Authors Posts by thinkBiotech



This edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology features a number of posts on distressing industry trends, some enlightening patent discussion, and interesting commentary on issues in commercialization

Industry Trends

Forbes presents Genentech’s Next Act. his dialogue with Genentech’s chief officers acknowledges the longshot Genentech was in its early days and plots the future paths Genentech is pursuing to continue to grow.

The Economist presents Billion dollar pills — a profile of the overhaul transpiring at Pfizer. The magnitude of the hanges taking place at Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company, cast a dark omen over the rest of the industry.

In a departure from the typical “David and Goliath” partnerships between typically small biotech firms and typically large pharmaceutical firms, pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb have formed a partnership to develop diabetes drugs. Could this be the start of a new trend? The Mars Blog gives you their take.

Wrapping up M&A activity in 2006, Signals Magazine finds M&As still sizzling.

Regulation and Patents

Fighting Aging has an interesting take on medical tourism. Beyond just offering lower prices due to lower operating costs, Medical Tourism Means Medical Competition because it can also skirt patent and regulatory burdens.

The Patent Baristas ask Is it Worth it for Generics to Challenge Branded Drugs? The case of Apotex’s generic Plavix highlights many of the motivations for generic firms to challenge drug patents, and questions how far a generic firm should press.

An Nobel laureate in economics posts an editorial in the British Medical Journal challenges the belief that intellectual property rights promote innovation in Scrooge and intellectual property rights and proposes “medical prize fund” in place of patents.


The Scientist’s article The trouble with tech transfer examines the issues
impeding the proression of inventions from research laboratories to the marketplace. The vigorous discussion in the comments section complements the article quite well!

In the light of the mass layoffs of sales workers, Pharmamarketing asks and answers the question, Are Sales Reps Necessary?

Guest content from John Avellanet, managing director of Cerulean Associates:

As professionals affiliated with the biotechnology industry, we often forget that many of the struggles faced today have been solved before by other fields and industries. As Ambrose Bierce wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” The question is, where to look for inspiration?

In the 1970’s, the global automobile industry faced a huge push by consumers and regulators to improve quality and safety. Manufacturing costs skyrocketed. At the same time, up went oil prices, adding a third dimension to the problem: how to improve the fuel efficiency of cars while also improving safety and quality?

There were many strategies to tackle this complex problem (Total Quality Management, for instance), but Toyota found, and was the first to capitalize on, a simple, effective answer: following the Japanese principle of kaizen, continuous improvement, to its logical beginnings, Toyota management and engineers found that the sooner quality and safety were built into the process, the more costs declined. In fact, building quality, safety and efficacy into the product at the early concept, design stage was the most cost-efficient (here I use “efficacy” to capture the concept of fuel efficiency, but also features, passenger room and so forth). This then freed them to play with and innovate on the remaining elements such as style, handling and so on.

Admittedly, the days of the Corolla were numbered, but those early attempts provided Toyota the funding and marketplace stature to build today’s Lexus. In fact, the items that most executives at the time argued were massive hurdles for the industry – quality, safety, efficacy – are now bandied about as competitive qualities. Volvo does not make the most beautiful of cars, but surveys of Volvo owners repeatedly point out the top three answers for why they purchased the Volvo over all other options: safety, followed by efficacy and quality.

In my work helping executives at biotechnology, pharmaceutical and life science firms, I often hear attempts to rationalize away such a comparison with “Yes, but we are talking about hundreds of potential compounds in the early preclinical stage, so that’s not really applicable.” Yet automakers today routinely develop hundreds of concept cars and frequently go on to build many more prototype cars for road testing than any biotech or pharmaceutical firm has new treatments in clinical trials. In fact, the cars you and I will be able to buy seven to ten years from now are currently being tested (along with others that won’t make it) on raceways and simulated town streets and rainstorms right now in Michigan, North Carolina, Japan, Germany and so forth.

Lessons and analogies from other fields and industries can help us reframe the compliance challenges we face and point to ways to reduce costs, boost innovation and improve market success. Ultimately, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms that take the most advantage of these will be the ones dominating the industry 25 years from now.

If you’d like to read further examples and applications that might be more suited to the situation you face, I’ve made a number of my published articles available as PDF downloads in the Resource Library of Cerulean Associates.

I welcome your comments, suggestions or questions. Please feel free to contact me at any of the points either on the Cerulean Associates website or within my articles.

I look forward to talking with you.



Harvard’s Gary Pisano has recently published a book titled Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech in which he assesses the performance of the biotechnology sector and, in finding it lacking, proceeds to recommend a series of suggestions to improve the fundamental architecture of the industry.

While I enjoyed the book and agree with many of the elements, I have some serious reservations about his preliminary analysis and his conclusion that the biotechnology industry has failed to perform. Read my critique and his response in the January edition of the Harvard Business Review.

Lots of interesting developments since the last edition: Pfizer’s high-profile drug failiure, a new law against violent extremists, good news for Merck, and good and bad news for the biotechnology industry as a whole.

News and Trends

The Washington Times has an update on the signing of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Bolstered by recent bombings and other acts of vandalism against biotechnology firms, the bill is designed to make it easier for federal agents to wiretap and prosecute animal rights extremists who have mounted successful campaigns of harassment against researchers.

More welcome news for the industry, a recent study finds that FDA drug approvals are on the rise.

