead of navigating the U.S. biosimilar regime.
  2. At the JP Morgan conference last week, the CEO’s of Amgen and Biogen Idec, two companies that have been built on innovator biologics, both openly discussed their own plans to produce biosimilars. Although Amgen’s Sharer said the company “should participate in an intelligent way without disturbing the core business,” and was looking to Asian and Latin American markets, Biogen Idec’s Scangos said flatly that “[t]he next decade will be about access and cost as much as it is about innovation,” and that biosimilars are “a low risk way to generate substantial revenue.”

As the regulatory and business environments continue to evolve, we’ll continue to keep an eye on the latest developments.

This post is the fourth in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Weekend Reading: This Week in the Twitterverse

Catch up on the week’s biotech developments and news from our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:

Biotech Trends in 2011: Transgenics

As our ability to manipulate the genomes of plants and animals grows, we can increase crop yields, reduce environmental impact, improve nutrition and turn barren land arable.  Canada, in particular, has been at the forefront of much of this technology:

  • The Enviropig, developed in Guelph, Ontario, in 1999, produces phytase, an enzyme regular pigs lack, which helps it digest naturally occurring plant phosphorous in its feed more efficiently, which reduces feed costs and decreases the amount of phosphorus that winds up in pigs’ waste – making it less polluting. Recent coverage, from specialty (GenOmics video) to national to international (BBC video) highlights the animals’ great potential.
  • AquaBounty’s AcqAdvantage salmon, developed in Prince Edward Island, is even closer to approval. Although the FDA panel assigned to review the fish decided not to reach a conclusion this past Fall, they are still likely to be the first GM animal to be widely consumed by humans.  The AcqAdvantage salmon grow much more quickly than their non-GM peers and are farmed under close scrutiny, thereby improving environmental impact and reducing costs and overfishing.

Nevertheless, much of Europe continues to resist growing or importing GM strains, and the U.S., traditionally a strong supported of GM crops, seems to be wavering:

We will continue to follow these important legal, regulatory and scientific developments.

This post is the third in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Biotech Trends in 2011: Commercialization by Non-Profit Foundations

Financing for biotech companies is a major part of my work at my real job, and the horrible financing environment in the wake of 2008’s financial crisis was one of the motivators for starting this blog. So, when nonprofit foundations started financing commercialization and product development in addition to their traditional role in financing research, it was a trend this blog was quick to note.

In the years since, a steady stream of new entrants have financed a wide variety of companies and projects, and the trend has appeared in the last year as a panel and the BIO convention and in E&Y’s annual biotech industry report.

Most recently, the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation gave a $750,000 grant to a new Cystic Fibrosis Technology Initiative (CFTI) which was launched in partnership with the University of British Columbia and the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD). The CFTI will “assemble researchers and identify promising discoveries from across Canada to create new medicines” for CF. Selected promising new drug candidates will be developed with CDRD. The initial application deadline is January 28th and details are available here.

With MJFF and Gates leading the way and with a continued shortage of traditional development and commercialization funding for the industry, expect to see lots more of these deals in Canada and internationally in the coming year.

This post is the third in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Weekend Reading: This Week in the Twitterverse

Catch up on the week’s biotech developments and news from our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:

Biotech Trends in 2011: Comparative Effectiveness and Personalized Medicine

When this blog was launched in 2009, comparative effectiveness and personalized medicine were fairly new features in the North American landscape. Our initial argument that they were related topics — determining which treatment is best depends on which patient is being treated — was soon bolstered by the comparative effectiveness provisions in the U.S. stimulus bill and new personalized medicine data via the FDA.

The proposition has since become common knowledge, culminating in statements by Francis Collins and at BIO 2010 and discussed in the New York Times. Personalized medicine is now a key strategy for 12-50% of current drug pipelines, according to a recent Tufts study, and is a significant driver for DNA sequencing technology companies. If anything, the pendulum has swung a bit too far towards ‘hype,’ and as Matthew Herper reminds us, there are still non-personalized potential blockbusters in the pipeline.

The two concepts have even merged in a motto:

“the right drug to the right patient at the right time,”

which I still don’t like as much as “Personalized Effectiveness” (my neologized mash-up), but seems to be sticking. We’re just going to call it “Personalized Medicine” for now and will continue to follow major developments. You can too, on this page.

