Flip This Asset: San Diego’s Advanced BioHealing ‘Fixed Up’ Dermagraft for Profit and Growth #BIO2010

bio_conf-logo1-300x218_2Wednesday I attended a regenerative medicine-focused breakfast at the BIO convention and learned about San Diego company Advanced BioHealing (ABH), who took a ‘fallen’ asset, Dermagraft, and not only turned it into an $85M/year product, but is also looking for new indications. Dermagraft was sold by Advanced Tissue Sciences, who had invested hundreds of millions into developing it, and even got FDA approval for the product to treat diabetic foot ulcers.
I spoke with Advanced BioHealing’s Senior VP Dean Tozer, and he describes their methodology as ‘reverse biotech,’ meaning that they first focused on commercializing products, and just recently hired their CSO Charles Hart. Hart will be spearheading the efforts to find soft tissue indications for Dermagraft. This is counter to how most biotechs in San Diego form, and it appears to be working for ABH as they are predicting 30-50% growth over the next few years.
This growth translates to jobs in San Diego, with 15 listed on the ABH careers page currently. ABH has locations in Westport, Connecticut and Nashville, Tennessee as well, and plans to continue manufacturing products in their 70,000 square foot La Jolla site near the Burnham Institute, and has recently acquired 20,000 square feet of office space nearby in an old Pfizer site. I asked Tozer whether the jobs will continue to be created in San Diego, and he said yes, because the talent pool here is so valuable to them.
What can other San Diego biotechs learn from this example? At BIO this year, I have seen successful repurposing of assets and information. It may simply be the product of a down economy, but I wonder what we can learn, and what could be gained by investigating failed assets that exist from local companies who have not survived? Tozer also believes strongly that the right people make the difference, and they were lucky to bring together a team which understands biotech commercialization. Surely, attracting or training more commercially focused professionals in the area would be a great start.