Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tech Transfers: Turn-Offs or Start-Ups?

     Recently, Donna Rounds, the Director of Technology Development at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York noted that "the dirty little secret for starting a new business is that you can get most things out of a tech transfer department pretty damned cheap." This December marks the 30th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act which in effect gave birth to the idea of tech transfer. In response to a sluggish US atmosphere for innovation, the law was passed to give ownership of inventions, developed with the aid of federal research funds, back to the universities that created them; it also allowed research institutions the freedom to negotiate whatever license terms would encourage development of the technology. The act was immediately dubbed by The Economist as "the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half century."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to Invest in Life Sciences

     No area of investing has greater potential risks -- or greater pay-offs -- than companies in the life sciences sector, especially if you consider their potential benefits to society. Who doesn't want to contribute to a cure for Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease or even to the development of a "marker" to help in the diagnosis of a disease? It's often a hugely personal decision for investors whose interest may be peaked because a family member or friend has a particular disease. But investors have to be prepared to understand what makes life sciences companies different from other investments. And they need to know what questions to ask.
     In a recent presentation for angel investors at a Golden Seeds forum, Anne Shehab, who holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering as well an MBA, and has filled strategic leadership posts at DuPont, Biogen, Arthur Little, and Valeritas suggests three distinguishing industry features: it's a highly regulated industry worldwide; the value chain has an imbalanced power structure, which gives more control to the payers (insurance companies, for example) than to the ultimate beneficiary, the patient. It's also an industry in transition in terms of delivery systems, technology, diseases in the spotlight and regulations, especially since the recent health reform act passed.