Showing posts with label Drug Baron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drug Baron. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Funds-on-Tap is passé & Drip-Funding is the new reality.

It’s probably been true for IT/ ITES (particularly for e-commerce and social media & app-developers) much longer, but for the drug discovery start-ups hitherto unaccustomed to expecting anything under a mio given their rather pricey research, the writing on the wall is abundantly clear - Funds-on-Tap is a pipe dream & Drip-Funding is the new reality.

Over the past year, more and more VCs have started to unveil & employ their own versions of a ‘return-maximizing, risk-mitigated investment model’ that typically involves multiplying the early-stage portfolio & bringing down the average-size of seed-investment while maintaining the overall seed-stage investment at no greater levels than earlier - A case-in-study being the recent Seed-class of Atlas Ventures & equally demonstrated by Index Ventures developing its proprietary version of MonteCarlo simulation for optimally distributing precious funds across its portfolio of biotechs' with assets across different phases of clinic.

This holds largely true for the increasingly active Pharma CVCs too that not only are mimicking the VCs in increasing their early-asset portfolio, but have taken derisking a notch higher with their joining forces* with other CVCs (competing pharma) in funding rounds, quite apparently compromising on the eventual ownership of the commercial potential &/or IP generated in the bargain.

* OPSONA (Novartis, Roche, Baxter among other VCs) AILERON (Novartis, Roche & Lilly among other VCs); MERUS (Novartis, J&J & Pfizer among other VCs)

While this may sound like life sciences venture funding is slowly turning into a mere statistical exercise (venture-farming…?), a la the stock market, knowing what it takes to separate wheat from the chaff in the complex world of drug discovery, the users of these models will surely need a lot more than a practical knowledge of the probability theory – which even a cursory read of the above posts again will make it very evident. Just may be, a biotech VC can still showcase ‘proprietary deal-flow’ as a core-strength while making a pitch to the LPs.

Now how does this lean-funding scenario impact the development strategy of the start-up? – while a few indicators of change are already out there like the CROs being encouraged (~arm-twisted) to share risk with the biotech while providing services, I believe this'll trigger bigger changes & hopefully nudge the drug-discovery towards an innovation pathway that’s a lot more rational & predictable – but then this is something Drug Baron should talk about.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Series A crunch for start-ups rooted in progressive de-risking of VC model?

My comment on a peHUB blog post titled "What Series A Crunch? Why Some Startups Are Immune"


Keen insight John!

Interesting to note the theme of 'venture capital model being broken' is being evaluated from very different perspectives by different people – while I’d love to see the perspective of an LP on this, haven’t come across any till date…

Earlier in Feb 2013 when Drug Baron proposed Venture Capital 2.0 on his blog, I felt he placed the onus for this handicap on the VC firms themselves & hence proposed the need for a disruptive innovation of the venture model itself. I made a comment against this entry & posted the same on my blog under the title “What when the boundaries blur between VC & PE?

While my response was more from the angle of overt de-risking of VC funding being counter-productive to sustenance of early enterprise, I felt that in some fashion resonates with what you say here…., particularly when you quote Jim Andelman “these market dynamics combine to leave good companies unfunded”.

My comments incidentally remain ‘non-commented on’ on Drug baron’s blog :-)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What when the boundaries blur between VC & PE?

My response on the highly thought provoking blog post "Venture Capital 2.0" by Drug Baron (David Grainger) - posted on 01/Mar/2013


Once again a really thorough proposition by Drug Baron that leaves frustratingly little scope to contradict. For the sake of a debate I would still like to raise a few questions; make a few statements & generally try not to sound like mouthing a rejoinder in support of Venture Capital 1.0 - which it definitely is not! J

It is absolutely true that the VC model should periodically re-invent itself & evolve like the innovations of other kind it chases routinely – this, I believe is not just true of VCs focused on life sciences but for all others too. Also, after a quick read, I realized that one could misread the term “asset centric investing” if they do not go through what exactly Index ventures pursues through its IDDs – David, you may consider hyperlinking your statement “Asset-centric investing is only the first step on a road to improved returns for life science investors” to

Now, since the primary intent of the asset-centric-investing model appears to be de-risking venture funding to the LPs (and thus raise funds with less difficulty), the inferred premise(s) of this model appear to be as follows;
  • That the early discovery prior to lead-validation should-not-be/ need-not-be venture funded

  • That owing to the large investment & the inherent risk of failure, innovation (in particular drug discovery) is something better left to academic/ federal institutions & large pharmaceutical organizations that can afford the risk (did someone say, ‘risk is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred and hedged differently!’ :-))

  • And finally that any VC backed biotech with a “pipe-line” hasn’t probably thoroughly screened the clinical & commercial viability of candidates including, probably in a few cases other than, the lead-program candidate for which it managed to tease out some funding?

