The past four years have left their mark on the Fierce 15 of 2005, and the imprint of events helps tell us a lot about the drug development business. Four of the 15 were bought out and swiftly absorbed by bigger fish in the global biotech pond. Several were hit by the cash crunch that has roiled global markets, though amazingly none of those has actually turned out the lights and called it quits. And in one case, new federal money available from the NIH has helped restart development programs and gear back up on the R&D side.
There has been ample time spent strategizing in this group. A fledgling developer started on the strength of some amazing research work has grown, adding new programs and inking new deals. Defeats and successes alike have been followed by fresh ventures. Some of the executives have started new companies, and promise to do more. In one case, a big licensing deal turned sour and wound up in the courts. But in about a third of the companies we covered, the management has stayed right on track, following up on plans to forge licensing pacts, pushing development programs toward approvals and continuing to grow. If you take it all together, the Fierce 15 of 2005 looks a lot like the biotech industry in microcosm. - John Carroll