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Bio Roundup: Frazier v. Trump, Data Dumps, New York Steps & More

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 08:45

The CEO of a major U.S. pharmaceutical company was in the news this week, but for a change not because of the cost of drugs. Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier (pictured) was the first of what quickly became a line of CEOs to exit President Trump’s manufacturing council, leading to its dissolution altogether. Frazier was widely praised by other life sciences leaders, even as he drew Trump’s ire.

Elsewhere, the Affordable Care Act got a temporary helping hand, New York biotech got another boost, and the market for a new type of ovarian cancer drug got even more crowded. Let’s round it... Read more »

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Expanding Tissue and Squeezing Cells: Meet Xconomy’s Young Innovator Award Finalists

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 13:17
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The finalists in the Young Innovator category of the 2017 Xconomy Awards show that it’s never too early in life to start a company or invent a new technology. These four individuals (30 years of age or under) share a strong drive, even a restlessness, to build new things that make a difference. Three knew early on that, despite spending time in academic labs, they wanted to hatch a startup and use it to help make that difference. One has opted to stay in academia to open up new ways of peering deeper into cells. Here are brief introductions to the... Read more »

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Private Equity Investors Have $740 Billion to Spend, Driving Valuations

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 01:01

Private equity investors have more capital at their disposal than at any time in more than a decade, which could boost prices for companies seeking acquisitions.

As of Aug. 1, private equity firms in North America and Europe had secured $212.6 billion in new commitments this year, on pace to eclipse the “already stellar” fundraising year they had in 2016, according to a new report and analysis out Thursday from Seattle-based PitchBook.

“Dry powder levels in North American and European PE funds reached new heights of $738.7 billion as of year-end 2016, exceeding the levels seen at the end of... Read more »

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Dragonfly, eGenesis, Spero & More: Xconomy’s Startup Award Finalists

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:30

Startups play a critical role in the innovation economy that we chronicle at Xconomy—transforming new ideas that begin in a lab into the products and companies of tomorrow. No surprise, then, that the startup category in our first-ever Awards program was a particularly competitive one, loaded with private companies (no more than 5 years old) in several biotech hotspots: gene editing, microbiome research, immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine, digital health and more. Here are brief introductions to our six startup finalists.

First up is eGenesis, one of the latest startups tied to the work of Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church (Church... Read more »

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Kauffman Fellows Take On VC Sexual Harassment, Bench Mentor McClure

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 09:56

If you’re looking for a counterpoint to the recent flurry of news stories about sexual harassment and gender bias in the tech sector, the Kauffman Fellows program isn’t a bad place to start.

The Palo Alto, CA-based program, a spinoff of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, has been a gateway into the venture capital industry for women and other under-represented groups for nearly two decades. It provides a two-year mentoring and education program, and then lifelong membership in a global network where members have been screened for integrity and other character traits. (A group of Kauffman Fellows is pictured above.)

The network... Read more »

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GSK Hands Nerve Drug Back to Ionis as RNA Battle Heats Up

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 09:33

A race is on to bring two new RNA-based drugs for a rare, debilitating nerve disease called familial amyloid polyneuropathy (FAP). And GlaxoSmithKline has just dropped out of it.

This morning, Ionis Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IONS) said that it has regained full rights, from GSK, to a drug called inotersen, which the Carlsbad, CA, company expects to submit to regulators in the U.S. and Europe for a review this year. If the FDA approves inotersen, it could become the first marketed treatment in the U.S. for FAP.

Ionis partner GSK dumped the drug—as well as another experimental medicine Ionis plans... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: $1B Deals, Data Bumps, Acorda’s Lumps, Generic OKs & More

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 07:55

With President Trump holed up in New Jersey, rattling his saber at Kim Jong-un and Mitch McConnell and ignoring his own commission’s advice on the opioid crisis, there was still life sciences news from the nation’s capital. The FDA reported that generic drug approvals are set to hit a record; the agency under Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has moved this summer to increase generic competition and lower the nation’s high drug prices.

