How San Diego Biotech Leaders Are Adapting to Coronavirus Concerns

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From the perspective of the biotech entrepreneur, Amplyx’s Kennedy said she anticipates startups that need to raise fresh capital will find it a slower process than usual, which will make established relationships with trusted investors more valuable than ever.

“Plan, if you can, to put yourself in a position where you don’t have to raise capital, ideally for the rest of the year and maybe into next year,” she said. “If you can’t do that … there are times where you have to do a deal, even if you don’t like it, to keep going.”

At Amplyx, an unanticipated challenge will be keeping up the team’s motivation amid the struggle to keep its trials progressing apace, Kennedy said.

“The challenge we face is our physicians, our investigators, are infectious disease doctors or ICU doctors, and they are being pulled in a million directions,” she said. “We are expecting a slowdown in enrollment, and hopefully it will be as short-lived as possible, but we’re prepared for that.”

Neurocrine’s Kyle Gano, chief business development and strategy officer, said he’s also considering how best to ensure the company’s employees are able to continue doing good work. Neurocrine (NASDAQ: NBIX), which has commercialized two drugs, including one in partnership with AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), anticipates having three treatments across four indications on the market by year’s end.

“It’s unrealistic for any of us to think what’s going on would not affect our thought process and how we run our business today and in the future,” Gano said. “That being said, we still have to run our business. We still have to encourage people, put them in the right environment to continue on delivering on the projects that they’re working on, and I think that’s going to be the hardest part here.”

Keeping a “focused, happy, and motivated” workforce in the face of major societal change, such as the unanticipated closing of schools, caused by the spread of coronavirus will be key to ensuring the work under way at Neurocrine progresses, rather than stalls, during the present tumult, Gano said.

“I think that’s where people should think about investing,” he said.

Zach Hornby, CEO of 25-person biotech Boundless Bio, says the San Diego-based preclinical precision oncology company has the advantage of being a small team in a relatively big lab space.

Those who perform essential lab work are still visiting the Boundless office, albeit under strict guidelines: Only one employee per lab bay at a time; no meetings—even one-on-ones; and any work that doesn’t need to take place in a lab, such as data analysis, must be done remotely.

“We are fortunate in that we are still able to operate and we do not have any binary risk associated with this disruption,” Hornby said. “At worst, there would only be an impact on timeline, but no experiments at risk.”

Evercore ISI’s Josh Schimmer, who moderated the event’s first panel, brought that session to an end with what he noted is becoming the signoff du jour: “Stay safe.”

Image: iStock/Conchi Martínez

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