Top 5 News: 7/18-7/24

Top 5 logo1) Pfizer claims more R&D space in Cambridge, MA, settling into a biotech hotbed – FierceBiotech, 7/22/2015
Pfizer ($PFE), among the horde of drugmakers looking to Cambridge, MA, for innovation, is expanding its outpost in the city’s Kendall Square neighborhood, planning to plant about 1,000 workers in what has become biotech’s fastest-growing neighborhood.
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2) First case of prolonged remission in HIV-infected child reported – PharmaLive, 7/21/2015
Doctors have found that an 18-year-old woman infected with HIV at birth via mother-to-child transmission has been in remission despite not receiving any antiretroviral therapy for the past 12 years. Researchers from the HIV, Inflammation and Persistence Unit at the Institut Pasteur in Paris believe that the patient has benefited from treatment initiated shortly after birth and ended 6 years later.
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3) With flexible systems, GE aims to disrupt biotech drug making – Boston Globe, 7/19/2015
General Electric Co. isn’t anybody’s idea of a scrappy upstart. But the giant company hopes its life sciences division, one of its fastest-growing niche businesses, will play the role of industry disruptor as the manufacturing of biotech drugs shifts from big-batch production toward more flexible systems.
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4) Alzheimer’s drugs show some promise in recent studies – Boston Globe, 7/22/2015
Clinical data released Wednesday contained encouraging findings — but also reasons for caution — on a pair of experimental drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, an affliction robbing tens of millions of people worldwide of their memory and cognition.
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5) Merck, Baupost join $55M investment in early-stage biotech, RaNA – BBJ, 7/24/2015
After selling his company Idenix Pharmaceuticals to Merck & Co. for $3.9 billion last August, Ronald Renaud has received support again from the New Jersey drug giant, this time in financing for his new company.
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Q&A with Peter Abair, Executive Director of MassBioEd

PeteThis month, Peter Abair officially began his role as Executive Director of the MassBioEd Foundation, MassBio’s sister organization with a mission to engage science teachers, inspire students to pursue STEM, and guide tomorrow’s life sciences workforce. We sat down with Pete to talk about his vision for the future of MassBioEd.

Q: Why did you decide to apply for the Executive Director position at MassBioEd?

A: I served as director of economic development for nine years at MassBio. This brought me into contact often with MassBioEd and led to several significant collaborations on education and training issues. When Lance Hartford informed me that he was moving on, I immediately pursued the position. MassBioEd has always been in the vanguard of the STEM education movement. Knowing firsthand how important life sciences education and workforce development is to companies considering location to or expansion in Massachusetts, I recognized the critical role that MassBioEd plays and wanted to be part of it.

Q: How do you think your former role at MassBio (as well as your many years spent in government) will help shape your impact at MassBioEd?

A: I’ve found, both at MassBio and in my past government experience, that you become a valued partner when you are able to master information and present it in a helpful manner to stakeholders. One way to advance the position of Massachusetts as a premier global center for biopharmaceutical research and commercialization, is by demystifying the pathway from the classroom to the workplace. We will be able to do that because we’ll master the information needed to be an effective, trusted guide for educators, students, and industry in growing a workforce that seeks to meet unmet medical needs globally.

Q: What is your vision for MassBioEd?

A: At its core, MassBioEd is about engaging teachers, inspiring students and guiding the workforce of tomorrow in this incredible life sciences industry. In BioTeach, we have the best-in-class program that provides critical, lab-based training to public high schools teachers, who, in turn, inspire students across the state to pursue studies in science. Through the establishment of our upcoming job trends and forecasting program, we will be able to effectively guide educators and trainers in the development of curricula that enables graduates to have the skills needed to work in the life sciences. Industry will benefit greatly by having a trusted source for information about workforce.

Q: Where do you see the organization in 10 years?

A: Fundamentally, our focus is and will be in science classrooms throughout Massachusetts. The value of exposing students to lessons in biotechnology is self-evident. As they are now, our lab-based educational programs will be providing teachers and students with instruction that is current with the biotechnology field. We will also be the essential resource – to educators and industry alike – for information on job-trends and skills requirements for careers in the industry.

