This is a provocative post from Xconomy written by John Walker, CEO of iPerian. a South San Francisco based biotech company focusing on induced pluripotent stem cells.
John points out that the biotech industry was built on delivering innovative therapeutics to patients - particularly for diseases that couldn't be addressed well with then conventional therapies. However, has the industry now turned into a a "me-too" factory? Putting out primarily incremental improvements to existing products and using largely marketing arguments to differentiate product A from B - without much substance beyond that.
Further, have the VCs encouraged this behavior by seeking shorter and shorter market returns for the lent capital? Is this behavior killing off innovation or even the thought of seeking innovation? Mr. Walker argues that Biotech should be about Bold Ideas and Big Science -- effectively the antithesis of me-too.
I like this thought. It is truer to the history of the biotechnology industry. It's why the initial investment went into the the indsutry and why Big Pharmasought R&D solutions there as well. Perhaps if we got back to more of that style of thinking, we could begin to reverse the trend we're seeing in terms of the so-called innovation gap.
Unfortunately, in the same post, John Walker called out Dendreon's Provenge as a good example of a truly innovative therapy, one that took many years and lots of dollars to deliver - and one that is seen as a "great success".
The perception of "great success" comment was true when Provenge was approved but only two short weeks later - I wonder how people feel given the apparent hoops that Dendreon may have to jump through to get its FDA-approved drug paid by Medicare? Maybe in addition to the loss of innovation, we've created a much tougher safety & regulatory environment for approval - and we've added the formulary & 3rd party payer mountain as well. It takes a lot more effort to reach the top now.
Posted by Bruce Lehr July 2nd 2010.