Halloween is Par-Real-Normal Activity in Biotechnology
By Michael Harris
BioWorld Senior Editor
Most in biotechnology must believe in evidence-based science, rather than supernaturally inferred science fiction. Innovation allows for creativity, but only cold, hard proof-of-concept gets you to market. Let your right-brain freak flag fly in the discovery phase, but Phase III is exclusively left-brain hallowed ground!
So, it’s understandable if you do not believe in ghosts, goblins, witches, curses and all that Halloween folklore. But, most unfortunately, all that and more is frightfully on display in the Bio-Halloween Market-House of Horrors.
Insight the Bio-Halloween Market-House of Horrors
Disease provides the haunted market with its cursed-by-the-millions afflicted denizens, while the murder-spree economy and a slew of botched experiments account for the 400,000-plus lost souls sent wandering into the abyss of unemployment this century. Witness the armies of walking zombies, lumbering in various stages of neuromuscular, arthritic and dementia trances. Observe the Frankensteins ambling and flailing about, trying to negotiate their re-engineered and transplanted body parts. Observe the haunted house market wing, entombed home to the confounded obesity research clinics. The Hall of Mass Murderers displays the portraits and legacies of cancer and heart disease, along with the new killer-on-the-loose making a name for itself: Alzheimer’s disease.
Eerie reportings of a fleeting apparition abound regularly, as the disembodied spirit of biosimilars continues to eternally walk the Earth in drug development purgatory, searching for the regulatory pathway that leads to the light. Spooky campfire tales of urban legends are told these days by the light of the iPhone, such as the tale of the eternal FDA approval process nightmare, or the fable of the aforementioned obesity drug firms, interred in a time warp, forced to perpetually relive the disappointment and rejection meted out by the punitive FDA overlords.
If you dare enter this place by the IPO entrance, do not be lured into its secret tunnels looking for an exit. More than 60 percent of the intrepid seekers that were seduced with promises of NASDAQ super powers disappeared into the stock market labyrinth and haven’t been seen in the profit column since. Many brief sightings have been alleged of trapped souls with their dying faces pressed against the IPO window and with their bloodied hands slammed in the sill, alas, clutching their ticker symbols, moaning, “It’s not an exit; it’s a mausoleum!”
Dungeons and Monsters in Biotech
And what good is a market haunting without blood-curdling, hypertensive chills, spills, entertainment and peril? For such heart-stopping fare, you’ll find the Patent Cliff Thrill Ride; the Bottom Dropout Stock Market game; Follow-On if You Dare Race; Stockholder Beat-down Gauntlet, VC Monopoly; My-Soul-for-a-Ticker IPO Roulette; and Trivial Pursuit: The Early Stage Financing Edition. And just try to find your way out of the clinical trial cornfield maize.
Enter this sideshow portal and marvel as the NIH director is forced to spin budget dollars into gold, Rumpelstiltskin-style. Health care reform . . . “It’s Alive!” NIH budget . . . “It’s DOA!”
So, after braving three years of the Economy from Hell, alien financing competition from the Big Pharma biopartnering beasts, Biotech Drug Prices from Outer Space and the immortal clinical trial process, the VC Coven has identified the FDA as the Medusa that can stop business development stone cold? Life’s a clinical trial and then you die!
Meanwhile, in the dungeon, the stench of thousands of rank-and-file beheadings persists, as drugmakers utilize the restructuring guillotine.
Don’t answer the knock at the door! Too late, for you’ve just been served with a certified bump in the night . . . the complete response letter!
Meanwhile, covering the market walls like a raging Godzilla Kudzu is social media, (“it’s mesmerizing, but what is it?”), casting a spell over all, convincing the market of its relevance, yet leaving everyone stammering to explain or utilize its relevance. The machines have finally taken over, as a frighteningly high 60 percent of patients and consumers get their health information, second opinions and self-diagnoses from the Internet. Dr. Wikipedia is in! The Yahoo! Urgent Care Clinic is open 24/7. The Web Med School can instruct laypersons on performing brain surgery or even making drugs without the interference of those regulatory gremlins. And an Internet service contract is a lot less expensive than an office co-pay!
Don’t look in the basement or you’ll find a chilling sight: stem cells shackled to the wall with chains of red tape, existing on only morsels of hope served up by the California legislature.
Upstairs, do not look under the bed, Little Red Biotech, or the Big Bad Pharma just might devour you, luring you into its lair with candy-sweet milestone-laden deals, or just sucking your entire company into the M&A abyss with its vortex of discretionary cash!
But Bio-Halloween is not without its white-hat costumed market figures. The Good Pharma Fairy is paying it forward, amassing a legion of biopartnering deals over the past three years. And biotech drugmakers continue to toil at their bubbling R&D cauldrons in more than 11,000 ongoing trials.
And then, there’s BIO, the industry’s Good Witch Glenda, dispensing facilitation from a distance to guide the industry through the tornadic yellow brick market road to its Blockbuster Oz. It’s the Dirty Harry fixer that defends biotech with a loaded weapon or an Atticus Finch-type resoluteness that regularly is willing to step in front of this superhero drug market and take a bullet from would-be anti-market bullies who would organize an invasion of the market-snatchers, in order to keep the industry researching forward.
VCs may be afraid of suffering the “sidekick syndrome” fate as they accompany biotech into the dark & stormy future ahead; however, when they search their souls, they’ll likely conclude that – other than high-technology – no other market will come close to holding their hands as comfortingly and allowing them to rest in peace more than biotechnology.
Published: November 2, 2011.
Suite: 1100 | Atlanta, Georgia 30346, USA
In the U.S. and Canada: 1-800-477-6307
Outside the U.S.: 1-770-810-3144
In the U.S. and Canada: 1-800-336-4474
Outside the U.S.: 1-215-386-0100
Hours: Monday - Thursday, 8:30 am - 6:00 pm EST
Friday, 8:30am - 4:30 pm EST
Sign up for Perspectives FREE e-mail newsletter