BioPharm America 2011 – Boston 
Posted by Carlos on Sep 12, 2011

Lacerta Bio was fortunate to attend this year’s BioPharm America conference in Boston. Here are a few of our comments and observations:

Are Specialty Markets the Future? – Moderated by Bruce Booth, the panel discussed the shift from primary care to specialty markets by Big Pharma/Big Biotech. A few interesting notes:

  • Price cuts, even in Europe, are not as aggressive in specialty markets. However, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to demonstrate value.
  • An “unmet medical need” can be defined as a patient population that fails first, second, and third-line therapies. This concept can be applied to primary care diseases such as hypertension, where there may be subsegments of patients that are running out of therapeutic options. Product line extensions or repurposed drugs may play a role in these segments.
  • Several big pharma panelists made the odd statement about their desire to see Proof of Concept and/or Head-to-Head Phase II trials before considering in-licensure. However, it remained unclear to us how small companies are expected to fund these trials, given the current risk aversion seen by many early-stage investors. It was noted that corporate VCs may be able to fill this funding gap.
Biotech Business Models – This was another excellent panel discussion on business models. There was a good discussion on the funding of companies vs. the funding of assets. The panel agreed that either approach works, provided that the Board, Investors, and Management have a clear, articulated plan on what they want to do, where they want to go, and how they plan on getting there. 

BD gets Social – We participated in a lengthy panel discussion on the use of social media tools (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) by pharma/biotech:

Moderator Steve Dickman, CEO of @cbtadvisors, and a panel of social-media-savvy dealmakers engaged in a lively roundtable discussion about using social media to help achieve your business objectives. They cover topics such as which social media platforms are acceptable for which types of activities and how to position yourself and your company through social media. Panelists include Bruce Booth – @LifeSciVC Partner, Atlas Venture, Cynthia Clayton – Senior Director, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications, @Alnylam, @adamfeuerstein – Senior Columnist, TheStreet, @JohnCFierce – Editor-in-Chief, FierceBiotech, @Michael_Gilman – CEO, Stromedix, Carlos N. Velez – Managing Partner, @LacertaBio, @daphnezohar – Founder, Managing Partner, PureTech Ventures.

The discussion was a fascinating look at how public and private biotech companies use these tools, how the media use these tools, and how service providers use these tools. The audience (both live and virtual) asked some very good questions, especially around the legal and ethical implications around these topics. Next time, I would like to see more specific discussion on how companies use these tools for business development, but this is a minor quibble. It was an enjoyable experience, and I hope EBD has similar sessions in the future.

Boston – Having this conference in Boston makes a difference. We’ve attended previous versions of this conference on the West Coast, but it seemed to us that Boston a) attracts a larger crowd from Boston (obviously), and b) Boston attracts more attendees from Europe and the Middle East. In fact, 58% of our one-on-one meetings were with companies based outside the US, and included countries such as the UK, France, Israel, and Turkey. While this is true for a mega-conference like BIO, we’re not convinced we would achieve 50%+ ex-US meeting rates at a smaller West Coast conference (with the possible exception of greater Asian representation at a West Coast conference).

Overall, we found it to be an excellent conference. As always, EBD took good care of us, providing excellent lunches, dinners, and receptions. We look forward to BioPharm America 2012 in Boston.

For another conference summary, please visit this blog from the Children’s Hospital Boston. Other good posts on the impact of Twitter on Biotech include this one from Luke Timmerman and this one by Maude Tessier. Other conference summaries will be added to this post as they emerge.

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