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BIO 2009: Stem Cell Companies’ ‘Fate’ Relies on Interdisciplinary Business Models

Posted by Mary Canady May 19th, 2009 .
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I attended the ‘Mastering Your (Cell) Fate: Stem Cells, iPSCs and the Future of Medicine’ session at BIO on Monday, which featured a panel of specialists: G. Steven Burrill, CEO, Burrill & Company, Aaron Rowe, Reporter, Wired News, Paul Grayson, CEO, Fate Therapeutics, Ian Ratcliffe, CEO, Stemgent, and Richard Gregory, Senior VP Head of Research, Genzyme. Members of the audience included biotech professionals, media, and even some patients who were eager to hear about the progress of iPSC therapies. iPSCs are ‘induced Pluripotent Stem Cells’ which are mature adult cells which have been ‘reprogrammed,’ in contrast to embryonic stem cells (for a full description see Stem Cells 101 on Fate Therapeutics’ website).
The panel discussed the fact that although stem cell research is gaining a lot of attention recently, therapies involving cell treatments have been around for years, bone marrow transplants as a prime example. Nevertheless, Burrill pointed out that venture capital is still mostly on the sidelines when it comes to stem cell funding. Reasons? Burrill said that a big issue is the perceived risk of getting stem cell therapies through the FDA along with the fact that startup companies are often preoccupied with the science and don’t develop a viable business model early. Someone in the audience commented that the challenges facing stem cell companies currently may be similar to those faced by other non-small molecule therapies such as Biologics, which didn’t ‘take off’ until a blockbuster drug hit the market. The panel consensus was that most of the research is actually being done in academia, with Stemgent’s Ratcliffe commenting that most of their customers come from this sector.
After the session, I spoke with Fate Therapeutics CEO Paul Grayson, and we discussed their unique strategies for overcoming these perceived challenges. Fate received generous VC funding early from ARCH, Polaris, and Venrock, likely due to the fact that their founders and management are a veritable ‘who’s who’ in stem cell research and technologies. In addition, they maintain close ties with academic institutions such as Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Stanford University, University of Washington and the Whitehead Institute. Fate continues to ‘think outside of the box’ when it comes to creating a workable business model, and has recently partnered with Stemgent, also based in San Diego, to create an unprecedented interdisciplinary agreement called ‘Catalyst‘ which represents a new paradigm in which pharma, early stage biotech, and academia will work together to create the research tools which will be directly used to develop therapeutics. In exchange for annual funding from pharmaceutical companies (Grayson says they are targeting up to 5 companies for a total of $50M), Fate and Stemgent will create tools which will be accessible only to member companies. Dr. Sheng Ding, founder of both Fate and Stemgent, is an Associate Professor at TSRI, bringing cutting edge research from academia to the collaboration.
Grayson says that the Catalyst collaboration has been helped by the translational medicine movement, in which academic scientists focus on the applicability of their research to public needs. In the BIO iPSC Panel, it was estimated that around 100 stem cell companies currently exist, and Grayson estimates that only 20 will be still standing after two years. With the looming uncertainties in risk and regulatory issues, it may be likely that such interdisciplinary collaborations will be needed to help stem cell companies and technologies to succeed.
On a regional note, I’m working on featuring Fate at one of our upcoming San Diego Biotechnology Network events, as they are exemplary of our vision to bring different sectors and disciplines together to stimulate growth in our region as well as in biotechnology in general. Stay tuned!


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Good Morning from BIO!

Posted by Mary Canady May 18th, 2009 .
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Sunrise Atlanta on TwitpicYou may know I’m a blogger at the Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Atlanta. I’m here and adjusting to the time change. I’m eager to cover stories about San Diego Biotech–we’ve got a lot going on here! Today Paul Grayson, CEO of Fate Therapeutics, and Ian Ratcliffe, CEO of Stemgent, will be speaking in the ‘Mastering Your (Cell) Fate: Stem Cells, iPSCs and the Future of Medicine’ session.’ Check out the BIO blog for the latest. I hope to speak with them, stay tuned! It’s raining off and on here, but I always forget how nice it is to see lots of trees.


