The view from Bio-Europe 2011

MILAN-One thing you hear a lot about at biotech conferences these days is how much more demanding the field has become. Venture cash has tightened up, IPOs are hard to do, at best, and a great company has to have exciting science and an aggressive business plan with a series of successes to demonstrate forward progress. Everyone is raising the bar--regulators, payers and investors.

During my panel discussion on 'What Makes a Great Biotech?,' I asked Avila CEO Katrine Bosley (Fierce 15 2010 | Top 10 Women in Biotech) about all of the signs I've seen suggesting drug developers are trying to pack more into Phase I trials than ever before. Companies are looking for signs of efficacy in some cases and are generally trying to get farther along at an earlier stage. She immediately pointed out that the rising expectations start in the preclinical sphere. Simon Meier of Roche Venture also noted that it's always been a demanding business. So when you raise the bar, it's important to note that it was set pretty high to begin with.

I'm spending a few days in Milan this week at Bio-Europe and gaining some insights into what's happening here. The conference is packed, one-to-one sessions are up from last year, and there's a lot of interest in these biotech sessions. So while it's tougher than ever to succeed, it's good to see that there are plenty of sharp people who still believe they can thrive. This industry attracts the best and the brightest; people who enjoy a big challenge. 

I'd like to thank Simon and Katrine, along with Lubor Gaal, the savvy head of alliances for Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Jim O'Mara, head of business development at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals (Fierce 15 class of 2009), for a great discussion. You can keep up with some of the events here by following me on Twitter. -- John Carroll