Bio­science in­dus­try stake­hold­er col­lab­o­ra­tion key to ad­dress­ing in­equal­i­ty

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When a glob­al pan­dem­ic hit, the bio­science in­dus­try an­swered the call for vac­cines and ther­a­pies in record time, which will save mil­lions of lives. This re­sponse was pos­si­ble be­cause of a sus­tained in­vest­ment of risk-cap­i­tal by the ven­ture cap­i­tal in­dus­try in life sci­ences com­pa­nies, peak­ing in 2020. Great sci­en­tists, vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship and high-qual­i­ty in­vestors that backed new sci­ence and bold en­tre­pre­neurs led to the in­no­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies of BioN­Tech and Mod­er­na that con­tributed to the ini­tial Covid-19 vac­cines.

As the sec­tor right­ly basks in the glow of this year’s ac­com­plish­ments, there is a con­cur­rent re­al­i­ty to con­front. Covid-19 has fur­ther ex­posed the in­equities in so­ci­ety, dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly im­pact­ing women and mi­nori­ties. This im­bal­ance is al­so ev­i­dent in the bio­science com­mu­ni­ty, pro­vok­ing many lead­ers to act on in­equal­i­ty.

Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists find­ing rea­sons to change

The ven­ture cap­i­tal in­dus­try, not on­ly with­in life sci­ences, has well-doc­u­ment­ed chal­lenges with di­ver­si­ty, eq­ui­ty and in­clu­sion. On­ly 2.6% of to­tal VC fund­ing in 2020 has gone to Black and Lat­inx founders, and fund­ing for fe­male founders has sunk to lev­els not seen since 2017. De­spite that, I per­ceive a grow­ing ap­petite for change. The ques­tion is – How?

In VC firms, the low at­tri­tion of in­vest­ment part­ners and the lim­it­ed ex­pan­sion of firms lim­its ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties for the many tal­ent­ed As­so­ci­ates and Prin­ci­pals that rep­re­sent the fu­ture. With no vis­i­ble route to part­ner, these em­ploy­ees seek op­por­tu­ni­ty else­where, out­side ven­ture cap­i­tal. The loss of such tal­ent re­duces the chance to in­tro­duce more di­ver­si­ty among a ven­ture firm’s part­ner ranks.

A lack of di­ver­si­ty among VCs great­ly in­flu­ences in­vest­ment de­ci­sions and cap­i­tal al­lo­ca­tion. For ex­am­ple, re­search shows how in­ter­ac­tions with in­vestors dif­fer be­tween men and women en­tre­pre­neurs (We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Clos­ing the Gen­der Gap in Start­up Fund­ing. Kanze, Huang, Con­ley and Hig­gins). The ques­tions di­rect­ed at men ex­plore the size and mag­ni­tude of the op­por­tu­ni­ty. In con­trast, women are more like­ly to be ques­tioned about pre­ven­tion fac­tors and down-side risk.

Cre­at­ing a new com­pa­ny in life sci­ences, and grow­ing it, in­vari­ably re­lies on ven­ture fi­nance. VC firms have a strong in­flu­ence over the com­pa­ny build­ing process, in­clud­ing the com­po­si­tion of boards and se­nior man­age­ment, as well as the tal­ent and cul­ture. In­suf­fi­cient di­ver­si­ty among ven­ture in­vestors can lim­it a port­fo­lio com­pa­ny’s com­pet­i­tive­ness in the tal­ent mar­ket be­cause di­verse can­di­dates se­lect em­ploy­ers where they see them­selves rep­re­sent­ed and suc­cess­ful. Just 3% of VC in­vest­ing part­ners are racial or eth­nic mi­nori­ties and around 11% are women. This leads to an ex­ist­ing bias among VCs to­wards his­tor­i­cal suc­cess pat­terns, which has been to the detri­ment of mi­nori­ties and women.

Pri­vate com­pa­nies re­act to pub­lic mar­ket re­quire­ments

The re­cent Nas­daq pro­pos­als to the SEC on board di­ver­si­ty and dis­clo­sure, along­side new state laws and reg­u­la­tions, are forc­ing many pub­lic com­pa­nies to be­come more di­verse. Mean­while, pri­vate com­pa­nies in the bio­science sec­tor re­main strong­ly in­flu­enced by ven­ture in­vestors who many per­ceive as pas­sive re­gard­ing di­ver­si­ty and in­clu­sion.