Sign on San Diego has a detailed article on the loss of American biotechnology jobs to offshoring. An important note is that while the impact on workers who have lost their jobs is certainly negative, the prospect of reducing R&D can only serve to bolster the industry.

In what is being billed as an affirmation of Merck’s strategy to challenge the thousands of Vioxx cases one at a time, a federal jury has cleared Merck in the 11th Vioxx Trial. Just 24,000 more cases to go!


There has been so much buzz about the high profile failure of Pfizer’s cholesterol drug, it merits it’s own category.

Pharma Marketing has two posts on the issue: questioning the $800mm price tag associated with the failure and examining the many impacts that the failure will have.

Paul Kedrosky comments on the impact on the future of drug development, concluding that drug development is “broken.” More justification for this conclusion would have been greatly appreciated.

In the Pipeline has, as expected, an series of excellent and very detailed posts on the reasons for torcetrapib’s failure, and the greater impact on Pfizer.

Biotechnology around the world

Signals Magazine‘s post Global Aid from Presidents and Billionaires profiles the many activities dedicated to ensuring that the world’s poor are able to benefit from the latest innovations in healthcare.

While India’s drug manufacturers are often alluded to, there is little detailed information on the actual companies that comprise this industry. Wired profiles Indian Cipla, a company regarded as a pirate among the competitors in developed countries, and a godsend among people in developing countries.

Intellectual Property and Lawsuits

Culture Dish has a post on a DNA sequencing technique patent dispute — Enzo biochem claims that they invented the technique for sequencing DNA, though the patent on it was awarded to some scientists at Caltech nearly 25 years ago.

Pharmablogger presents an inside view of a series of 7,000 complaints filed by the State of Massachusetts against a drug company for unspecified illnesses caused by a psychoactive drug.


The Pharma Marketing Blog takes a look at sleep drugs and Google adwords. The ephemeral nature of Google’s adwords means that ads in violation of FDA rules are being posted and, more importantly, cannot be reported.

The Register reports on a group of scientists looking to rebrand “cloning” as “somatic cell nuclear transfer.” While this rebranding is more precise than the current use of the word cloning (cloning also applies to manipulations of genes that have nothing to do with making copies of mammals), far fewer people are against it — presumably because they don’t know what it is!
R&D Trends

Chemical Engineering News profiles a trend which has been growing in recent years. Biotechnology companies, once defined by their focus on biologic drugs, are increasingly crossing over into pharma territory and trying to develop small-molecule drugs.

This edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology features some interesting commentary on issues ethics, how to dress for drug ads, progress in biogenerics guidance, and innovation.


Signals Magazine presents a Financial Snapshot For September 2006


The Pharma Marketing Blog gives us some fashion advice in Lipitor’s Jarvik: Fop or Flop?


The Patent Baristas give us a double-header: Are Conflicts of Interest on The Rise? and Should Doctors Be Paid To Give Inside Info To Wall Street?


Signals Magazine presents an update on the Bio-Generic Regulatory Debate and matching commentary in Gearing Up For Bio-Generics


On Pharma asks Are Pharma’s Lean Projects Having an Impact?

This edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology features commentary on regulatory problems and progress, international development, and failed commercialization strategies.


The Washington Post has a report from the Institute of Medicine claiming that the drug review system is broken, and calling for changes.

The Patent Barista’s update the road to biogenerics, profiling recent bills aimed at formalizing processes to approve generic versions of biologic drugs.
International Development

Pharmalicensing has a post on the costs and benefits of clinical trials in India.

Solata Advisors have a brief post on the evils of starting from technology – it is preferable to start a company by seeking to serve a market rather than develop a technology for which no market may exist.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology. Some pretty good stuff this week. More Vioxx news, the human genome stops by for an update, and no love for the FDA.


SignalsMag provides an update on March financials: Modest Gains, Solid Quarter.


The Drug Wonks take a Dumb and Dumber approach to drug price controls, an excellent case of argumentum ad absurdum.

Following the the same vein, Pharma Marketing explains how the New England Journal of Medicine was Hoodwinked by Merck.
In another post, Pharma Marketing explains why the FDA’s grade just went from pass to fail.

Scientific Developments

The human genome is back in the news, this time reporting for what hopefully will be the last time, that the entire sequence of the human genome has finally been completed.

The Times has an article on Frankencotton where they introduce genetically modified shirts and ask why nobody seems to be afriad of genetically modified clothes.

This week’s edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology addresses a number of issues challenging the biotechnology industry today.


About biotech proclaims Innovation is dead, long live innovation! in the wake of Proctor & Gamble’s spin of the dissolution of it’s pharma R&D efforts as a bold new innovation strategy.

A Vc asks changing our expectations and creating a second way for drugs to come to market can solve the ills facing the industry.


The Drug Wonks present their modest proposal, a solution for those concerned about big pharma’s unreasonable drug prices


With a number of medical blunders such as the withdrawal of Vioxx, disastrous clinical trials, and now Bausch & Lomb’s association with fungal infections, Eye on FDA presents guidelines to avoiding a crisis in communications during a medical product crisis.


Feeling unloved? Money magazine has rated biotechnology research scientists as the 35th-best job in America. Enjoy the ride while it lasts – these jobs aren’t immune to offshoring.

That’s it for this edition of the Carnival of Biotechnology. Don’t forget to submit your items, and if you’re interested in hosting the carnival, drop a line to