No doubt this model makes absolute sense to the fund of funds or LPs on its focus on sheer reduction of risk to IRRs but not sure if this model helps generate & nurture novel enterprises & why should it? - now I do realize that the ACI model also believes that creation of an innovative enterprise is NOT the VCs responsibility (probably since they are using ‘others money’ for this noble cause? J) & more a responsibility of the struggling entrepreneurs themselves?

Without sounding too knowledgeable about it, I would like to believe that across the past few years, VC seemed to have played a role in keeping afloat the spirit of enterprise at the most critical & vulnerable early stages and thus helped, however minimally, in letting a lot of budding innovators take root & grow their enterprises into cash-cow organizations that’d offer a lot more de-risked alternative asset investment options to the LPs.

So while I generally & unequivocally support the need for yet another paradigm shift in drug discovery methodology & innovation models, I am not sure if a VC model de-risked to this extent almost morphing into a PE would help this innovation paradigm nor help create the much needed pipeline of early innovative enterprises that later mature into investable asset-centric organizations.

Post thought:

In the current context of drastically reduced spend on basic discovery by big-pharma, I see that most most biotechs, drug discovery organizations have started to reinvent themselves into “drug development organizations” and have quite voluntarily started de-risking by building a pipeline/ portfolio of in-licensed/ spun-off ~pre-validated drug candidates . So I guess without so much as a nudge, the enterprise out there is all ready for Venture Capital 2.0 – Now again that doesn’t say much about the survival chances of real innovation that not necessarily stems from the largest of organizations/ institutions….. after all, garage innovation in life sciences appears to be a distinct possibility in in these winds of open source drug discovery.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dialog on Drug Baron's post "The Primacy of Statistics: In defense of the pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trial"

The Primacy of Statistics: In defense of the pivotal Phase 3 Clinical Trial

By Drug Baron (David Grainger)

My comment on the above post;

A very compelling argument indeed - One factor though I think needs to be taken into account is the type of indication for which the drug is being pursued.
While for the more prevalent indications such as metabolic disorders, cardio-vascular diseases et al where the sample size is large statistical rigor is highly relevant & decisive while approving the drug, can it be simultaneously argued that for orphan & other highly specific indications, where the sample is small, a solely statistical model will eliminate a lot of potential treatment options to statistical bias? – particularly since its being increasingly noted that an individual’s genetic make-up (presence or absence of mutations on a specific gene et al in the healthy or diseased tissue) can determine how the patient responds to the drug under evaluation? (case-in-study, Vemurafenib working for BRAFV600-Mutation Positive Metastatic Melanoma patients)  

Drug Baron's reply t my above comment:

davidgrainger Mod  Murali Apparaju  an hour ago

Thanks for your comment. This goes right to the nub of the argument.
You are exactly right that the slavish adherence to statistics will deny people (particularly in small indications) access to medicines that do actually work. In the limit, unless you are an identical twin, you are the only person with your genotype and maybe the drug would work brilliantly for you and for no-one else. With statistics as the gatekeeper, you will never get access to that drug.
BUT the key point of the piece is to point out that without statistics there is no way to know if that drug really did work for you. There is no control. At present (and maybe always) there is no alternative to a statistical test to be sure that a drug works at all.
Unless you are happy to approve drugs that MIGHT work, then we have no choice but to accept that with a statistically significant phase 3 trial as the "gatekeeper" we will reject drugs that actually work, but which we cannot prove they work.
For me, I would rather have the current system - where drugs have to be proven to work - than the one that existed prior to regulators, when snake-oil salesmen could sell anything as long as they could assemble a compelling enough argument to persuade the purchaser. That was a bad model - but allowing drugs through that havent passed a statistical test simply because they may work in some people, and there arent enough people to do the proper test, is a big step backwards.
Yet I see that happening more and more, particularly in the orphan drugs space that you plead as a "special case" - which is precisely why I wrote this article!