After I last wrote about Twitter's impact on biotech, a few FierceBiotech readers responded with skepticism. They weren't so sure that engaging on a microblogging site was a good use of their time. One reader suggested that it was more for journalists, people like me who need to stay on top of the latest news, than for someone in an operational or research role at a biotech company.
These are all valid points, but Twitter has shown no signs of retreating into obscurity since my brief September 2011 column, "Twitter as biopharma radar." We see new industry professionals--including executives, venture capitalists and researchers--joining the conversation on the social media platform all the time. And this got me thinking about finding a way to share this with readers, and maybe to get more people off the sidelines to share their unique perspectives on topics such as drug R&D, pharma marketing, biotech entrepreneurship and improving human health.
FierceBiotech has been working with Appeering, which tracks industry dialogues on Twitter, since this summer to feature interesting conversations with our readers. Appeering has its own special algorithm for rating individuals that is based on the ratio of how many people they follow versus how many follow them; how well Twitter users' content is shared by others; and the real conversations people have with industry counterparts on the site. The Appeering algorithm, which the company applied to a month's worth of activity data, goes far beyond sheer number of followers to rate a person's influence on Twitter.
There are a lot of reasons to build a Twitter audience, and one great reason is to establish your own personal brand that you can carry with you no matter where you work. Here are a few trends I noticed among the people who made the top-50 list:
Many of them create their own content (blogs, articles, books) and share it on Twitter.
Beyond retweets, they tend to share personal knowledge in conversations.
Many seem to give tweets a personalized touch, the opposite of spamming.
Judge for yourself whether you want to follow the people on this top-50 list, which is composed of executives, physicians, investors and others who to some degree have a tie to the biotech industry. Appeering said that journalists--including folks such as John Carroll (@JohnCFierce), Adam Feuerstein (@adamfeuerstein), Matthew Herper (@matthewherper) and Luke Timmerman (@ldtimmerman)--would have been highly rated if we had included journalists. All those guys are must-follows on Twitter.
However, I asked Appeering to list the top industry folks sans journos because I wanted to highlight the people at universities, hospitals, venture firms and, most of all, biotech companies who have taken the time to share their insights on the industry. While they arguably have as much of a professional duty to tweet as any journalist, we're also including analysts, stock traders and a few consultants this year.
Please let me know your thoughts about this feature and how you think we could improve the criteria we give to Appeering for the list in the future. I believe the following list captures many of the most interesting and influential biotech industry voices on Twitter, and I'd like to thank Appeering for providing us with the data. -- Ryan McBride (email | Twitter)
Dr. Tro Kalayjian (@TroKalayjianCRG)--Physician and biopharma analyst
Organization: Chimera Research Group
Profile: Kalayjian is the chief of research and an original member of the crew behind Chimera Research Group, which specializes in independent analysis of biotech and pharma stocks. When he's not surveying the biopharma scene, he works as a resident physician at a hospital. Lately, he's been churning out a lot of tweets and conversing with others (sometimes quite heatedly) about the obesity drug provider Vivus ($VVUS).
Robert West (@westr)--Teaching personalized medicine
Organization: SUNY Upstate Medical University
Profile: Personalized medicine is the future of treatment, but it's going to require an army of educators, clinicians and researchers to become reality. A longtime professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University, West specializes in application of genomics, digital technologies and social media to provide tailored care of patients.
Michael Eisen (@mbeisen)--Biologist for open access
Organization: University of California, Berkeley
Profile: When Eisen makes a discovery in genetics, he wants the global scientific community to know about it without having to pay hefty journal subscription fees. Such subscriptions could impede access to information, which runs counter to the ethos of the Public Library of Science (PLOS). Eisen co-founded PLOS, a publisher of free peer-reviewed scientific research and articles. And he's a hero to open-access advocates.
Bill Nye (@thescienceguy)--Inspiring scientists
Profile: Yes, this is Bill Nye as in Bill Nye the Science Guy, his eponymous TV show that ran during the 1990s. Nye might not be a biotech industry guy, but he has done a lot to excite people of all ages, and particularly youngsters, about science. I'll bet there are scores of people working in the industry right now who once upon a time were riveted to episodes of Nye talking about the wonders of the natural world. The guy's a treasure.