Meanwhile, drug-price hawks can sharpen their talons on a report this week from The New York Times and ProPublica. The joint investigation showed that pharmaceutical firms, insurers, and... Read more »

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Tech Hiring Trends: Buzzwords, Trump Effect, and Gender-Pay Gap

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 18:16

As the tech economy continues its historic boom, here’s three views of labor market trends released this week, including the rise and fall of buzzwords in engineering job postings; the Trump Administration’s impact on U.S. companies’ interest in foreign workers; and another disappointing look at the gender-pay gap.

—In the last two years, big data has fallen off the buzzword bingo card. Data is table-stakes for doing practically anything interesting in tech, and it’s the fuel for machine learning algorithms. And of course we’re not talking about a little data here or there. It’s got to be big. So there’s probably... Read more »

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Why We All Should Care About the Recent Brouhaha at Google

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 09:40

The issues raised by the 10-page memo on the suitability of women for certain engineering and leadership positions at Google (culminating in the firing of its author) have implications for all of us.

They are as much about the requirements for success in today’s workplace—and how to identify and nurture those qualities in all employees—as they are about gender disparity. In fact, I would argue, gender disparity is reinforced by the emphasis that most organizations, including universities and professional schools, focus on educational requirements and specific technical skills (such as programming languages) when there is good research on the importance of personal... Read more »

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Startup Builders, IPO Closers & More: Meet Xconomy’s CEO Award Finalists

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 07:00

There are many ways to stand out as a biotech CEO, from getting a company started in the first place to pushing its first drug over the finish line. Those differences are what we noticed when going through the nominations from you, the readers, for the top Boston biotech CEO, as part of the first-ever Xconomy Awards.

Together with a panel of judges—a group of 11 Boston-area life sciences veterans—we’ve combed through all the entries to come up with the seven finalists we found most compelling. This is a diverse group of CEOs representing companies at different points in their... Read more »

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Athena Survey Probes Gender Issues in San Diego Innovation Ecosystem

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 15:06

A San Diego survey on professional women working in tech and life sciences offers some insights on the recurring debate over gender diversity in venture-backed startups and big companies, as well as a related incident that boiled over this week at Google.

When asked, “What do you aspire to be, professionally?” nearly 29 percent of the respondents said they want to become the chief executive officer, or to hold a similar C-level job (such as CFO or CTO); another 20 percent aspire to become a director or senior corporate executive—and over a third said, “I’m already there.”

Speaking more broadly, slightly... Read more »

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Xconomy Awards: The Finalists Are….

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 18:45

The nominees for our first ever Xconomy Awards were an impressive bunch, and represent a wide range of the technologies, approaches, and yes, personalities, that are all driving Boston biotech today. There’s a lot of talent in this town, so narrowing the list of more than 250 nominations down to a handful of finalists in each category took a lot discussion and debate amongst our editors and our esteemed panel of judges.

We are pleased to say that this effort has produced an outstanding group of 53 finalists in 10 categories. (Eagle-eyed readers will spy the names of some... Read more »

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An Insider’s Guide to Bridging the Biotech Gender Gap

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 01:40

As an executive recruiter focused solely on life sciences, I’m among the first to acknowledge the industry’s gender gap. Of the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies around the world, only one has a woman at the helm—and GSK named Emma Natasha Walmsley as CEO less than five months ago.

Among biotech executive leadership teams, women make up a scant 20.9 percent for small and medium-sized enterprises (between 10-1,000 employees), which drops to 13.9 percent for big biotechs (more than 1,000 employees), according to the life sciences search firm Liftstream.  

This state of affairs isn’t good for business. Fortune 500 companies with... Read more »

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Opportunity Abounds as Washington Builds the Modern Electricity Grid

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 20:47

[Updated 8/9/17, 9:48 a.m. See below.] In a dry grassland set amid some of the region’s preeminent energy research, production, and training facilities, you can see the future of the electricity grid, and Washington state companies and workers are playing a major role in shaping it.