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Social Media for Scientists: SDBN’s May 28th Event

Posted by Mary Canady May 1st, 2009 .
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SDBN’s May Event: Building a network and using your knowledge to advance your career and science

Want access to a network of tens of thousands of scientists who you can help you advance your career? Learn about your peers’ work in real time, and discuss it with them? We’ll spend part of the night covering LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, FriendFeed, and examples specific to life science and biotechnology during this networking event. We’ll introduce you to new resources and ideas which are revolutionizing science communication. This event will be customized to your needs: we’ll ask you what you want to learn about before (and even during!) this very interactive event. You’ll have time to ask questions and network throughout the event, and go home with resources and a plan to get a jump start with these exciting new tools. Sign up now to reserve your spot, and we’ll see you May 28th!

About the Presenters

Mary Canady began 20 years ago as a bench scientist in biochemistry and moved to the business side of biotechnology 10 years later, working at life science companies including Invitrogen and Calbiochem. In 2008 she founded Comprendia, a company specializing in helping biotechnology and life science companies grow through strategic marketing and business development. She recently started the San Diego Biotechnology Network (SDBN) a ‘2.0’ generation networking group, facilitating interactions through monthly events combined with online media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs. (Mary’s LinkedIn Profile)

William Gunn did his doctoral studies at Tulane University on Bone Repair Using Human Multipotent Stromal Stem Cells. During his studies he explored social media and helped found the Friendfeed Life Scientists room, where over 700 scientists share information and collaborate to solve problems daily. He moved to San Diego in 2008 to pursue science and social media, and works for Genalyte developing molecular diagnostics assays. He also works with Mendeley, an academic reference management service, where he helps researchers leverage social media tools for collaboration and discovery.(William’s LinkedIn Profile)

Sponsored by

About Proven

PROVEN is an employee owned Consulting, Staffing and Solutions firm based in San Diego, CA. Our customer centric approach focuses on the needs of our clients and candidates. We provide flexible consulting and contingent staffing solutions in the areas of Scientific, Clinical, Information Technology, Engineering and Finance & Accounting on a direct-hire, contract-to-hire, and contract basis.

May Event Flyer (PDF)

Event Details
Who: Biotechnology professionals in the greater San Diego area
What:Social Media for Scientists: San Diego Biotechnology Network’s May Networking Event
When: Thursday, May 28th, 5:30-9:00 p.m.
Where: Tango Del Rey, 3567 Del Rey Street, San Diego 92109 (Directions below)
Cost: $20, including appetizers ($15 for Academics) +$5 at door
For more information about the event:

Directions: From the North: South on Interstate 5, Exit Balboa Ave, Straight to 4th Traffic Light then left on Bunker Hill St. Building directly ahead 3 blks. From the South: North on Interstate 5, Exit Grand/ Garnet Ave, Straight to 3rd Traffic Light then right on Bunker Hill St. Building directly ahead 3 blks.


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See you tonight–50+ Companies Represented!

Posted by Mary Canady April 30th, 2009 .
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Looking forward to seeing everyone tonight. We’ll have onsite registration ($25, $20 for academics with ID), so feel free to stop by. You’ll be able to network with people from 50+ companies at the event, and we always do our best to ensure that you make as many contacts as possible. Also, Regulus Therapeutics will be giving a presentation on microRNA therapeutics, a very hot drug discovery topic. We’ll also be giving away some shwag from Labarmor, including a stylish black labcoat!

Event details:

See you there!