This post is the second in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Biotech Trends in 2011: Social Media in Biotech and Healthcare

Use of social media by pharmaceutical companies, biotechs, and industry observers will continue to grow in scale, value and importance this year. The emergence of Twitter as a public health surveillance tool and the pending (still pending…) release of the FDA’s social media guidelines will contribute to this growth in the short term, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on novel developments.

This post is the first in a series briefly outlining the biotech industry trends we’ve been following on the blog and noting some recent developments, plus directions for 2011.

Weekend Reading: This Week in the Twitterverse

Social media, publication quality, Canadian VC policy and exhaustion (mine and patents’) make for a light dose of interesting reading this weekend:

  • Friday Science Review: stagnant technologies in Africa, congenital blindness in children and chronic pain in the crosshairs…
  • Social Media Reshaping Healthcare: Some cool data on the use of Twitter as a Public Health Surveillance Tool
    • Also… Deloitte’s report on social networks for lifesciences: Valuable communication tool or just tweets and word games
    • And/but…  Pharma skeptical of social media
  • Huge. Watch what comes from this… RT @FierceBiotech: NIH steps in to propel research projects into the clinic.
  • Lilly Suspends Phase III Trial in Metastatic Melanoma (RT @PharmProEditor)
  • This may be a long road for DoD – I worked on a related project in ’91! RT @FierceBiotech: DoD awards $1.3M grant to develop artificial blood.
  • MaRS CEO Ilse Treurnicht notes that China is now 2nd in publication of biomedical research articles globally, recently surpassed Japan, UK, Germany…Canada…  Canadian expat Taylor Raborn asks: is their average publication of the same quality as those from Japan or Germany? Well, “quality” is hard to measure, of course. By citation rate, the answer is no. Nature has very cool data showing publication volume and citation rate
  • Venture Capital (VC) for Canada Campaign: B.C shows exemplary leadership, will others follow? RT @CVCACanada
  • 4-4 split leaves 9th Cir decision intact RT @patentlyo: Supreme Court Does not Decide Costco v. Omega Int’l Exhaustion Case

This Week in the Twitterverse – Weekend Reading

Here’s your dose of weekly biotech news, all wrapped up in one weekend-friendly package:

Biotech Trends Update — IP Constituencies: Indian Industry Lobbies to Keep IP Out of Free Trade Agreement with EU

An article in yesterday’s Hindu Business Line says the Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association is lobbying heavily to keep data protection and other innovator-friendly IP provisions out of the free trade agreement being negotiated between India and the EU. But, with Glenmark and Jubilant on the rise, and with even Biocon carrying the R&D water in its deal with Pfizer, demands for IP protection from domestic constituents are bound to be increasingly loud.

Keep an eye on the progress of the free trade talks, continuing with the India-EU summit this week. Apparently, the main gaps are: the percentage of tradable goods that are tariff-free; a sustainable development clause; and the IP issues noted above. We’ll see how hard India pushes to keep IP out of the picture.

This Week in the Twitterverse: Weekend Reading

Here’s your dose of weekly biotech news, all wrapped up in one weekend-friendly package thanks to our Twitter stream:

  • RT @ArsenicMicrobes: We come in peace — Funny! But agree with @matthewherper on this one: not an alien
  • Never too early for biotechs and VCs to understand and plan for payer-focused endpoints via @InVivoBlogChris
  • My short presentation from the CHLA holiday event on Canadian Biotech and Pharma Licensing Trends
  • Canadian Biotech and Healthcare Licensing Trends in 2010
  • Ogilvy Renault ‘s Rick Sutin and BIOTECanada’s Peter Brenders on bringing flow-thru shares to the biotech sector in Canada
  • What’s your best price? Amgen’s Nplate latest example of drug winning NICE backing after offering rebate to UK’s NHS, from @reutersBenHir:
  • BC biotech company bets the farm on GM non-browning apples
  • Made here, bought elsewhere… RT @robannan: Innovation moves south – government watches it go. New blog post.
  • Merck Prez Ken Frazier to become CEO in Jan. Background from Fierce Biotech at
  • One of the outcomes from H1N1/swine flu pandemic… RT @CBCHealth: Ont. to give new powers to chief medical officer
  • RT @jonmrich: Forget Harry Potter. Call of Duty: Black Ops: Sold $650 million in 5 days. Breaks EVERY entertainment opening. Amazing.
  • Allon (TSX:NPC) lands $625k grant from MJFF for pre-clinical work on davunetide as a treatment for Parkinson’s
  • NB Premier says he’s open to idea of regional fund, proposes $50m for Atlantic biotech/cleantech/IT
  • Medical genetics and personalized medicine issue of Stanford Med

