Biotech Investing Conference
Menlo Park, California
The news at this year's Biotech Investing confab will focus on Big Pharma companies, as they take a more active role in developing early-stage drugs. Several other new funding models will be explored, too. That means startups looking for sugar daddies now have more alternatives than a peptide micro-array (that's a joke for the biotech nerds).
The snowballing movement of nonprofit groups that target specific diseases and invest in drugs to treat them will be a big player at the event. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be on hand, as will Deborah Brooks, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation (Parkinson's disease). Attendees will openly debate whether nonprofits should take over the risky role of financing drugs that haven't reached clinical trials. This past summer, CFF signed a $22 million deal with FoldRx Pharmaceuticals to advance preclinical research into treatments for diseases caused by the "misfolding" of cell proteins.
Venture Capital's Role
As alternatives blossom, traditional funding sources will discuss how to stay relevant-and preach caution. "We explore different ways of advancing drug development," says Mark Kessel, managing director of Symphony Capital, a New York private-equity firm, "so companies aren't giving up their birthright to Big Pharma." The intriguing biotechs on hand—such as
A version of this article appeared in the November 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.