David's New Book

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Bittersweet End to 2009

Here it is, Christmas eve, and I'm blogging about antibiotics. What is wrong with me?

The end of this year is bittersweet for me. I have been an independent director on the board of a biotech company, Novexel, for the last several years. Yesterday, Novexel was purchased by Astra-Zeneca who, in turn, were supported by Forest Pharmaceuticals in the US. Novexel was a spin-out from Sanofi-Aventis and was able to take several of the compounds that were included in the spin-off all the way through Ph. II clinical development. I am very proud to have been part of that effort. Novexel built a strong scientific and management team - one of the best in biotech as far as antibiotics are concerned. This team was responsible for Novexel's success.

A trade sale has frequently been the best outcome for biotech investors and that has been even more true since the economic crisis of the last two years. In the case of Novexel, its products will now be developed through Phase III and will then be marketed by Astra-Zeneca and Forest. That is a great outcome for patients and physicians since new antibiotics active against resistant bacteria will be available to them as a result of this transaction. For the people of Novexel, things are less clear. Other biotech exits, like going to the public markets and licensing rights to products to support development and marketing have not been possible these last two years. But that strategy allows for the creation of new companies, like Cubist in the US and creates jobs as opposed to destroying them. This alternate strategy also engenders an ongoing innovation which may be lost with a trade sale.

So the end of 2009 is bittersweet. Good and valuable antibiotics will now be provided to patients who need them but a great biotech which brought these products forward from the lab bench to the late stages of clinical development will cease to exist.