Shire Hunts More Deals Amid Reawakening Interest in Stem Cell R&D

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Updated 10/29/09 12:20 pm. See below.] As the Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa convenes its second annual investor and partnering forum in San Diego this morning, Dean Tozer says the last 18 to 24 months have seen a rejuvenation of interest in the commercial prospects for biomedical products arising from stem cell research and development.

“We went through a period where the embryonic stem cell stuff just put a pall on the industry, and stalled new investment,” says Tozer, who is the vice president of corporate development at Shire Regenerative Medicine, a new business that the Irish pharma giant has focused in San Diego. Now Tozer says he’s sensing a widespread renewal of interest in regenerative medicine.

Any reawakened interest in the commercial applications of stem cell R&D could, of course, be due partly to Shire itself. The company acquired Advanced BioHealing, based in Connecticut and San Diego, for $750 million in 2011. That was followed earlier this year by the acquisition of San Carlos, CA-based FerroKin BioSciences for at least $325 million, and Cambridge, MA-based Pervasis Therapeutics for an estimated $200 million in April.

As we reported in June, Shire also is moving ahead with plans to develop a new corporate campus in San Diego for its regenerative medicine division—which the Irish specialty pharmaceutical expects to become a $1 billion business.

Shire RM VP of Corporate Development Dean Tozer

Dean Tozer

[Updated 10/29/09 12:20 pm with comments from meeting] Tozer joined Life Technologies CEO Greg Lucier and other industry executives at today’s meeting in a discussion about the clinical outlook for regenerative medicine, including some of the key issues that companies face as they bring new products to market.

Cost is one obstacle, Toser told the audience. “Innovation for the sake of innovation is not going to work,” he said, noting that regenerative medicine relies on technologies that are expensive to develop and expensive to commercialize. As a result, Big Pharma business executives are getting involved much sooner in talks with prospective biotech partners to determine if a business case can be made, even as scientific teams are evaluating a startup’s data for new drug candidates or other products under development.

Financing for startups developing stem cell-related biomedical therapies remains challenging, Tozer said recently by phone. But as he put it, the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research “forced some really smart people to look at some alternatives,” and the use of endothelial cells to create pluripotent stem cells in recent years has spurred a flurry of R&D advances across a broad front of innovation.

“A lot of us who are involved with the … Next Page »

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