Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘BIO 2011 Meeting’

What is innovation? Like “strategy” and “leadership” it’s a term we frequently use, something we all seek in the biotech/pharma industry, yet it’s hard to define, even harder to develop or predict.

What is the future for innovative medicines in our industry’s pipeline? was the title of a session that I attended yesterday afternoon at BIO 2011, the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO) in Washington DC.

BIO 2011 Innovation Pipeline SessionModerated by John Mendlein, the panel contained some R&D heavy weights:

  • Tom Daniel, President of Research & Early Development, Celgene
  • Charles Homcy, Venture Partner, Third Rock Ventures
  • Moncef Slaoui, Chairman R&D, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Doug Williams, Executive VP, R&D, Biogen Idec

Several people in the audience live tweeted the key messages of the speakers, and I encourage you to review them, if interested.  The take homes that I took from this session were:

Innovation can be incremental or major breakthroughs

Many people think of innovation as a major breakthrough. Well worn clichés such as “ground breaking”, “game changing” come to mind.  In pharma, I’d cite imatinib (Glivec®/Gleevec®) in CML as an example.  In the consumer world, the Dyson vacuum cleaner jumps out to me.  Something completely redesigned and made better = innovation.

However, incremental change can also be innovation if it has an impact.  Take a new drug formulation that instead of daily dosing moves it to monthly doses and in the process improves patient compliance and adherence.  That’s incremental innovation.

“Incremental versus major breakthrough” reminds me of scientific research.  Most published papers are incremental, only rarely is there a major paradigm shift and landmark study.  Only a few PhD students undertake truly novel research, instead the majority pursue incremental avenues associated with their supervisor’s interests. An oversimplification perhaps but there’s some truth to it.

Understanding science enables Innovation

Companies should focus their energies on disease mechanisms where the basic science has reached an inflection point of knowledge i.e. there is enough information for us to apply. This is why the work of research organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is so important. In an area where there is the disease knowledge emerging, you can then put together a team of people who understand the science and biology of the disease.  This does not guarantee innovation, but allows the identification of opportunities and in my view “enables innovation.”

Innovation will come from focus on molecular pathology of disease

Drug development is no longer focused on treating symptoms but on the underlying mechanism of a disease.  Medicine itself is moving in this direction with personalized medicine and drugs that target specific mutations of genes e.g crizotinib in lung cancer.  In a complex world of overlapping pathways (cancer and inflammation was the example cited), drug development innovation is going to come from understanding the molecular pathology of a disease. The terms “translational medicine” was not used in the session, but this is what comes to mind.  Understanding science is key to success.

What is the future for innovative medicines in our industry’s pipeline? The panelists didn’t actually answer this question directly, but my view is that it is promising.

Everyone at BIO 2011, the annual international convention of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is into networking.  Sit next to someone on one of the shuttle buses, in a coffee line or in a meeting hall and a conversation will soon be struck up and business cards exchanged.  Business development, partnering and making connections is what this meeting is really about.

BIO 2011 Networking Delaware BoatWith this in mind, there’s a series of receptions, parties and events that take place around BIO. Yesterday late afternoon, I attended a reception on the Kalmar Nyckel, AKA the Delaware Boat. It is a replica of the tall ship that sailed from Sweden to the New World in 1638, and landed 24 settlers in the Delaware Valley, in what is today Wilmington, DE. Today’s replica serves as Delaware’s goodwill ambassador.  Hosting a reception on a boat made a change from the standard hotel ballroom.

BIO 2011 Reception NewseumIn the evening the official BIO reception took place at the Newseum.  Plenty of food, drinks and music, plus the opportunity to mix, mingle and explore the Newseum. I enjoyed it! You could even try your hand at being a newscaster at one of the interactive exhibits.

This evening I will be at the New Zealand and Italian Embassies for receptions. BIO 2011 – network till you drop!

BIO 2011 Tweetup Old Dominion BrewhouseThe most enjoyable part of Day 1 of BIO 2011 for me was the unofficial tweetup at the Old Dominion Brewhouse.  Who are the people I have been interacting with on Twitter? Some have twitter handles close to their name, others like me are more cryptic. So at a tweetup it’s common to introduce yourself through the language of twitter, “I’m @3NT.”

Meeting up with someone you have had twitter conversations is like meeting up with a penpal (for those who can remember the days when we still wrote letters and didn’t have email, twitter or facebook). In many ways you already know each other and have common interests, so the conversation is easy.  Putting a name to a face is fun.

At the BIO 2011 tweetup yesterday, it was great to meet up with @IAmBiotech, @LacertaBio, @ldtimmerman, @FierceBiotech, @JKureczka, @corytromblee, @christianetrue, @InVivoBlogChris, @lisamjarvis, @jacquimiller (apologies to anyone I missed who was at the tweetup but I didn’t manage to meet).

If you want to plug into biotech social media and hear what the conversation is at BIO 2011, then the Icarus Consultants website is aggregating the hastag #BIO2011 tweets.

I look forward to following on Twitter what’s happening at BIO 2011 today, especially as there are several parallel sessions that I will not be able to attend.

 

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