The new biotech paradigm: Survive and stay independent

Any loyal reader of our weekly profiles on emerging biotech companies knows that just about everyone running a fledgling biotech company today always has one eye on the exit door. One of the most popular scenarios: You get your programs in the clinic and if you do well, a buyer may come along with an offer you can't refuse. It's especially popular since the IPO exit strategy virtually disappeared from the list of possibilities 18 months ago. Venture backers dream about that. It's virtually a biotech tradition.

But the Boston Globe covered a group of some prominent biotech executives who gathered in Boston yesterday to warn the industry that if you aren't planning on staying independent and growing your biotech company, you're not operating in the real world.

"Cultures that depend on survival are absolutely critical for this industry to succeed,'' said Barry Greene, president of Cambridge biotech Alnylam Pharmaceuticals. "If you don't want to (stay independent), you're not a company. You're a project.'' 

James J. O'Mara, vice president of business development at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (a 2009 Fierce 15 company), told the 11th annual MassBio Investors Forum that start-ups today are ready to invest in technology without praying for a buyer to come along. And if the program doesn't pan out, they're ready to shut it down. "People are being much more explicit about the company they're building, and I think that's a good thing,'' O'Mara said. From the beginning, Ironwood has bucked the M&A tradition, vowing to build its company over the long haul.

- check out the article in the Boston Globe