Laura Strong (@scientre)--Runs biotech focused on cancer drugs
Organization: Quintessence Biosciences
Profile: Strong is the voice of Wisconsin biotech on Twitter. As head of operations for Madison, WI-based Quintessence Biosciences, the UW alum brings a unique perspective on the challenges of keeping a privately held drug-research outfit on track. And she isn't afraid to share her thoughts on hot topics such as company financing and partnering strategies.
Nathan Sadeghi-Nejad (@natesadeghi)--Biotech analyst and commentator
Profile: Sadeghi-Nejad is a veteran biotech analyst, and over the past year or so he's raised his profile with regulator contributions to TheStreet and Forbes that delve deeply into the assets of drug developers. His recent analyses of hepatitis C drug developer Achillion Pharmaceuticals ($ACHN) and past piece on Verastem ($VSTM) are two examples of how he's able to drill down to the essentials of these companies.
Jeff Raikes (@jeffraikes)--CEO of the world's largest health charity
Organization: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Followers: Nearly 11K
Profile: Raikes followed up his successful career at Microsoft with the top job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has bankrolled with his vast fortune. The foundation is an active player in global health and, through efforts to bring better medicines to people in need, biotech.
John LaMattina (@john_lamattina)--Big Pharma veteran and commentator
Organization: PureTech Ventures
Profile: LaMattina used to run R&D for the largest drugmaker in the world, Pfizer ($PFE), and he now blogs for Forbes about the pharma industry with the authority of a man who has been to the belly of the Big Pharma beast--and, for a while, sat at the controls. He is now a senior partner at PureTech, which makes him affiliated with Appeering.
StocksMD (@StocksMD)--Mystery doctor and stock trader
Profile: StocksMD doesn't list his actual name, but the mystery person claims to be an interventional gastroenterologist and part-time swing trader. I'd really like to know the person behind this Twitter account. So please let us know who you are, StocksMD. In the meantime, StocksMD's Twitter profile says: "Follow trades at your own risk."
Mike Havrilla (@mikehavrilla)--Pharmacist and biotech stock trader
Profile: Havrilla is another influential voice among stock traders in the biotech twitterverse. He's now involved in the website called BioRunUp.com, which provides tips to folks trying to capitalize on swings in biotech stock prices. He's also a licensed IV pharmacist, marathon runner and ex-Big Pharma employee (Wyeth).
Paul Levy (@paulflevy)--Former hospital CEO
Organization: Formerly Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Profile: Levy has been an influential player in the Boston healthcare scene for a long time. Last year he resigned from his big hospital job as CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center under a bit of a cloud because his personal relationship with a female employee had been publicly criticized. Though he's no longer running the large hospital, he remains an advocate for putting patients first in the healthcare system.
Michael Gilman (@michael_gilman)--Embedded entrepreneur at big biotech company
Organization: Biogen Idec
Followers: Nearly 2K
Profile: As true a biotech insider as you'll find on this list, Gilman has been tweeting about his experiences in the industry for a while with sharp wit and a sense of humor. His tweets have stayed provocative since he sold his company Stromedix to Biogen Idec ($BIIB) and joined Biogen as a senior R&D executive earlier this year, and his comments provide a unique day-in-the-life feel.
Daphne Zohar (@daphnezohar)--Biotech and healthcare entrepreneur
Organization: PureTech Ventures
Profile: Zohar founded the venture creation firm, PureTech Ventures, from which many life sciences companies and Appeering (the outfit that provided FierceBiotech with this list) have sprung. In the physical world and, with Appeering, the social media world, Zohar has deftly marshaled people and resources to create new businesses from big ideas and technologies.
Shannon Brownlee (@shannonbrownlee)-- Pharmaceuticals critic and author
Organization: New America Foundation
Profile: Brownlee seems unlikely to be found keynoting a meeting for pharma lobbyists. Her book, Overtreated, questioned whether prescription meds are actually causing more health and economic harm than good. Lots of people think this way, and it's a good reminder for industry that only truly novel and game-changing therapies will gain wide acceptance.
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff (@yonifreedhoff)--Obesity doc and blogger
Organization: University of Ottawa
Profile: Freedhoff is an outspoken advocate for weaning ourselves off of the rich and sugary diets that have led to obesity, which plagues about a third of the U.S. population and can lead to diabetes, heart problems and multiple diseases. There's been plenty of antiobesity drug development in recent years, but doctors haven't given up on dieting as a way to drop weight.
