2004 Fierce 15

The 2004 Fierce 15

 

Welcome to the second annual edition of The Fierce 15, a special issue of FierceBiotech featuring our selection of the top emerging biotech companies of 2004. This year, as last year, we examined hundreds of emerging biotech companies and solicited the advice of industry experts, weighing their thoughts and recommendations against our own analyses. We purposefully avoided large, well-known companies, focusing instead on rising stars.

The companies assembled here represent the best in biotechnology research and development. Their outstanding management and research teams are shepherding some of the most promising new treatments and technologies toward the promised land of FDA approval. Some are representative of the push to develop late-stage compounds, while others are just getting started on potentially revolutionary advances. All have sharply defined goals and a foundation of solid science.

To be successful, however, these companies will have to weather some challenging times. The tried and true biotech business model is changing, if not gone already. The days when multiple rounds of VC investment kept companies afloat for decades are fading. Investors are still out there, but they're hedging their bets; to get money, companies must prove they are the cream of the crop and assure backers of a relatively swift ROI. Even so, most IPO-minded companies will be forced to remain on the sidelines well into 2005.

Recent trends tell us that some companies recognize the changes and have reacted by inventing ways to reduce their time-to-market, whether through scientific innovation or boardroom savvy. Three of our winners, ARYx, CombinatoRx, and Eximias, have accelerated their pace of drug development through novel scientific approaches, as have many other biotech outfits. Expect to see more companies researching combination therapies, new indications for existing drugs, and creative attempts to get approval for previously abandoned products, as the cost of starting from scratch becomes prohibitive for many.

Finally, we should take note that seven of our 15 winners are developing cancer drugs. The advent of high-throughput screening, along with targeted therapeutics and improved diagnostics, means that drug developers have more tools to build oncology therapeutics than in the past. Generous funding from cancer foundations and the prospect of an enormous potential market for successful candidates keep the research wheels greased. Look for big news out of this sector going into 2005.

We at FierceBiotech are proud to shine a spotlight on The Fierce 15 companies listed below. In a market filled with uncertainty, we're placing our bets on them.

- John Carroll

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