The End­points 11: Here are some of the most promis­ing star­tups in biotech. And Covid-19 is­n't go­ing to stop them

Quite of­ten when I high­light a pri­vate, typ­i­cal­ly ear­ly-stage biotech com­pa­ny for these an­nu­al awards, I’m asked what I look for in a com­pa­ny. How do you de­fine an End­points 11 com­pa­ny?

[Reg­is­ter for the End­points 11 event here. No cost to at­tend.]

There’s a sim­ple enough an­swer. First, I look for big ideas among the pri­vate biotechs which qual­i­fy for re­view, a swing for the fences. I’m drawn to peo­ple who are will­ing to gam­ble a chunk of their lives on new drug ideas, and in that re­gard, the stakes here are huge. Drug de­vel­op­ment is long and hard, and you could eas­i­ly be wa­ger­ing 10 or more years of your life on some­thing. So go big or go home if you aren’t plan­ning to do some­thing trans­for­ma­tive.

I want a team di­rect­ing these projects that have the tal­ent, vig­or and knowhow to make it hap­pen. Track records are key and ear­li­er fail­ures can be a big plus — de­pend­ing on how that played out.

Peo­ple are al­ways more im­por­tant than mon­ey. That’s a mantra of mine that al­ways earns quick nods in any biotech group. But mak­ing sure that a com­pa­ny has enough lu­cre to make it through to proof of con­cept, and be­yond, is al­so key to the se­lec­tion process.

Still, you’ll find com­pa­nies be­low that raised a few mil­lion to get start­ed, and biotechs that ap­pear to have found the key to Fort Knox. So it’s vari­able.

And then there’s the noise fac­tor. I want to choose com­pa­nies that can earn wide­spread recog­ni­tion for suc­cess — or make a hell of a noise if they fail. None of these com­pa­nies be­low will slink off to an anony­mous mid­night bur­ial if they fall short of vic­to­ry. They’ll make a noise heard through­out the glob­al in­dus­try, and we can all learn from it.

This year, with a pan­dem­ic rag­ing around the world, I want­ed to fo­cus more on cul­ture than par­tic­u­lar as­sets. Each of these biotechs is sort­ing out the R&D work, but I want to let the ex­ecs re­flect more on the most im­por­tant points of start­ing a com­pa­ny than the spe­cif­ic pro­gram goals in mind. Build­ing com­pa­nies these days takes some new­found in­ge­nu­ity, and it’s im­por­tant to share these points with every­one.

There are some oth­er trends you’ll see re­flect­ed in the sto­ries be­low. The in­ter­sec­tion of biotech and Big Phar­ma is tak­ing on a dif­fer­ent tone at times, with an eye to as­sem­bling large net­works of ex­perts to tack­le com­plex prob­lems. And the in­flow of bil­lions of dol­lars of fresh in­vest­ment cap­i­tal al­lows for a new breed of start­up con­spir­ing to sire trans­for­ma­tive ther­a­pies. That’s not cheap, and suc­cess is not guar­an­teed. But it is al­ways fas­ci­nat­ing.

Let me sum up here by not­ing that the biggest health­care cri­sis in 100 years has helped make biotech the place to be, for­tu­nate­ly for all of us. These com­pa­nies aren’t squan­der­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty. And that de­serves a spe­cial shout out all on its own.

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