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Support MassBioEd and Pete in his new role at MassBio’s 21st Annual Golf Classic to benefit MassBioEd on September 11th at the Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth, MA! All proceeds support the MassBioEd and their mission to inspire students to pursue STEM.

Top 3 Takeaways from Changes & Future Trends in the Cambridge Vector of Life Sciences

massbio forumsOn Thursday July 16th, people from all across the life sciences sector came together to learn about the future of the industry in the Cambridge vector. Read on to hear the top 3 takeaways from the Forum.

1) The History of Kendall Square

Peter Abair, Executive Director of MassBioEd, kicked off the event with a history of Kendall Square, noting how quickly it’s grown to become the world’s number one hub for life sciences.

A slide from his presentation depicts the movement of big pharma to East Cambridge over the past 15+ years.

Cambridge big pharma
The audience was curious to know if the panelists think biotech talent will infiltrate into pharma because of proximity. The panel responded affirmatively but said it was healthy for the ecosystem.

2) Kendall Square has it all

It comes as no surprise that Kendall Square is king.

Quotes from the panelists support this notion:

Big companies are equally interested alliances as they are in novel therapeutics which is why they pick Kendall Square.” – Peter Abair 

This is a place to have a career, it’s not a place to have a job.”- Steven Gullans, PhD, Managing Director at Excel Medical Ventures, and author of Evolving Ourselves

One of our biggest assets is the talent pool we have here in Massachusetts.” – Brad Rosenblum, Chief Financial & Administrative Officer at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC)

Also mentioned was the “incredible ecosystem” and “palpable energy” that exists in Kendall Square. It allows for a wealth of networking opportunity and supports innovation.

3) There’s life outside of Kendall Square

A major focus of the Forum was that there are a number of life sciences companies outside of Kendall Square that have begun to create their own “microclusters” – and they are thriving! The panelists as well as the interactive audience suggested that there is plenty of opportunity for companies to grow outside of Kendall Square. With limited space and rising costs, Kendall Square is no longer an option for many companies but the surrounding communities are. Another slide from the Forum depicts the clusters that exist around Massachusetts and the abundance of opportunity across the State.

kendall sq beyond

Kendall Square has evolved into the epicenter of the life sciences. As we look towards the future, it seems as if the epicenter will expand past Kendall Square and infiltrate into Massachusetts. But only time will tell!

Welcome New Members!

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Top 5 News Stories: 7/11-7/17

Top 5 logo1) Sick kids, desperate parents, and the battle for experimental drugs – Boston Globe, 7/15/2015
Via compassionate use, patients who are deathly ill, have no other treatment alternative, and do not qualify for clinical trials are able to gain access to experimental drugs as long as the drug maker is willing to provide them and the FDA approves the request.
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2) Genzyme will expand, take a new name – Boston Globe, 7/15/2015
A business reorganization led by the new chief executive of French drug maker Sanofi SA will give the company’s Cambridge-based Genzyme division a boost with plans to expand into new fields of treatment.The business will also be taking a new name, Sanofi Genzyme, reflecting the fact it will assume responsibility for a pair of drug programs formerly run by the parent company.
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3) AZ’s Iressa gets back in the game with first-line FDA approval in lung cancer – FiercePharma, 7/14/2015
After four years off the U.S. market, the lung cancer fighter has picked up an FDA approval as a first-line lung cancer therapy, specifically for patients whose tumors test positive for certain EGFR mutations, the company said Monday.
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4) Treatment by Watertown biotech improves vision in two legally blind people – BBJ, 7/13/2015
A drug-and-device combination developed by Watertown-based pSivida Corp. not only helped improve vision in all 11 patients in a mid-stage trial, according to results announced today. It actually helped two patients who were legally blind to see well enough to drive a car again.
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5) Innovation Act threatens Massachusetts innovators: Guest viewpoint by Kevin O’Sullivan– Mass Live, 7/15/2015
The “Innovation Act” seeks to thwart “patent trolls” – individuals or companies who frivolously sue inventors for patent infringement to extract a cash settlement. Unfortunately, the actual language of this bill is so broad that it would limit the ability of legitimate patent holders to defend their inventions against patent violators in court.
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