FierceBiotech’s rotten tomatoes and ripening fruit 2017

A year ago, FierceBiotech started a new segment called Rotten Tomatoes, a special feature designed to look over the past 12 months and pluck out the rotting fruit across biopharma. The idea was to spotlight companies that have fallen short of the tough ethical and scientific demands of this industry.

This year we’re at it again, with a bit of a twist: We’re also looking at fruit that's come back to ripen once again—namely some companies that topped the rotten leaderboard in 2016 but came back in 2017 smelling of roses. We're willing to elevate, as well as denigrate, and that’s exactly what we have done with two of last year’s winners.

Ben Adams Editor's Corner Image

There was, in fact, a dearth of rotten tomatoes over the last year—relative to 2016, at least. We'll have to wait a little longer to see whether 2016 was simply a particularly bad year, but we've already identified early contenders for 2018. (See you next year, Axovant.)

It may seem that we just poke fun at suffering companies, but "innovate or die" has a literal meaning in this industry: This year, on the rotten side, we have a major Big Pharma that sold a vaccine for children that may, according to reports, have worsened their disease; a failed Alzheimer’s drug that won’t give up the ghost, despite a very strange method of action; a biotech that saw a clean sweep of trial failures, slashed staff, then lost its chair, president and CEO; biotech executives who lied about how much money their company was making; and a founder of a major life sciences VC firm who allegedly sexually harassed female employees, particularly executive assistants.

But we have seen a major turnaround for two of last year’s Rotten Tomatoes: one that came back from the brink still fighting, and another that blew the cobwebs off its M&A team and creaked open its sizable wallet to make a long-awaited deal.

All these things matter to patients, to the healthcare system, to investors and to the staffers at these companies. As someone who lost two family members last year, one to cancer and one to Alzheimer’s, it’s a painful reminder of how badly we need good, honest, hardworking biotech companies that innovate, so patients don’t have to die before their time.

I hope you enjoy this year’s list; if you have any comments, contenders I missed (either rotten or ripe), or early entries for 2018, send me a message. — Ben Adams (email | Twitter)