CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 8 The investment community must getback to financing innovation in science, said Stelios Papadopoulos, notedinvestment banker and biotech company builder, at the MassachusettsBiotechnology Council's ninth annual MASS Opportunities Investment Conference(MASS Opps). He said the industry can't rely on retooling failed drugs orrepackaging therapies.
Papadopoulos's keynote address, The Declining Role of Innovation inBiotech, followed the steady decline of initial public offerings (IPOs) forbiotechnology companies with innovative science and technology at early stagesof development. The investment community is now focused on product-basedcompanies with Phase II or III data, and balanced pipelines. He cited theinvestor influence as the big challenge: the need to deliver faster returns.
Papadopoulos did express positive trends for biotechnology companiesfocusing on innovation. The most recent activity in the mergers andacquisitions front suggests that pharmaceutical companies are prepared to paypremium prices in order to acquire science-based biotech companies. "It is ourcollective responsibility to find ways to continue funding companies withexciting ideas," said Papadopoulos, who concluded by remarking: "The end ofinnovation will spell the end of biotech, and that's unacceptable".
Papadopoulos spoke before nearly 500 attendees at MASS Opps, New England'slargest investor conference.
"Following last year's MASS Opps, the private presenting companiesannounced $198 million in new venture capital fundraising. Two companiesannounced IPOs totaling more than $107 million, and twelve alliances andpartnerships were formed including a $1 billion licensing deal," saidMassachusetts Biotechnology Council President Robert Coughlin. "Publiccompanies presenting last year received three U.S. FDA approvals, oneinternational approval, and nine licensing deals.
"This year we had 32 private and public companies presenting. It isessential that these growing companies meet with the same success," saidCoughlin. "We hope MASS Opps will help them achieve meet their financingobjectives."
Governor Deval Patrick, who spoke before Papadopoulos, said the $1 billionLife Sciences legislation now at the State House has general consensus aroundthe principals, and asked for phone calls, letters, and expressions ofinterest to state leaders.
Future of Biotechnology Showcased: Nanotechnology, Mitochondria, RNA
Nanotechnology, RNA, and mitochondria research were highlighted asopportunities on the horizon. Vamsi Mootha, PhD, assistant professor ofSystems Biology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital,said many rare and common diseases have been linked to lesions inmitochondria, better known as the powerhouses in our cells, converting oxygenand other nutrients into energy.
The breakdown of normal mitochondrial function has been linked to tumors,diabetes, deafness, blindness, heart disorders, and other diseases, Vamsisaid, who is also the an assistant professor at the Broad Institute of MIT andHarvard. No therapies currently exist to correct breakdowns in mitochondrialfunction. Mootha's lab is working to define how mitochondria form to betterunderstand what occurs when normal function goes awry.
Nanomedicine's progress was detailed by Omid Farokhzad, MD, HarvardMedical School assistant professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital'sLaboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials. Farokhzad's team is buildingtargeted ligand libraries, finding ligands that bind to a target site withhigh specificity and affinity. In preclinical animal studies, targetednanoparticles for prostate cancer showed tumor reduction in five out of sevenmice.
The growing importance and potential power of RNA to new therapies anddiagnostics was discussed by David Bartel, Whitehead Institute member andpro