January 11, 2011
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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.
May 11, 2010
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A new nonprofit organization called Grand Challenges Canada has been formed to deploy the Canadian government’s $225 million Development Innovation Fund. In a fabulous marriage of theory and practice, Grand Challenges will be run by Peter Singer, who is also the Director of the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health. It also draws on an impressive international scientific advisory board.
The program will identify and launch five “grand challenges” over a 5-year period. The first is
“to create a new class of point-of-care (POC) diagnostics that will be easy to use, low cost, multiplexed and able to assess disease stage and provide information on prognosis.”
Information on the RFP, policies and forms to apply for funding are here, and the deadline for this round of applications is July 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST.
Grand Challenges Canada is independent, but is being run in partnership with International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
As noted in the lead up to BIO, several of the conference sessions touch on industry trends we’ve been following here on the blog. One of these was today’s session entitled “A New Kind of Non-Dilutive Financing and Fundraising: Partnering With Not-for-Profits,” which we’ve been following as commercialization by non-profit foundations. Our coverage of that trend started off focusing on the financial advantages to companies of finding a commercialization-minded nonprofit partner, but recently we’ve also noted the strategic advantages of these collaborations.
At today’s panel discussion, Genzyme’s Jim Geraghty added to the list of strategic advantages of nonprofit collaborations, echoing Avila’s CEO Katrine Bosely who recently acknowledged the value of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s network of clinician and patient relationships. Geraghty added:
- access to scientific data that may have benefits to other company programs; and
- relationships with governments and other clinical gatekeepers.
Most interestingly, Geraghty noted the contribution that nonprofit collaborations can make to employee goodwill and morale in an environment where pursuit of profit can run contrary to the norms that attracted employees to the field of biotechnology in the first place.
The panel also drove home the enormous role the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has played in changing the way nonprofits think of their roles in health. Gina Rabinovich from the Foundation was unwavering in stating their commitment not to publications or conference output, but to measurable health outcomes like reducing infant mortality. Kudos.
September 24, 2009
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One of the trends we’ve been keeping an eye on this year is the increasing willingness of nonprofit foundations to fund and support commercial product development. Two updates today:
- iCo Therapeutics Inc. (TSX-V: ICO) is collaborating with the Consortium for Parasitic Drug Development (CPDD) to optimize one of iCo’s products for tropical conditions. (That’s CPDD as in development of drugs to combat parasitic diseases, by the way, not a new and selfish approach to drug development.) CPDD, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grantee, is making an initial contribution of USD $182,930 to iCo’s work.
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has been very active in providing funding to companies working on Parkinson’s treatments, has registered as a tax-exempt charity in Canada. Hopefully this will open the door for more Canadian collaborations.
April 23, 2009
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Some stories from the world of plant biotech:
P.S. After today, the Wednesday Brain Dump will be dropping the “Wednesday” and becoming an occasional feature.