Chris Hogg (@cwhogg)--Health 2.0 advocate and data junkie
Profile: Hogg has jumped from the biotech sphere to the digital health realm with his company 100Plus, which aims to provide a data-driven approach to enlighten patients about their health futures. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, he previously held gigs at biotech outfits such as Gilead Sciences ($GILD) and CV Therapeutics, according to LinkedIn.
Dr. Anas Younes (@dranasyounes)--Lymphoma expert from top cancer center
Organization: M.D. Anderson
Profile: Younes is among the globally recognized team from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. He tweets about cancer and other health-related topics. And bet that biopharma folks are paying attention; M.D. Anderson is one of the leading hubs for the No. 1 market in the industry, cancer treatments.
Andrew Goodwin (@bioduediligence)--Biotech analyst, scientist
Profile: Goodwin has the scientific chops and background in biotech investing to hold his own with some of the top biopharma commentators on Twitter. He writes for his own website, BiotechDueDiligence, and serves as an analyst for the biotech stock analyst firm Chimera Research Group. He's also got a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular medicine from Johns Hopkins, according to his online bio, giving him skills that he's put to work as a pharmacologist for the FDA.
Dr. Ves Dimov (@DrVes)--Physician, blogger
Organization: University of Chicago
Profile: Dimov is an allergist and internist who serves as an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Chicago. He appears to be a prolific tweeter and author, writing his CasesBlog and penning more than 130 publications. I didn't know about him until I saw Appeering's list, but I'm following Dimov now.
Dr. Bertalan Mesko (@berci)--Physician-entrepreneur
Profile: Mesko, based in Budapest, is immersed in social media for pharma and healthcare in general. The physician and geneticist co-founded a company, Webicina, that aggregates medical social media from Facebook, Twitter and other sources for users in pharma and other healthcare stakeholders. He tweets about eClinical technologies, the activities of his company and other healthcare topics.
Sally Church (@maverickny)--Biopharma consultant
Organization: Icarus Consultants
Profile: Sally Church is one of the authors of the Pharma Strategy Blog, where, along with her Twitter feed, she provides some sharp analysis of biotech assets, particularly in oncology. When conversations get going on, say, the latest data from a cancer drug study, Church seems to come to the table with lots of smart things to say.
Dr. Joseph Kim (@drjosephkim)--Physician and executive
Organization: MCM Education
Profile: Kim is a digital tech and publishing entrepreneur. His Twitter musings cover healthcare technology, healthcare systems and other related topics.
Leonid Kruglyak (@leonidkruglyak)--Princeton professor
Organization: Princeton University
Profile: Kruglyak gives his Twitter followers a close-up view of his lab at Princeton (quite literally, as he recently shared a photo of a MiSeq sequencer from Illumina ($ILMN)). His lab investigates molecular and evolutionary influences on changes in DNA, and his group uses cutting-edge sequencing and computational analyses to get the job done.
Dr. Tom Frieden (@drfriedencdc)--Major disease sleuth
Organization: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Profile: Frieden leads arguably one of the most important U.S. agencies to public health. The self-described disease detective tweets about the work of the CDC in combating infectious diseases and other health threats. Because the CDC influences U.S. health policy, pharma pros pay attention to the agency.
Linda Avey (@lindaavey)--Life sciences entrepreneur
Organization: 23andMe (co-founder, not active in management)
Profile: Avey left her active role at 23andMe in 2009, but it's tough not to associate her with the personal genomics company that she co-founded with Anne Wojcicki. Avey, as you might guess, tweets about genomics and other science-related topics.
Bradley Voytek (@bradleyvoytek)--Neuroscience postdoc
Organization: University of California, San Francisco
Profile: Voytek has written extensively on the role of neuronal oscillation in human cognition, very heady stuff. He's now working on his postdoc at UCSF and collaborating on other neuroscience-related projects.
Dr. Vinny Arora (@futuredocs)--Internal medicine doc, blogger
Organization: University of Chicago
Profile: If you were beefing up on your knowledge of the hospital physician market (or doing research for a hospital TV drama), you might stop by Arora's Future Docs blog or check out her Twitter account. She manages medical residents and is assistant dean of scholarship and discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine of the University of Chicago.