Canadian Biotech and Healthcare Licensing Trends in 2010

I was fortunate this week to host the Canadian Healthcare Licensing Association‘s (CHLA’s) annual holiday get-together on behalf of Ogilvy Renault at our Toronto office (we hosted a parallel CHLA event in Montreal earlier this week). I presented a short slide deck on licensing trends in 2010, with data drawn from our Monday Biotech Deal Reviews and from Wayne Schnarr’s quarterly reports. For your viewing enjoyment,the slideshare version is below. You can also download a pdf of the presentation here.

This Week in the Twitterverse

Here’s your dose of weekly biotech news, all wrapped up in one weekend-friendly package thanks to our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:


This Week in the Twitterverse

Here’s your dose of weekly biotech news, all wrapped up in one weekend-friendly package thanks to our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:


Biotech in the Provinces: OBEST Launches Regional Meetings in Ontario; Western Canada Innovation Agreement to Provide Seed Funding

The Ontario Bioscience Economic Strategy Team (OBEST)* is holding regional cluster meetings starting today that will be chaired by bioscience CEOs from across the province. OBEST launched its evergreen strategy to sustain and grow the province’s health-science industry last week with a meeting of the OBEST advisory committee, which is chaired by Dr. Daniel Billen from Amgen Canada, and includes C-level representatives from business, patient groups, government, academia, ag-biotech and Ontario’s biotech companies.

Innovative ideas are being sought from everyone with a stake in the industry via the regional cluster meetings, which will inform the Advisory Committee’s work.

Meanwhile, out West, the Centre for Drug Research and Development, together with the Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technologywill administer a fund supporting innovative health research programs, called the Western Canada Innovation Agreement.  The seed funding will enable early-stage discoveries to achieve commercialization in the life sciences sector.  For more information, visit

* OBEST is an initiative of OBIO, where I am the corporate secretary.

New Firm, New Contributors Contribute to New Look

This morning Ogilvy Renault (my law firm) announced a planned merger with UK-based Norton Rose that will give us fantastic international capabilities, including a new global life sciences focus highlighting our Canadian strength. In addition to being a ground-breaking move for a Canadian firm, it is also exciting for the blog, where reporting has always aimed for an international perspective. Check out the “Shifting IP Constituencies” page or our other industry trends, and you’ll see a wealth of stories emphasizing the global nature of the industry.

So, although the Canadian focus will continue here — in particular with the Monday Biotech Deal Review and the Friday Science Review — we’re bidding the U.S. and Canadian flag logo adieu, and going to a cleaner, more information-packed layout.

A second advantage to the new look is that with a number of contributors active lately, including Jacob Cawker, Mark Curtis and Wayne Schnarr, the author’s name will now appear at the top of each post to give them the full credit they deserve.

More highlights of the new layout include news on the right that’s updated several times a day, plus top posts and trends on the left.

This Week in the Twitterverse

Here’s your dose of weekly biotech news, all wrapped up in one weekend-friendly package thanks to our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:

This Week in the Twitterverse

Some weekend reading from our Twitter stream @crossborderbio:

U.S. Therapeutic Discovery Stimulus Reaches Biotechs in Canada, Israel, Germany

As part of the health reform bill, the U.S. launched a $1 billion Therapeutic Discovery Project tax credit/grant stimulus program. The program announced grant recipients this week, deploying $1 billion just over 7 months after the law was passed, and 5 months after the IRS guidelines were released implementing the project.

A full list of recipients has been posted by the IRS, and interestingly includes a “foreign” recipients section comprising: Canada’s Enobia Pharma, Germany’s mtm laboratories, and Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics (Nasdaq: PSTI). Canadian biotechs with U.S. affiliates also reported receiving grants: Allon Therapeutics, Ondine Biomedical, and Neuraxon, so far.

The massive influx of cash has produced a predictable call for second helpings, while here in Ontario we’re still waiting for a first deployment from the $7 million announced at the end of April.