The Horn Rapids Solar, Storage, and Training Project—which would be the largest solar installation in Washington, and one of a relative few anywhere with a significant amount of energy storage incorporated—embodies a long chain of public and private sector efforts that have positioned the state, and the broader Pacific Northwest, as a... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: CRISPR Advances, Obamacare Lives, FDA Nods & More

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 08:20

Gene editing took an important step this week when a group of U.S. researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to correct a genetic error in dozens of human embryos without complications. It’s a significant achievement, but amidst the hype, it’s worth cautioning just how much work has to be done before the technology leads to a safe and effective human therapeutic. Years of clinical testing, and likely unforeseen twists and turns, lay ahead, with many more biological mysteries to solve along the way. For a dose of reality, look no further than a separate research paper also submitted this week by one of... Read more »

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Social Web Startup Signs Deal with AP to Distribute Sports Scores

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 20:00

ScoreStream, a San Diego area startup providing a crowdsourced social media platform for reporting high school sports scores, said Thursday it has agreed to distribute high school game scores under a new collaboration agreement with The Associated Press.

Under their agreement, this fall ScoreStream will begin distributing and publishing high school football scores across 42 states through the AP and other media networks (including ScoreStream’s own website). ScoreStream said it also will report high school basketball scores for both boys and girls in 33 states.

The Associated Press, which shares news with member newspapers, Web outlets, and broadcasters around the world,... Read more »

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Dramatic Capital Inflows Continue in 2Q17… Trouble Ahead?

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 16:28

In an environment of microscopic interest rates, it is particularly interesting to read the Preqin 2Q17 Quarterly Update, which exhaustively tracks all things private equity and venture capital. At the end of June 2017 there were 1,998 funds in market raising a total of $676 billion – a staggering sum – indicative of global investors desperately looking for alpha. Admittedly, SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund skews the data somewhat but at the beginning of 2017, there were 1,834 managers raising $525 billion, which were already all-time highs.

In 2Q17 private equity funds raised nearly $121 billion across 206 funds; buyout... Read more »

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Cibus Readies Enhanced Crops for Push into Canada, and Beyond

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 01:40

After raising $57 million in a Series B round of venture funding, the San Diego agricultural biotech Cibus Global is laying the groundwork to introduce its first commercial product in Canada.

Cibus introduced its first enhanced crop—an herbicide-resistant strain of canola—in the U.S. about two years ago, CEO Peter Beetham said Wednesday in an interview with Xconomy. But of the 22 million acres that grow canola in North America, Beetham said about 20 million are in Canada. So, “the big launch really is next year in Canada,” Beetham said.

After that, he said Cibus is looking to introduce its herbicide-resistant canola... Read more »

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San Diego’s Amplyx Raises $67M to Advance New Anti-Fungal Drug

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 03:01

After completing an early stage evaluation of its broad-spectrum anti-fungal drug, San Diego’s Amplyx Pharmaceuticals said Wednesday it has raised $67 million in a Series C financing round led by a new investor, Sofinnova Venture Partners.

Ciara Kennedy, who succeeded Mike Grey as Amplyx CEO late last year, said in an interview with Xconomy that the company plans to report results of its Phase 1 study at IDWeek, the annual infectious diseases conference that is set for early October in San Diego. (Grey, who also is a venture partner with Pappas Ventures, moved to executive chairman at Amplyx.)

But raising $67... Read more »

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CyberTech Founder Andersen Named to Head Nxt Robotics Startup

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 09:46

Nxt Robotics, a San Diego startup developing robots for private security, has named San Diego CyberHive and CyberTech founder Darin Anderson as CEO. Jeff Debrosse, the San Diego cybersecurity expert who founded Nxt Robotics in 2014, will continue as CTO, according to a statement from the company.

Andersen and Debrosse worked together a decade ago at Eset, while Andersen served as COO in the Slovakian anti-virus company’s San Diego headquarters and Debrosse was director of cyber threat analysis and an Eset “senior security evangelist,” according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Under Andersen, the startup has expanded its strategy beyond developing service... Read more »

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