Thanks to the web, the biotech scene is teeming with writers with lots of insights to offer on the latest news and trends. With no hometown newspaper for an industry scattered around the globe, and precious few industry pubs worth subscribing to, the Internet has become the go-to place for anyone looking to stay up-to-the-minute on biopharma. Once news breaks it's first tweeted and then analyzed--usually in a matter of minutes. Within a few hours you can get a debate going. By next day, it's on to something new.
We here at FierceBiotech thought it might be helpful for readers to know more about the individuals we like to follow. Some are newcomers, but most are grizzled veterans. We've seen it all, but somehow never lost our amazement for the big event.
In an industry where key milestones like trial outcomes and FDA decisions are notoriously difficult to predict, TheStreet's Adam Feuerstein often boldly goes where biotech scribes fear to tread. A serious student of a long list of public biotechs, Feuerstein isn't afraid to study the data and developments and come up with his own predictions for what lies in their future. While he doesn't always get it right-and no one can-his analysis of these companies cannot be ignored. Few biotech writers have his grasp of the issues and his understanding of the key players. Feuerstein also has excellent sources on Wall Street to tip him off on key events. And woe unto the CEO that incurs his scorn, which is seemingly endless. No one delights more in calling out a CEO with feet of clay, which is why TheStreet is both respected and feared.
Another longtime biopharma journalist, Matthew Herper's blog on the drug business--The Medicine Show--is essential reading for anyone who is trying to make sense out of the day's headlines. And he does more than write. You can find links to videos in which he and colleague Robert Langreth offer some pithy exchanges on the news. When Eli Lilly et al faced a major delay on Bydureon, Herper and Langreth immediately went to it, analyzing Lilly's huge issue with patent expirations, its troubled and tenuous grip on CNS therapies and its unproductive pipeline. One solution: Go the way of Bristol-Myers Squibb, but be prepared to take 10 years to do it. Knowledgeable, opinionated and a careful student of drug science, when Herper has something to say, he has an uncanny knack at zeroing in on the crux of every issue.
FierceBiotech makes a daily habit of reading a steady stream of Reuters articles, but it's Hirschler's stories we hunt for. The senior correspondent in London has extraordinary access to top biopharma industry leaders and his analysis of the news and events in this industry commands immense respect. Hirschler can spot a trend better than virtually anyone else in this business, and he's not the least bit reluctant to tell readers the bottom line on the news regarding critical data or a pending M&A move. He has many long years of experience to rely on--and we delight in seeing him practice his craft. You should check out his blog spot.
The Yang to Matthew Herper's Yin (or is it the other way around?) can also be found on his own blog spot, frequently taking time out to go mano-a-mano with his colleague on such subjects as FDA reform or the perils faced by a drug developer. Langreth has no shortage of opinions, which he's happy to share with all concerned. And he has no qualms about raising doubts about a company's chances in front of regulators. When Arena was hit with a recent rejection, Langreth had his own thoughts on the company's chances of an eventual approval and even penciled in a few prospective peak sales figures ($400 million or $500 million). "I got lots of hate mail when I said it could never be a blockbuster," Langreth told Herper. He didn't seem to mind too much. Right or wrong, you have to respect his insights.
Most biotech writers are just that--writers. We've covered other business news, can usually read a relevant SEC document and know how to pick up a phone and ask an expert for some professional interpretation. Lowe is an expert, a scientist with direct experience in drug development. He understands certain things about biopharma and research science that the rest of us can only grasp at. Without fear or favor, Lowe offers an independent perspective on the news. But it's his insights on some of the technical aspects of drug development that make his work important for anyone with hands-on experience in this field. Lowe also has a number of R&D sources in the industry. On several occasions the headlines you've see in FierceBiotech have been preceded by rumors reported first by Lowe.
Andrew Pollack, New York Times
Andrew Pollack doesn't churn out the copy like many of us in this profession. But when he does cover a biotech story, it's not to be missed. Pollack has a real knack for finding just the right expert to put the news in clear perspective. That talent was on display just last week when his story on the Qnexa CRL included this remark from Scripps Clinic's Dr. Ken Fujioka: "It looks pretty bleak out there for anyone trying to get a drug approval for weight loss." But Pollack's greatest value is his in-depth stories, as in this article on J. Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics. Few top writers in this business are given the time to leisurely explore a topic the way Pollack has. And no one has better access to the people who are making a difference in biopharma.
While most biopharma writers like to add some analysis and perspective to their stories, few observers delight in goading the powers that be more than Ed Silverman. When GlaxoSmithKline agreed to hand over a $750 million check to cover some startling lapses in its manufacturing ops, Silverman took it one step extra by identifying one of GSK's top execs who may be in line to be held accountable for the pharma fiasco. Regulators have trouble with smelly products? Silverman finds a skunk photo to grace his missive on the topic. Always irreverent, Silverman's Pharmalot does have a deadly serious side, highlighting the many foibles that can afflict the global pharma biz. Silverman's impertinence has ruffled more than a few pharma feathers. Always entertaining. Never boring. That's a rare compliment.
Timmerman knew plenty about biotech when he became Xconomy's national biotech writer. Crisscrossing the country from his Seattle base, the former Bloomberg biotech writer has accumulated more local biotech lore than almost any other writer in the business. Timmerman has produced a mother lode of information about drug developers and the deals and data that drive them forward. He understands the science and "gets" the business like few others, going in-depth to explore what makes these companies unique. Timmerman gets plenty of help around the country from his Xconomy network of writers, including insiders like Ryan McBride in the Northeast, Bruce Bigelow in San Diego and Howard Lovy in Michigan. Their insights on the industry's players are must-reads for anyone wanting to understand who's who in biotech. Timmerman's passion for biotech touches everything he writes. He makes it a pleasure to follow his reports.