People from the following companies will be in attendance tonight:

Allied Intrade Inc
Beckman Coulter
BIA Separations
Biogen Idec
BioProcess Solutions
Biotech Vendor Services, Inc.
California BioSolutions
Calmune Corporation
Celula, Inc.
City of Hope
Fate Therapeutics
Hayden Bergman Rooney, P.C.
Health Decisions Inc.
Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals
K&L Gates
Keck Graduate Institute
La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology
Millipore Corp.
NexBio, Inc.
Nuvo Research, Inc.
Pfizer Inc.
PharmaScouts, Inc.
Proven Scientific Staffing
Regulus Therapeutics
Sanford Rose Associates
Sapphire Energy
Senomyx, Inc.
Sirion Therapeutics
SourceSolution, Inc.
Sparta Systems Inc.
Stockfisch Consulting
The Scripps Research Institute
UC San Diego
Vala Sciences
Vical Inc.
Wayne State University

Want more details about these companies? Many are listed on our San Diego Biotechnology Company Directory:


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Seven Ways To Use The SDBN More Effectively

Posted by Mary Canady April 17th, 2009 .
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The San Diego Biotechnology Network is a next generation organization dedicated to helping people connect better than ever before. What makes it different? Well, for starters, members can interact easily both online and face to face, making your connections more powerful and easy to maintain than ever before. You can leverage this group in many ways, and the fact that it has 1000+ members (and growing fast) means that you have a lot of power! Here are 7 ways you can get the most out of the SDBN:

  1. You can contact anyone else in the LinkedIn group directly through LinkedIn. We’ve been careful to allow only Biotech professionals in the greater San Diego area. Let’s say you want to contact someone at a particular company. To find someone who works there within the group, use the LinkedIn advanced search, fill in the company, and select the SDBN from the ‘Groups’ selection on the right. You can even offer to meet someone you’d like to connect with (either in the group or out) at the next event, or list a specific request to the discussion board (e.g. ‘looking to meet others with Stem Cell startup ideas’).
  2. Attend the events. There is no substitute for meeting people face to face. Benefits? Grow your network literally overnight. Collect business cards and ask people to connect. There is no better way to find out what is going on in San Diego Biotech. Our April event is a great place to start, Regulus Therapeutics will be our featured company, and will talk about microRNA therapeutics.
  3. Consider contributing more to group discussions on LinkedIn. See an interesting news item? Post it! Have a question about San Diego Biotech, or Biotech in general? Post it! Just be careful to not be too self-serving, people can be put off.
  4. Volunteer. Want to meet nearly everyone at an event? Volunteer to work the registration table. There’s no better way to connect and become recognizable to those at the event. We’ll even give you free admission and you’ll be free to mingle after the ‘rush.’
  5. Tell us how to make it better. We have many ideas to make the SDBN the most engaging and empowering group possible, and input from you helps a lot! Some of the ideas we’ve thought of are charity events, focus groups, more workshops, and entrepreneur/VC challenges. We’re going to send out a poll soon, but why wait? Tell us on our contact form or leave a comment below.
  6. Visit the SDBN site often to catch up on news, jobs, and events. We’ve created feeds and resources specific to San Diego Biotech:
    1. News:
    2. Jobs:
    3. Company Directory:
    4. Calendar:

    You can also follow us on twitter at @sdbn & @sdbnjobs to get updates as they happen, and communicate with other SDBN members.

  7. Invite others to join the group! The bigger the SDBN gets, the more we all benefit. Just send them to or to the LinkedIn Group at

In summary, we hope that you continue to explore and find ways to help us make this group as useful as possible. One thing to keep in mind for social media in general, is to behave online as you would in person. Nobody likes a person that spends the whole time talking about themselves in person, and the same goes online. You’ll get a lot more out of the SDBN if you contribute to it–this could be ‘paying it forward’ with introductions for people, leaving helpful posts and comments, or volunteering. In May, we’ll be presenting a workshop on Social Media for Scientists, including tips and pointers for using it for your career, your science, and your company. Also, check out Comprendia’s Biotechnology Marketing 101 Blog and Presentation Series for tips on using the principles of marketing to get an advantage in several different areas. Stay tuned and let us know how we can help!