Business and Science for BD & others
#64, October 2011
Trends transforming the business of oncology
The Campbell Alliance wrote a great article on changes in the oncology drug business. Large pharma is expanding oncology pipelines (they all want to be number 1 in oncology!). Oncology is becoming increasingly targeted (with the number of drugs targeting cell surface receptors up in numbers 1.7x since 2000 and cell cycle cytotoxics down 0.4x). More agents are aimed at each of the most popular molecular targets. More agents are being developed in small population tumor types. Biomarkers are more common. Cancer drugs can be blockbusters. More reps; there are now 3 reps for every 10 oncologists! Governments and payors influence oncology decisions. The reimbursement method is increasingly based on average selling price. Prior authorization and defined treatment options are being used to control costs in oncology. http://www.oncbiz.com/journal-obrgreen-201109.php
Quantum mechanics in biology?
My mind is boggled but intrigued with the idea that particles occupying two spaces at once (like Schrödinger’s cat) are part of biology. One hypothesis says that the amazing diversity of detectable odors may arise in part from electron tunneling, a quantum mechanics phenomenon. When an electron is confined in an atom, it does not have an exactly defined energy but has a spread of possible energies. That means there is a certain probability that it will simply burrow through the energy barrier that would normally prevent it escaping the atom. Luca Turin's idea is that when an odorous molecule lodges in the pocket of a receptor, an electron can burrow right through that molecule from one side to the other, unleashing a cascade of signals on the other side that the brain interprets as a smell. The advantage is that it creates a smell without the need for an exact shape fit. The mechanism is physically plausible: the timescales are consistent with the speed with which the brain responds to smell, and the signals generated are large enough for the brain to process (). And in January this year, Turin showed that fruit flies can distinguish between two types of acetophenone, a common base for perfumes, when one contains normal hydrogen and the other contains heavier deuterium. Both forms have the same shape, but vibrate at different frequencies (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1012293108). The article in the New Scientist has proponents for a quantum mechanics effect in the speed of ATP energy transfer and in the efficiency of light extraction in photosynthesis. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128321.500-quantum-life-the-weirdness-inside-us.html?full=true
Pricing challenges for incremental innovators
New analogs of insulin have big challenges getting premium pricing over older forms of insulin. Novo Nordisk argues that the resistance by payors is short term cost savings versus long term health economics that could be gained from better disease control with the longer acting new molecules. But big markets mean big pricing pressures. The UK National Health Service said that it could have saved have saved over £600 million between 2000 and 2009 if it had prescribed human instead of analog insulins. Small improvements are not getting recognized as valuable. http://invivoblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/insulin-pricing-let-battles-begin.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+invivoblog+%28The+IN+VIVO+Blog%29
An software algorithm to score VC investment requests at Right Side Capital Management
Right Side Capital Management is using a software scoring algorithm to sort through the seed stage companies seeking investment. Fill out some short forms on the web with demographic and company information and submit the forms to the site. With questions that cover experience, education, present funding and a myriad of other topics, it appears that each question is given a certain weight which can then translate to a dollar amount and specific terms. http://www.rightsidecapital.com/demoforms.html
The results? The NextWeb Insider blog reports being impressed. “Inserting 1 of each form for a half-real startup that I have in mind, RSCM’s algorithm returned a responsible, reasonable valuation and then a figure of how much funding would be prudent against that value. Granted, the idea that I submitted wasn’t for the next big thing, but it was a viable idea (in fact, already proven) and the valuation that was given was within responsible figures for an investment house that is looking to keep its risks lower.” http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/10/05/right-side-capital-skips-the-investment-gut-check-opting-for-an-algorithm-instead/#_=1318378818674&align=&button=blue&id=twitter_tweet_button_2&lang=en&link_color=&screen_name=TNWindustry&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&text_color=
Green fluorescence tags cancer cells for surgical excision
Check out the cool and persuasive images on the use of green fluorescent imaging to label ovarian cancer cells for surgeons to remove. They were able to see clusters 1/10th as large as seen without the imaging. http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/surgeons-remove-%E2%80%98glowing%E2%80%99-cancer/
Signaling pathways have low information, requiring multiple cells to chatter
The amount of information in the biochemical signaling of the NF-kB pathway to a cell was surprisingly found to be less than one bit, or binary digit-- at most, enough for yes or no decision. Yet NF-kB is regulating all kinds of complex decisions made by cells, in response to stimuli ranging from stress, free radicals, bacterial and viral pathogens. Emory University researchers analyzed several other biochemical pathways besides NF-kB and got a similar result, suggesting that a data capacity of less than one bit could be the standard. So if each cell does not get all its information through signaling pathways, where is it coming from?
“We’re proposing that cells somehow talk with each other outside of these known pathways. A single cell doesn’t have enough information to consider all the variables and decide whether to repair some tissue. But when groups of cells talk to each other, and each one adds just a bit of knowledge, they can make a collective decision about what actions to take.” http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/cells-chatter-to-overcome-wimpy-dial-up/
FDA conservatism decreases VC funding, especially in areas with high safety hurdles
The National Venture Capital Association survey of 156 VC firms found that 39% expect to reduce investment in biotech and medtech, due to increased FDA regulatory barriers and reimbursement concerns. Specifically, 36% said they would invest more in Europe. 60% will lower investment in cardiovascular, 54% will reduce diabetes investment and 53% will lower their investment in obesity. http://www.inc.com/news/articles/201110/vc-funding-in-healthcare-innovation-to-drop.html
More projects at Phase III a cause for optimism on industry productivity
John Ansell analyzed (in the BDL journal of the UK PLG) the number of compounds at various stages of development. He suggests that the increase in the number of Phase III molecules may just outweigh the impact of the increasing attrition rates we have experienced over the last decade. Some of this increase in pipeline has been missed in other analyses that are focused only on the larger pharma companies rather than the whole industry. He concludes there could be the beginning of an upturn in the number of compounds reaching the market over the next decade. John’s website http://www.johnansell.com/publist.asp offers reprints to folks in the industry.
See me on Personalized Medicine TV?
I’m being interviewed for a web TV program on "Personalized Medicine and Partnering” on Wednesday Oct 26th, 5pm Pacific. A bit scary but should be fun. Watch it live on http://personalizedmedicinetv.com/content/live. You can call in live at , enter Caller ID: 113311, and then press 1#. You can also ask questions via the chat room.
Or see it later- http://personalizedmedicinetv.com/episode/index
See you at the next meeting?
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