Rear View Mirror

Since this is my last post of 2013, I have an excuse to be retrospective rather than analytical so here are some stats that fall in the “how I am doing” category.  I maintained my record of consistency in 2013 and put up (threw up?) a post every week, although a handful were repeats and updates of previous posts (like this one).  My most common topic was the pharmaceutical (drug) industry (reflecting my first-hand knowledge, I guess) at 28% of the total, followed by posts on start-up/entrepreneurial issues (22%), and policy issues (20%).  Rounding out the field were posts on the vaccine and medtech business at 15% each.  I am pleased to say that I have 47 subscribers (thanks!), an increase of about 10 from 2012 and, as far as I can tell, no one kicked my blog out of her/his inbox.  My blog host, Word Press, does a good job of keeping views, clicks, and source information although I’m not sure what it all means.  I know I am getting 60 to 100 views each week (excluding subscribers) with the biggest week this year being in late August when I had over 300 views.  Then I wrote an update on two diagnostics companies, one being the local major, Alere, and the other a UK-based start-up, QuantumDx (“Rockin’ the Dx”).   I think the majority of the traffic originated at the latter company, although why I have no idea.  Another popular post with 108 views was “Under the Radar” “Under the Radar” in which I wrote about a local quasi-company called NanoBioSym and its hand-held multiplex diagnostics machine that has won accolades but seems to have generated no data.

One of my favorite posts was “Trickle Down” that summarized the findings of a nice report by the editors of FierceBiotech about the revenues and market-penetration efforts of the major pharma companies in the non-US, non-EU markets, the market-penetration efforts including hiring sales people and research scientists, conducting in-country R and D, and increasing the capacity of health care systems through doctor training, public health projects, and sponsoring insurance.  My spin was that the total aggregate spending on market penetration efforts of the top ten companies was maybe $78 billion per year and that compares favorably to the $28 billion spent in 2012 for “development assistance for health” by government aid agencies, multilateral donors, private foundations, and charities.

Another of my favorites was “Knick-Knacks” in which I offered a closer look at ten early-stage pharmaceutical/biotech companies that have explicit missions to develop new treatments for diseases of low- and middle-income countries.  I wrote that I expected that all of the companies to be looking for partners to provide the capital and expertise and to have rationally assessed how they will get their products to market and took a closer look at one, PaxVax.  First, I noted the company is taking a practical approach in that it is only working on orally-administered vaccines which will avoid the complexity of the distribution system needed for current vaccines and may simplify the “fill and finish” step in manufacturing.  I also noted the company is using proven technology.  For two of its products, vaccines for H5N1 ‘flu and HIV, PaxVax is using a proprietary technology (administration of antigen via live, replicating adenovirus PV technology).  For its cholera and dengue vaccines, the company is using whole, inactivated virus, a technology used in currently licensed vaccines.  Also, the company has a done a good job with its funding.  The company stated it has raised more than $68 million from a VC firm, Seattle-based Ignition Capital (Ignition), and the Wellcome Trust and in grants from the US NIH and the Gates Foundation, and earlier this month raised $22 million in a Series B round (PaxVax press release) .  A bit disconcerting is that PaxVax is the sole biotech investment of Ignition, meaning it may be is on its own for its partnering and commercialization work, and that the Series B brought in only one new (and non-conventional) investor, Blue Haven Initiative, described as “a family office impact investor.”  Also still disconcerting is that the company has no VP for BD and has not hinted at any corporate partnering efforts.  This may be intentional but with its lead product, the cholera vaccine, in Phase III trials since September, now is a good time to start lining up a bigger company to direct and fund the registration trials.

Best wishes for health, happiness, and success in 2014.