This Week in the Twitterverse

If you’re not following our Twitter stream @crossborderbio, here’s what you missed this week:

Ten Business Law Tips for Startups

There are lots of collections of tips for startups that have excellent business advice on building your team, hitting product milestones and pitching to VCs; but not that many that give a corporate lawyer’s perspective. So here’s mine:*

  1. You May be a Genius, but You Are Not a Lawyer
    • Your idea is brilliant and you have what it takes to be a CEO, but you are still not a lawyer (or an accountant).
    • Hire professionals and use them to help you figure out what you need and when.
    • This doesn’t have to be expensive. Figuring out priorities isn’t billable work – executing them is.
  2. Even Though You’re Not a Lawyer, It’s Still Your Job to Read Everything
    • When it comes to your business the buck stops with you
    • You need to read and understand everything you sign
    • Your lawyers’ and accountants’ job includes explaining things you don’t understand
  3. If You Don’t Incorporate, You’re Personally Liable
    • Unless you’ve incorporated (or formed an LP , LLP, S.a.r.l, etc.), you’re personally liable for everything done in the name of the company or by any of your partners
    • One you have a corporate entity, issue shares (or units, etc.) to yourself and your partners – they are the legal basis for corporate power
  4. A Shareholders Agreement is Cheaper than a Lawsuit
    • Unless you’re the only founder, you need to align everyone’s expectations
    • Drafting a shareholders agreement will help you address key controversies in advance
    • Waiting until there’s a dispute is too late
  5. Be Greedy With Your Equity
    • Once you have a shareholder, they are hard to get rid of
    • It’s tempting to use shares for compensation, advisory boards, etc.
    • Try to use non-dilutive cash or options instead
    • Make sure when you do issue equity that it doesn’t constrain your next steps
  6. Pay Your Taxes
    • There are lots of taxes that apply at early stages
    • Payroll taxes, HST, VAT, sales taxes, etc.
    • You can be personally liable if your company doesn’t pay
    • Ignoring taxes only makes it worse
  7. Protect Your IP
    • Get assignments from your inventors or institutions
    • Get signed development agreements before the work starts
    • Talk to an IP lawyer about appropriate patent filings and permissible disclosures
    • Separate your current job from your startup. If you use time, facilities or equipment that belong to your current employer, they could end up owning your new company’s IP.
  8. An NDA May Ruin First Impressions
    • Don’t drive away potential partners or investors with premature or paranoid NDAs
    • Give potential investors and partners enough non-proprietary information to generate interest
    • If in doubt, run planned disclosures by your lawyers and existing investors
  9. Be Honest With Your Customers
    • Make sure your terms of use and policies are clear, but comprehensive
    • If you’re collecting personal information, you need to comply with privacy law
  10. Talk to Your Investors
    • Let them know about progress and challenges
    • Give them advance notice of future financing rounds

* This is not legal advice (duh, it’s a blog), just my thoughts (not my firm’s – see previous) on how to use legal services efficiently when your business is new. I presented a version of these as part of Ogilvy’s How to Draft a Patent seminar at MaRS yesterday.

Two MaRS Innovation Transactions Take Off

MaRS Innovation, the “integrated commercialization platform” responsible for commercializing inventions from 16 Toronto academic institutions, announced two deals last week. One spin-out and one out-license (pdf links).

The spin-out: MI put $500,000 into Prof. Shana Kelley‘s new company, Xagenic, alongside a $300,000 loan from HTX; $200,000 from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research; and $40,000 from the OCE Centre for Commercialization of Research. The notable part of this transaction is the launch of a University spin-out with pre-built seed funding. The structure of MI’s “investment” was not disclosed.

The out-license: A sustained‐release form of nitric oxide (NO) from Prof. Ping Lee’s lab at U of T was out-licensed to San Diego-based Cardium Therapeutics (AMEX: CXM), which will pay undisclosed amounts for the technology. One form of consideration that is disclosed: a nice endorsement for MI from Cardium’s CEO, Christoper J. Reinhard, who said “MI brought great business understanding to the process. The team understood our needs quickly and they worked efficiently to get the deal done.”

The bottom line: These are two interesting and positive deals from MI, executed in pretty short order for a new organization, that deserve congratulations. We look forward to future MI deals that disclose more some detail on business terms and valuations.


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