5. Over communicating your regulatory interactions with the FDA. MacDougall finds that a common problem among biotechs is misunderstanding how and when to communicate their interaction with the regulatory agency to those outside the company. "There's a line between public and private meetings with the FDA," he explains. "Not everything needs to be disclosed." Most of your company's meetings with the FDA will be private--there are very few things the agency publicly discloses, and there's no reason to put out a release every time you meet with them. The FDA's decisions are the bottom line--not the meetings.
6. Making hiring announcements prematurely. Properly timing public announcements is extremely important. It's not unusual for a small company to appoint a new CEO or other C-level employee, only to have that person leave soon after starting. While public companies must announce certain appointments, MacDougall advises private companies to give it some time before announcing new hires, just to make sure it's a good fit. "There's no reason to announce a CEO the day he starts unless you have to."
7. Not having a plan for announcing clinical data. Announcing clinical data is a balancing act. Good data speaks for itself, though companies shouldn't overhype their positive results. Gray zone data--which MacDougall says makes up 80 percent of what he sees--are trickier. "The hard part of gray data isn't the data itself, but the ultimate decision of what you are going to do with it. Was it good enough to go into another trial? Bad enough to dump the drug? Are you going to take your chances negotiating with the FDA?" He tells companies to be up-front with investors if the trial missed its endpoint, even if the trial pointed to other possibilities for the drug.
As for bad data, MacDougall recommends that companies make all their decisions at once rather than stringing them across weeks or months. If your drug failed, you're dropping the program and cutting staff, make those announcements all at once, rather than in three separate press releases.
8. Changing your company's colors. There are always hot technologies--such as genomics, biomarkers, and RNAi--that investors salivate over. MacDougall advises companies not to re-brand themselves around the newest science in order to attract investor attention. This doesn't do anything for your company and may cause investors not to take you seriously. "Investors start laughing at you if you change your company description too frequently," explains MacDougall. "There are CEOs out there who think a press release a week is a good strategy. Too much noise can make it hard to get recognition for important news and milestones. You have to build a brand for your company as well as your product. Build an image so investors know what you are. Consistency is key." It's tempting to say new things to attract investors, but having knowledgeable, long-term investors who understand your company's long-term objectives is far more valuable.