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.
April 19, 2010
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In my first post noting the trend of non-profit foundations stepping in to support commercial projects, I held out the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)’s Therapy Acceleration Program as a key example.
LLS recently made another investment from that program, giving $3.2 million to get Avila Therapeutics’ AVL-292 into trials for B-cell cancers (pdf). In writing about this trend originally, I had emphasized the value for the recipeint companies of a non-dilutive investment in a difficult funding environment; but John Carroll’s article at FierceBiotech on the LLS-Avila deal notes another key advantage of these collaborations:
“The LLS offers a developer like Avila other strategic advantages, says [Avila's CEO Katrine] Bosley. The society doesn’t just support patients, it also has ‘a network of relationships with clinical investigators.’ The LLS can help make introductions between the biotech and the investigators who can provide important insights on clinical trial protocols.”
The advantage for LLS? As Louis DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS’s chief mission officer, says:
“Last year we had three partnerships, each of which triggered a clinical trial of an agent that would not have been tested in blood cancers if not for our dollars.”
A win-win situation that you can expect to see more of.
July 3, 2009
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An article in Mass High Tech yesterday points to the trend we’ve been following of increasing commercialization activity by non-profits, but looks at things from the foundations’ point of view. While the economic crisis is, as expected, causing companies to seek out more foundation funding, those collaborations are having as much trouble as the rest of the biotech world:
- The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation had to reclaim rights from Altus Pharmaceuticals, and spent $3 million continuing a Phase 3 trial while looking for a new partner;
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation is putting more money than it planned into its corporate ventures because of the dearth of for-profit investors; and
- the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has “had to walk away from some really good science” at companies that look “too vulnerable financially.”
The article also has a good list of foundation-biotech collaborations:
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with Alnara Pharmaceuticals, Epix Pharmaceuticals, FoldRx Pharmaceuticals;
Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, FoldRx Pharmaceuticals Inc., NeuroHealing, LINK Medicine and Codman & Shurtleff;
Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation with FoldRx Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with Tolerx Inc., Smart Cells Inc.
January 23, 2009
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A story yesterday reminded me about a movement I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of – funding to commercial entities by disease advocacy foundations. This will be fueled in 2009 by two factors:
- a self-perpetuating availability heuristic that will encourage foundations to seek commercialization opportunities; and
- an economic environment that will have companies looking harder than ever for non-dilutive financing.
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