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The Importance of Specialized Research Experts in Niche Biopharma
NEW YORK, April 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The ability of a biopharmaceutical company to successfully develop experimental drug candidates is mostly dependant on the experience of their research and management teams. As such, the hiring of specialists with decades of experience can make or break future drug candidacy projects. Many big players in the biopharma space, such as Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:ABBV), Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (NYSE:TMO), and ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd. (OTC:IPATF) (TSX-V:IPA) have all been competing for some of the brightest minds in the industry.
Stock prices of biotech firms are known to jump and crash on the slightest news. Companies invest significant resources in developing specific compounds and drugs as well as undergoing clinical tests and regulatory approvals. These businesses that don't have sufficient cumulative expertise are much less likely to succeed in the already tricky drug discovery process than those that do. As such, individuals with highly specialized biopharma backgrounds are fought over by major businesses who know full well the importance these experts play in the success of their future drug candidates.
The Role Specialized Experts Play in Management
While experienced management teams are essential for every business, this is especially true in certain highly specialized sectors. The amount of technical knowledge required in industries like biopharma means that professionals not frequently hired as executives (such as doctors, professors, and research experts) often play significant roles in management. Around 80 percent of all CEO's in the biotech industry have direct experience working in the medical or pharmaceutical industry, often at first in non-managerial roles.
Sinclair Dunlop, Managing Partner at Epidarex Capital, said that "a critical success factor in any life science investment is the management team. The sourcing, development, and retention of experienced talent has a direct impact on technology development and investor returns. A significant challenge, particularly in under-ventured markets, is a shortage of serial CEOs with a track record of fundraising at scale."
Success rates for biotech companies are already quite low. In some niche sectors, only one in 200 projects produces a viable drug candidate. This issue is further compounded by the struggle to find specialized experts in many of these fields. For smaller biotech companies, having the right person with specialized expertise can make or break future drug development projects. With the growing trend of large companies outsourcing research and development of specific projects to contract research organizations (CROs), there is an ever-growing demand for experts in specific hot fields like gene therapy, biologics, and cancer immunotherapy.
Major Hires in the Industry
Some of the largest companies in the space have already hired a number of these experts. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) made news when it appointed Dr. Paul Stoffels, it's Chief Science Officer, to join the executive committee. In the new role, he would cover the pharmaceutical as well as the Health and Wellness businesses of the company.
Professionals with highly specialized Ph.D.'s are also typical in executive teams. On January 1, 2019, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) saw its longtime CEO step down from the role as it's former COO, Albert Bourla, became the new chief executive of the company. Besides his decades of experience at Pfizer Inc., Mr. Bourla also has an extensive scientific background with a Ph.D. in the biotechnology of reproduction.
Besides hiring from the private sector, academia is another significant recruiting ground for major biotech companies. AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:ABBV) ended up recruiting Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Dean of the Yale School of Medicine. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (NYSE:TMO) also has an academic serving on its board. Director Martin Harris M.D. has a long history working in hospitals as well as currently working at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas, Austin.
Another biotech company that's made a major addition to its leadership is ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd. (OTC:IPATF) (TSX-V:IPA). The company announced that they had appointed Andy Nixon, Vice President of Biotherapeutics Molecule Discovery at Boehringer Ingelheim as a member of its board of directors. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Nixon is a leading expert on biologic drug discovery. His efforts leading the research team in developing Dyax's therapeutic drug candidates directly led to a $5.9 billion acquisition of the company back in 2016.
"As IPA advances its strategy for accelerated growth in the custom therapeutic antibody space, and for sustainable shareholder value creation, Dr. Nixon brings a unique depth of experience and expertise that is directly relevant to IPA", said Jennifer Bath, ImmunoPrecise Antibodies's (IPATF) (IPA) CEO and President in a press release. "We are pleased to have Dr. Nixon support IPA through the next phase of our development. He is highly accomplished and has a strong record in successfully navigating today's rapidly changing technological environment."
ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd. (IPATF) (IPA) is one of the leading CROs in the field of biologic drug discovery. Specifically, the company stands out as the first full-service antibody discovery CRO in North America and Europe, a market that's estimated at being worth around US$125 billion by 2020. The addition of Dr. Nixon onto the team cements ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd. (OTC:IPATF) (TSX-V:IPA) current reputation as the world's leader in this specialized area of the biopharma industry.
Further Biopharmaceutical Developments
Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) announced last month that it was raising a $5 billion debt offering, with the proceeds being used for refinancing of existing debts. The company has invested in several biotech firms over the past few months, making major forays into the exciting gene therapy sector.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), also announced a significant investment in the biotech market. On April 1st the company finished its acquisition of Auris health for $3.4 billion in cash alongside additional payments of up to $2.35 billion. Auris specializes in robotic technology used in digital surgeries as well as lung cancer intervention.
In an effort to combat the spread of hepatitis C, AbbVie Inc. (NYSE:ABBV) announced that residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan wouldn't have to pay for their MAVIRETTM tablets. As the only daily ribavirin-free treatment for adults with hepatitis C, AbbVie's medication was listed by both provincial health authorities as one of many crucial steps to combat the spreading of the disease.
With gene and cell therapy becoming increasingly popular, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (NYSE:TMO) made a significant acquisition in this space. Last month, they announced they would purchase Brammer Bio, a leader in viral vector manufacturing. The arrangement would see Thermo Fisher pay $1.7 billion in cash to acquire them in a transaction that's expected to take place sometime in Q2 2019.
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 IPA Landing Page provided by Farah
Original Source – PubMed
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