Tara Smith (@aetiology)--Microbiologist, academic, blogger
Organization: Aetiology (blog)
Profile: Smith's profile says that she's an associate professor, microbiologist/infectious disease epidemiologist and occasional blogger. A self-described nerd, she writes about evolution and diseases. Science junkies, your cup runneth over.
Richard Pops (@popsalks)--Biotech CEO
Profile: You won't find many chief executives of biotech companies with market caps north of $2 billion, and you'll see few among this elite group on Twitter, but Rich Pops has shown that he is far more open to embracing social media than some of his peers. He doesn't tweet often, but he does comment on industry news, and it's intriguing to me to see what stories top CEOs find interesting.
Mark Changizi (@markchangizi)--Evolutionary neurobiologist, author
Organization: 2AI Labs
Profile: Changizi explores the mysteries of human cognition and has written a ton to inform the research community and public about his findings, including the answers to why humans see in color and organize their thoughts in certain ways, according to his bio. His Twitter feed is a regular source of his latest observations.
Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics)--Biologist, open-access champion
Organization: University of California, Davis
Followers: Nearly 13K
Profile: Eisen is a leading voice among academics calling for unfettered access to scientific manuscripts and research, believing strongly that restricted access stymies progress. He practices what he preaches, serving as the academic editor-in-chief of PLOS Biology, the free open-access answer to journals such as Nature and Science that still operate on subscription models.
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (@seattlemamadoc)-- Mom, pediatrician, blogger
Organization: Seattle Children's Hospital
Profile: What's more important to parents than the health of their children? Swanson provides many thoughts about pediatric health via her active Twitter account and on her blog, Seattle Mama Doc. She's not a biotech person, but biotech people might have an interest in understanding the needs of pediatric patients.
Jason Napodano (@jnapodano)--Sell-side biotech analyst
Organization: Zacks Investment Research
Profile: Napodano brings perspectives on the activities of both Big Pharma and small drug developers, as he's spent years analyzing both for Zacks. He's now dedicated to analyzing small-cap biotech outfits at the firm, where he's the managing director of institutional equity research, according to his bio. On Twitter, he knows when he's got something useful to say, which is often, and when to back off on other topics with which he's less familiar.
Marion Nestle (@marionnestle)--Scientist/Academic
Organization: New York University
Profile: A molecular biologist by training, Nestle is a leading scholar in nutrition and a frequent commentator on the topic via her blog, foodpolitics.com. She also authored a illuminating book about nutrition called Food Politics. Nutrition, and lack of it, have had a tremendous influence on the biopharma industry and its decisions to invest in new drugs against diabetes, obesity and other conditions.
Alan Maynard (@profalanmaynard)--Health economics professor
Organization: University of York
Profile: As budget crises in Europe deal blows to pharma, industry professionals ignore healthcare economics at their peril. Maynard is an authority on the topic of healthcare economics and has been a scholar in the field for decades, contributing to policy at NHS to grant reimbursement to pharmaceuticals based on evidence of effectiveness.
Chris Gunter (@girlscientist)--Geneticist, writer/editor, nonprofit strategist
Organization: Girlscientist Consulting
Profile: Gunter blends her experiences in academia and as a former editor for Nature and other publications to provide educated insights on life sciences via Twitter. She's a communications consultant and serves as director of research affairs at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in her state of residence, Alabama.
Bruce Booth (@LifeSciVC)--Venture capitalist, blogger
Organization: Atlas Venture
Profile: Bruce is the author of the blog Life Sci VC and is a regular contributor to Forbes. He provides a unique take on biotech through the lens of someone actively investing in new companies. I'm unaware of another biotech VC as engaged in social media as Bruce. He's an essential source for those who follow early-stage biotech and investing in drug discovery.
Dr. Val Jones (@drval)--Enterprising healthcare blogger
Organization: Better Health
Profile: If you like a side of health tips with your main course of biotech news, Jones provides an ample amount of the the former via Twitter and her growing network of healthcare blogs at Better Health.
