From Alnylam to Zayner: Xconomy’s Top Innovation Stories of 2018

Xconomy National — 

2018 was a year of ups and downs for the business and technology community. It was a year of big exits—both IPOs and acquisitions—for tech and life sciences companies. Venture funding remained strong, but more money went to fewer (and later-stage) companies overall. As the year winds down, we’re reflecting on the big innovation trends and developments that will carry over to next year.

Storylines in various sectors helped shape the overall narrative in 2018. Cell and gene therapies, cancer immunotherapy, and digital medicines made substantial progress in healthcare. Artificial intelligence and cybersecurity remained front and center in tech, as new types of applications and hacks emerged. Meanwhile, reality caught up to the hype in fields ranging from CRISPR to crypto.

With all that in mind, we’ve compiled our annual list of editor’s picks for stories of the year. If you read only a handful of pieces, read these. They are a combination of our most important headlines, our most distinguishing deep dives and exclusives, and our most widely read stories of the year.

The list is obviously not comprehensive, but it does reflect our usual mix of news, analysis, and features; local and national pieces; profiles of startups and big companies; stories about big deals, trends, and the people behind them; and key challenges as well as opportunities across tech and life science sectors.

Without further ado, here are the top 15 (most recent first):

1. San Diego Tallies 7 IPOs in Best Year for Market Debuts Since 2014

Sarah de Crescenzo analyzed the resurgent IPO market through a SoCal lens often missed by the national media. But will the trend continue?

2. After $2B+ Cisco Buyout, Dug Song Reflects on Duo Security’s Journey

Sarah Schmid Stevenson dove into the story of Duo, a Michigan cybersecurity “unicorn,” and uncovered lessons in user experience, entrepreneurial culture, and enterprise strategy.

3. After Deal Stalled, Shine Medical Eyeing Up to $160M from Deerfield

Jeff Buchanan’s scoop on one of the biggest funding deals in Wisconsin, for a medical tech company called Shine.

4. Don’t Go Nuts With This: Tech CEOs on What $100M Can Buy

Brian Dowling dove into how tech startups actually spend those big financing rounds—with some intriguing strategy points from Boston companies DataRobot, ezCater, Iora Health, and Toast.

5. Cloud Leaders Shrug at IBM’s $34B Red Hat Deal

Jeff Engel examined IBM’s mega-acquisition of Red Hat—the biggest software deal in history—and found outside experts questioning what the overall impact will be.

6a. Pre-Existing Immunity to CRISPR Found in 96 Percent of People in Study
6b. New Study Shows CRISPR Can Delete Big Chunks of DNA

Corie Lok took a critical look at what new scientific results mean for CRISPR gene-editing medicines and patient safety—as clinical trials are set to begin in the U.S.

7. Pivot Bio Gets $70M, Led by Bill Gates’s Fund, to Replace Fertilizer

Frank Vinluan told the fascinating story of a Gates-backed startup that’s engineering microbes as an alternative to fertilizers (which changed the world, for better and worse).

8. The Rise of Robocalls and Cell Scams—and How to Stop Them

David Holley was ahead of the curve in examining how robocalls and cell scams have become pervasive (and new approaches to combat them).

9. Patients Have Fingers Crossed as Alnylam Awaits Historic FDA Decision

Ben Fidler’s story on the eve of the first-ever RNA interference drug approval, to treat a rare, deadly disease; the piece touches on disease management, drug pricing, and what we still don’t know.

10. Amgen Migraine Decision Looms, Maybe the Next Drug Price Fight, Too

Frank Vinluan laid out the therapeutic options and pricing concerns around a new class of migraine drugs from Amgen, Eli Lilly, and Teva.

11. Moderna’s Billions: Will Building Big Before an IPO Pay Off?

Ben Fidler’s analysis of high-flying Moderna Therapeutics, the unconventional biotech that’s looking to transform the industry with a still-unproven approach in patients. (The company had the biggest biotech IPO in history this month.)

12. E-Commerce Startups Open Door to Endless Virtual Closet

Angela Shah documented the growth of the sharing economy in apparel and fashion, trying out a clothing-subscription service and reporting on its pros and cons.

13. No Self-Editing: Biohacker Josiah Zayner Can’t Stop Living Out Loud

Alex Lash dove into the weird world of DIY gene editing, telling the story of a controversial biohacker and his potential impact on science, medicine, and marketing.

14. Look Out, Investors: Cryptocurrency Values Slide as Warnings Take Off

Bernadette Tansey spelled out some of the main reasons for the decline of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies early in the year—and things got worse from there.

15. Philips CEO Wants to Be Near “Hotspots of Talent” to Take On GE, IBM

Jeff Engel told a global and local story by asking the Dutch healthtech giant about its plans to move its North American headquarters to the Boston area.

Photo by Steven VanDesande Jr on Unsplash.