The in­ter­play be­tween ven­ture in­vestors and port­fo­lio com­pa­nies is a source of great op­por­tu­ni­ty to ad­vance DE&I in the sec­tor. In­creas­ing di­ver­si­ty will cre­ate val­ue for all stake­hold­ers, and re­duce the fric­tion points as com­pa­nies tran­si­tion from pri­vate ven­ture own­er­ship to the pub­lic mar­kets. Chang­ing the com­po­si­tion of the board and the man­age­ment team takes time and en­er­gy and can cause a com­pa­ny to lose vi­tal mo­men­tum. Cul­ture is of­ten seed­ed ear­ly in a com­pa­ny’s life and pos­i­tive­ly ad­dress­ing cul­ture from the get-go re­duces the need for cul­tur­al cor­rec­tions as a com­pa­ny ma­tures.

The pow­er of the col­lec­tive

For small com­pa­nies, with­out the ex­per­tise and hu­man cap­i­tal, the in­tent to im­ple­ment DE&I prac­tices, tools and poli­cies of­ten fails. Prac­tices bor­rowed from large in­ter­na­tion­al com­pa­nies are not rou­tine­ly ef­fec­tive ei­ther.

The range and com­plex­i­ty of DE&I is­sues com­pa­nies need to tack­le, make the task daunt­ing and com­pli­cat­ed. In­stead of or­ga­ni­za­tions in­di­vid­u­al­ly piec­ing to­geth­er a DE&I strat­e­gy, con­stituents have an op­por­tu­ni­ty to work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly and pre-com­pet­i­tive­ly to de­vel­op DE&I so­lu­tions that are de­signed for the op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments of ven­ture cap­i­tal firms and ven­ture-backed pri­vate com­pa­nies. The Bio­science & In­vestor In­clu­sion Group (BI­IG) is one such op­por­tu­ni­ty (www.bioin­clu­sion.org).

Bio­science & In­vestor In­clu­sion Group chan­nels col­lec­tive com­mu­ni­ty ac­tion; some­thing the bio­science sec­tor does well. BI­IG en­ables com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als to con­tribute their per­spec­tive or ex­pe­ri­ence to struc­tured work­ing groups ini­tial­ly pri­or­i­tiz­ing In­vestor In­ter­ac­tions; Hir­ing and On­board­ing, and Peo­ple Growth and Re­ten­tion. The DE&I so­lu­tions BI­IG de­vel­ops will be freely ac­ces­si­ble to help ad­vance and ac­cel­er­ate DE&I in the in­dus­try.

When in­vestors and en­tre­pre­neurs link arms in the face of chal­leng­ing prob­lems, they are ca­pa­ble of re­mark­able achieve­ments. This uni­ty and the open and col­lab­o­ra­tive spir­it of the bio­science com­mu­ni­ty can tack­le an­oth­er big prob­lem the sec­tor must con­front — in­equal­i­ty.

Karl Simp­son is the CEO of Lift­stream and a founder of The Bio­science & In­vestor In­clu­sion Group.

Biotech Voic­es is a con­tributed col­umn from se­lect End­points News read­ers. Read more here.

Scoop: Boehringer qui­et­ly shut­ters a PhII for one of its top drugs — now un­der re­view

Boehringer Ingelheim has quietly shut down a small Phase II study for one of its lead drugs.

The private pharma player confirmed to Endpoints News that it had shuttered a study testing spesolimab as a therapy for Crohn’s patients suffering from bowel obstructions.

A spokesperson for the company tells Endpoints:

Taking into consideration the current therapeutic landscape and ongoing clinical development programs, Boehringer Ingelheim decided to discontinue our program in Crohn’s disease. It is important to note that this decision is not based on any safety findings in the clinical trials.

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Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

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Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

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How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

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(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

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Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”

#Can­nes­Lions2022: Con­sumer health ex­ecs call on agen­cies to in­volve pa­tients in cre­ative process

CANNES — When Tamara Rogers joined GSK back in 2018, “science was king and R&D were the gods.” Now the global chief marketing officer of consumer healthcare wants to make room for another supreme being: the consumer.

As health and wellness becomes more relevant to consumers amid the pandemic, four health-focused executives called on marketers to involve patients in their creative process in a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions advertising creativity festival.

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