Noam Wasserman (@noamwass)--Business professor, author
Organization: Harvard Business School
Followers: Nearly 4K
Profile: The HBS professor penned The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup, an Amazon bestseller. Though not specific to biotech, Wasserman tweets about fiscal issues and entrepreneurship, which are both important to success in life sciences ventures.
Dan Vorhaus (@genomicslawyer)--Attorney focused on life sciences
Organization: Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson
Profile: Vorhaus, a Harvard-trained attorney, tweets frequently about news and events concerning genomics and personalized medicine. Personalized medicine often brings a host of legal questions, and Vorhaus tackles some of these in his Genomics Law Report. And you know his tweets are made with care because, well, he's a lawyer.
David Welch (@orthostichy)--Ex-stem cell scientist, market development pro
Organization: Life Technologies
Profile: Welch, who has a Ph.D. in stem cell biology, has traded in his lab coat for a gig in market development at Life Technologies ($LIFE). He's got views on medical research funding, politics and, not surprisingly, stem cell science.
Anonymous (@sheffstation)--Stock picker
Profile: As an investor in binary stocks, Sheff has a lot to say on biotech companies that face make-or-break events with clinical trial results and regulatory decisions. I follow Sheff, like most all the people on this list, but I realize that he's tweeting with a definite agenda. Don't we all, I suppose.
David Miller (@biotechstockrsr)--Independent biotech stock analyst
Organization: Biotech Stock Research
Profile: David Miller is known for smart commentary on some of the most closely watched drug developers in the world such as Medivation ($MDVN) and Seattle Genetics ($SGEN). While fund managers pay for his independent research reports, Miller often treats his loyal Twitter followers to insightful comments about biotech news.
Dr. Mike Sevilla (@drmikesevilla)--Family physician and social media enthusiast
Organization: Family Medicine Rocks
Profile: Biopharma companies have spent a fortune trying to understand and engage general practitioners, first with black-bag sales forces and now adding online overtures. With more than 20,000 tweets to his credit, Dr. Sevilla is an open book of ideas and comments about healthcare. He's also the author of a blog called Family Medicine Rocks.
David Nutt (@profdavidnutt)--Neuropsychopharmacology expert
Organization: Imperial College London
Profile: Prof. David Nutt wants the world to keep an open mind about studying the use of chemicals from illegal drugs such as magic mushrooms to treat psychiatric conditions. Not everyone agrees, yet Nutt seems irrepressible, and he's sharing his controversial message on Twitter.
David Eagleman (@davideagleman)--Neuroscientist and author
Organization: Baylor College of Medicine
Profile: The author of several books and the New York Times bestseller Incognito, Eagleman is a prolific author and researcher. He focuses his time on that most fascinating and mysterious of organs, the brain. Neuroscience leaves us with many more questions than answers, but Eagleman helps point out some of the most tantalizing findings in his field.
Dr. Eric Topol (@erictopol)--Cardiologist, geneticist, digital medicine aficionado
Profile: The author of The Creative Destruction of Medicine tweets generously on topics in digital medicine and genomics, especially for someone who juggles multiple big jobs in the Scripps family of research and clinical centers in La Jolla, CA. If digital technologies are revolutionizing medicine, Topol is your guy for insights from the front lines.
Susannah Fox (@susannahfox)--Internet geologist and healthcare gadfly
Organization: Pew Internet & American Life Project
Profile: As associate director of digital strategy at Pew, Fox has a great vantage from which to comment on the nexus of healthcare and online/social web life. She can be found tweeting about one of her key interests: how digital and online platforms figure into the management of serious illnesses.
Dr. Atul Gawande (@atul_gawande)--Celebrated surgeon and author
Organization: Brigham and Women's Hospital
Profile: His features about the ills of the healthcare system in The New Yorker tend to blow my mind and put some of the drug-development stuff I cover in perspective. A practicing surgeon--and self-described dilettante--Gawande tweets about politics, medicine, science and whatever else interests him. Which is a whole lot, apparently.
J. Craig Venter (@jcventer)--Genomics/regenerative medicine pioneer
Organization: J. Craig Venter Institute
Profile: Venter isn't very active on Twitter, but his utterances on synthetic biology and genomic sequencing gain instant notice because he is considered a trailblazer in both fields. What if his bold prognostications haven't always come true? When you're trying to change the world, sometimes you've got to get people's attention.