Monday, August 1, 2016

Bucks County medicinal chemistry

Also in this week's C&EN, an interesting article by Rick Mullin on the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County, a joint public/private hub for small biotechs. I thought this was very interesting:
Flores, who is now head of discovery for hepatitis B at Janssen, says that as a largely virtual company, Novira could have set up anywhere. But, like Sofia, he saw obvious advantages to coming to BCBC—which he had not heard of, despite working 20 minutes away at Merck’s West Point, Pa., facility—given its community of hepatitis B research.... 
...In fact, Novira has moved at lightning speed, taking its lead drug candidate from discovery through Phase I clinical trials in less than three years and producing results that got Janssen’s attention. Flores says the company did this using a minimal number of on-site researchers and relying heavily on contract research organizations in China and Germany. It has also been able to attract top talent. “Almost everyone I hired at Novira is from Merck or Roche.” 
But a talented workforce is only one component in establishing a successful biotech company, Flores adds. Also necessary are local sources of venture capital and a pool of experienced executives. Novira received initial seed funding from BioAdvance, a Philadelphia-based venture firm. And there are experienced managers in the region. But there is nowhere near the concentration of venture funding sources and scientists with start-up experience that can be found around places like Boston....
This article is, I feel, instructive of potentially the best case scenario after major pharmaceutical research sites close. There was already space available and it was close enough to a major center of finance (Philadelphia) - and still, only 325 people (200 scientists) are employed there. Yikes.

(I wonder what would happen if you were to compare Doylestown to all the other non-coastal places that have suffered major site closures/layoffs: Ann Arbor, St. Louis, etc.) 


  1. I don't understand why the Philly area is being overlooked as pharma consolidates in Boston and SF. There are still plenty of pharma companies in the area, and lots of related companies to give a good talent pool of chemists, instrument techs, etc.

  2. KT think abundance Harvard/Stanford MBAs & Lawyers and exec levels in pharma plus stronger networks of banking/venture capital as most likely biases against Philly. It was not all that long ago I recall relative to contributing R&D sites and more reasonable COL/family balances that Philly was probably one the most attractive locations to work in pharma however eventually lost out on many of the M&A downsizing consolidations for inexplicable reasons beyond what I speculate above.