Diagnostics: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

On October 26-27, I co-chaired an International Conference on “Companion Diagnostics & Biomarkers” in Porto, Portugal. The presenters included global experts in diagnostics including market leaders such as Unilabs, Agilent, Qiagen, ThermoFisher and Guardant Health. The Conference was initiated by the other Co-chair, Harry Glorikian, the author of Moneyball Medicine who delivered an engaging presentation predicting the future of medicine and digital health. Throughout the two days, impressive and informative presentations described the current status and the predicted future of diagnostics and digital health technology including the anticipated tsunami of future changes. I initiated the second day of the conference with an overview of the past, present and future of diagnostics, encompassing the best (and worst) examples of companion diagnostics (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”). Click here to request the presentation. Presentation by Ali Ardakani, Managing Director of Novateur Ventures: “Can Companion Diagnostics Be a Guide to Cure? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – BioTech Pharma Summit 2017: Companion Diagnostics & Biomarkers October 26-27, 2017 — Porto, Portugal Ali Ardakani, Managing Director of Novateur, chairing the final plenary session of the BioTech Pharma Summit 2017: Companion Diagnostics & Biomarkers October 26-27, 2017 — Porto, Portugal Here are some summarized highlights from the conference: Diagnostics will be playing an ever-encompassing role in therapeutics development and commercialization. Both EMEA and FDA are encouraging more “targeted therapeutics” with companion diagnostics. Digital Health and digital diagnostics will represent a tremendous new growth sector and will become an integral part of our health care system. Embracing this market dynamics sooner will lead to better health outcomes and reduced costs. Diagnostics...

More Than Engaging with Government – Let’s Work Together

Vancouver, B.C., November 7, 2017 On November 2, 2017, I had the pleasure and opportunity to represent LifeSciences BC board, together with Nancy Harrison, Chair, Board of Directors, Dr. Lesley Esford, President & CEO, along with other board members, Dr. Pieter Cullis and Scott Phillips. Our visit included breakfast with the NDP caucus and lunch with the Liberal caucus, where Dr. Esford presented an overview of the life sciences sector in B.C. What we shared with government were several impressive and enlightening facts: There are 450 life science companies in B.C. Vancouver is rated as “Best City in the World” to start a new Business by CityUp Index and was rated by as the “#1 Best Startup Ecosystem” by Startup Genome to support entrepreneurs and raise seed rounds in Canada. B.C. is the only province in Canada, to develop and launch several novel products generating billions of dollars in cumulative revenue. Reflecting that B.C.’s life science companies have a track record of taking blockbuster products with historic regularity, from idea to market.A few of these products are: Visudyne® by QLT Taxus® by Agniotech Mozobil® by Anormed Vyxeos®, developed by Celator (recently acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals) and soon to be launched. B.C. is the only province and Vancouver one of the few cities in North America, except Boston and San Francisco, with three companies, Zymeworks, Innovative Targeting Solutions and Abcellera, signing global partnerships with 15 of the world’s largest global pharma companies, worth billions of dollars. In 2017, B.C. had the largest IPO in recent Canadian Biotech History when Zymeworks raised $80M. Several other companies including Aurinia, Arbutus and Aquinox...

Why Did We Go Fishing with Roche Venture Fund?

We were delighted to host Karl Handelsman, Partner at Roche Venture Fund in Vancouver last week. Over 100 participants came to his talk at BC Cancer Agency where he talked about “Winning Strategies for Biotech Startups”. Afterwards, we held a private dinner where he met several companies he had expressed interest in connecting with. The following day we went on a fishing trip with where Karl had an opportunity to connect with the biotech entrepreneurs one on one for several hours. Why did we invite Karl? We live in a geography where there is a dearth of Venture Capital funding. Most funds are located in San Francisco and Boston and unless our Canadian clients are visiting those cities on a regular basis, they would not have exposure to many VCs and family funds. We are spearheading an effort to create awareness on our innovators. If we can not all go down south, let’s bring up serious VCs to connect with our companies. Specifically, we liked Roche Venture Fund and Karl as they are interested in investing in companies that are developing early stage ground-breaking ideas. We have many of those in Canada. In addition, Karl in his previous life was involved in building a company that was sold to Amgen. We find VCs that were entrepreneurs in the past to be better investors or at least more understanding of the challenges of biotech entrepreneurship. Why did we go fishing with Karl? Investors invest in people with ideas, not just ideas. They need to meet you, feel comfortable with you and know that they can trust you. They need to...

Companion Diagnostics: A Guide to Cure?

There is an obsession by biotechs, pharma, investors and payers to pre-select responders to a therapy before they are treated. How did we end up here and how is this going to impact medicine in the long term? In certain diseases where the biology landscape is understood better, like oncology, there has been tremendous impact. However, in most other target areas we still cannot isolate the responders and use “all comers” to try treatments and hope the safety and efficacy of a drug can be shown to be statistically significant. What happens to target areas where specific responders cannot be identified? What happens to companies that have an effective treatment but cannot get funding because they cannot find their “targeted population”? By “targeted” we mean a sub-population that expresses a specific genetic mutation or biomarker. At Novateur we are often approached by creative scientists that have discovered a biomarker diagnostic or in some cases can analyze hundreds of your markers to show that you may potentially have various disorders. Would the doctors be interested to tell you that you may have early Alzheimer’s when there is no treatment available for it? And would the payers pay for it? In our experience, diagnostics will have a challenging time getting funded and partnered, unless they can be paired with an effective therapeutic. The ultimate goal is to be able to utilize the diagnostic to change the clinical outcome in a meaningful way. In a similar fashion, biotech companies developing treatments need to think how to incorporate potential diagnostics to pre-select responders. After decades of experience at large pharma, our advisors believe...

How Trump Presidency and BREXIT Are Creating the Perfect Storm for Reversing Canada’s Brain Drain

Historically Canada has faced a significant challenge in attracting top talent compared to the United States and retaining top talent already in Canada. Until recently, top entrepreneurs would often choose to start their next big idea in the US, for several reasons, including: Better access to capital Better access to talent Lower income taxes The results of the 2016 presidential election and BREXIT have changed this. For the first time, some of the top US, UK and international executives and entrepreneurs are considering relocation to Canada. Canada offers the following first class resources: Friendly and easy business regulation Top notch basic science from world class universities Lower corporate income tax Significant government R&D incentives designed for start ups such as SRED, IRAP and Mitacs Provincial incentives for investors (Angels and Venture Capitals) to invest in early stage companies and most importantly, a progressive open minded government that is in tune with the need for change in the 21st century. This January 28, 2017 article from Globe & Mail quoted several global technology leaders including Google, Netflix and Uber CEO expressing concern about top talent leaving US. At Novateur, we have been addressing the shortage of experienced pharma talent by matching the best global advisors to Canadian biotech and pharma Companies. Since the US election, several of our most sought after US based advisors have expressed genuine interest in relocating to Canada. We are delighted to announce that as of April 1, Dr. Gina Stetsko, a world-class biotechnology expert in CMC Manufacturing and process scale up has relocated from San Diego to Vancouver and joined Novateur as a full time...