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his fund. Both are focused on cancer, and one of them specifically on immunotherapy, he said. “We’ll probably keep those in stealth mode for a little bit,” he added.
Alpine BioVentures is looking at investments that are “kind of a version” of Dendreon’s sipuleucel-T, but that use new techniques and might be combined with immune-checkpoint inhibitors—new types of cancer immunotherapy drugs that remove cloaking mechanisms used by tumors—or other new therapeutic agents, Gold said.
One key thing Gold is keeping in mind is an “improved cost of goods” for developing such drugs, he said. “As we see more products coming to the marketplace that are going to be stacked on top of each other, cost is going to be more and more of an issue.”
That was certainly a concern with sipuleucel-T, which was aggressively priced at $93,000 per patient, about $30,000 more than analysts had projected. Dendreon made several other missteps that resulted in huge losses for some angry investors.
Looking back, Gold said Dendreon’s rise to winning FDA approval of sipuleucel-T showed what can happen when a startup is persistent and resilient in the face of plenty of challenges. But he also said he learned during the company’s subsequent fall the importance of being aware of the competition.
“If [sipuleucel-T] would’ve been approved after its [FDA] advisory panel in 2007, the prostate cancer marketplace was very different then,” Gold said. “It would’ve been a much different environment for us to launch a product than what we did having to wait a couple years. It created more noise in the marketplace.”
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