Business and Science for BD & others
#70, April 2012
The skeptical VC or partner
VCs (and potential partners) see thousands of opportunities and most don’t succeed. So it is inevitable that over time they become pessimistic, and while hearing your story are mostly thinking of reasons why it won’t succeed. Dave Lavinsky suggests (and I paraphrase these a bit):
1. Pre-emptively address their concerns.
2. Avoid non-specific superlatives like “world-class”
3. Relate your story to a proven success, “like x, but better because…”
4. Boost your credibility by showing specificity, established relationships with customers, and strong advisors.
The Black Queen Hypothesis – eliminating genes with outsourcing
Bacteria belonging to the genus Prochlorococcus are almost impossible to grow — which seems counterintuitive, given that they're also the most abundant photosynthesizing organisms on Earth. Over the course of evolution, these wildly successful bacteria have lost their ability to break down toxic substances like hydrogen peroxide, relying on other organisms to do this work on their behalf.
In the game of Hearts, a player wants to avoid ending the game with the Black Queen (the queen of spades). The Black Queen Hypothesis says getting rid of a gene can provide a selective advantage by conserving an organism’s limiting resources, provided the gene’s function is dispensable. Many vital genetic functions are leaky, thereby unavoidably producing materials available to the entire community. Such leaky functions are thus dispensable for individuals, provided they are not lost entirely from the community. Here, the provider of the benefit is not hurt, as in parasitic relationships, nor benefitted as in symbiosis.
The Black Queen Hypothesis predicts that the loss of a costly, leaky function is selectively favored at the individual level and will proceed until the production of public goods is just sufficient to support the equilibrium community; at that point, the benefit of any further loss would be offset by the cost. Evolution in accordance with the Black Queen Hypothesis thus generates “beneficiaries” of reduced genomic content that are dependent on leaky “helpers,” and it may explain the observed non-universality of prototrophy (ability to make a key nutrient), stress resistance, and other cellular functions in the microbial world. http://mbio.asm.org/content/3/2/e00036-12 http://io9.com/5897134/researchers-describe-a-new-evolutionary-theory-the-black-queen-hypothesis
Getting fired from your own start-up
PE Hub had an interview with Harvard Business School professor Noah Wasserman, author of The Founder’s Dilemma. Dr. Wasserman reports that 52% of founders are gone by the time a company raises its 3rd round of funding, and 73% of those are fired. Many effective founders are pushed out when investors want to change the strategy into areas where the founder has no experience. The Founder’s Dilemmalooks like a good book for entrepreneurs!
Cancer cell line encyclopedia of genetics and drug response
Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in England, analyzed more than 600 types of cancer cells and looked at their response to 130 possible therapeutics. A second team from the Broad Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge created detailed genetic portraits of nearly 1,000 types of cancer cells and then looked at how about half of those cells responded to two dozen cancer drugs. This new Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia (CCLE) was published in Nature. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/nature11003.html
Bruce Booth on business models and critical success factors
Bruce Booth writes on the key success factors for the two business models that Atlas favors.
For a drug discovery product engine, the initial emphasis is validating that the platform can deliver product candidates again and again. Atlas assumes that $25-50M will be needed to get to value realization if the team can
1) avoid settling for an early, less-than-quality lead, and quickly abandon programs if a killer differentiated application cannot be found,
2) get non-dilutive funds from partnerships, and
3) know what to build as competencies and what to outsource.
For single-asset development companies, Atlas assumes that $15-25M will be needed to get to clinical proof of concept and that the critical success factors are
1) an experienced core team of seasoned drug hunters to manage the virtual model,
2) selecting a broad network of superb advisors, CRO partners, and academic collaborators, and
3) being able to tap advisors and networks for BD without too much distraction from the drug development.
Are genes patentable? Myriad case heads back to Federal Circuit after Prometheus decision
I wrote about the Myriad brca cancer gene patent case in Pullan’s Pieces. The court ruled that in isolating cDNA, the genes are no longer part of the bigger DNA polymer and chromosomes, and so are transformed and patentable. http://www.lindapullan.com/Pages/62.aspx
But now, the Supreme Court has ruled against diagnostic company Prometheus and its personalized medicine patent claims of optimizing the doses of drugs by measuring metabolites. The patent claims are invalid because they merely describe natural phenomenon, the “relationships between concentrations of certain metabolites in the blood and the likelihood that a dosage of a thiopurine drug will prove ineffective or cause harm.” The court said that to be patentable there must be some additional inventive application of the natural phenomenon. However, the Supreme Court did not give a clear test for what is enough of an inventive addition to be patentable. http://www.pharmapatentsblog.com/2012/03/20/justice-breyer-gets-the-last-word-and-invalidates-prometheus-personalized-medicine-claims/
Now the Supreme Court has sent back to the Appeals Court the Myriad case for re-examination in light of the Prometheus decision. Will the isolation of the genes be enough of an inventive addition to a natural phenomenon to be patentable? And will the Myriad methods of screening potential cancer therapeutics by analyzing growth rates of cells with altered BRCA genes in the presence or absence of the treatments be seen as substantially different from the natural correlation in the Prometheus case? Stay tuned!
See you at the next meeting?
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