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Meet the Market, As It Is: Amphora Emphasizes Risk Reduction

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

There are many ways start-ups can lower the risks of doing business in the current climate. Amphora's approach will likely include working for hire to cool cash burn while building relationships with skittish clients; leveraging assets that have ripened beyond the research phase; and helping customers reduce the risks they confront.

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Chemogenomics: Serendipity on a Large Scale

To eliminate a bottle neck in target validation, pharmaceutical firms are turning to a new model known as chemogenomics, the use of small molecule drugs as probes to tease out a phenotypic response from multiple poorly-understood targets. One of the most ambitious efforts to date, Amphora Discovery Corp., a spin-out of lab-on-a-chip firm Caliper Technologies, was founded in September to build a database detailing the interactions of as many as 4000-12000 biological targets with half a million compounds.

Shire Shifts Upstream

Shire's latest acquisition, of Canada's BioChem Pharma, is its sixth in as many years, and the clearest sign yet of the shift which the UK-based specialty pharmaceutical company has to make towards earlier-stage research in order to keep up its impressive growth. Behind this growth is its low-risk Search & Development strategy: it seeks out promising, undervalued specialist-market drugs which it develops for new indications, or else finds new formulations for, after which it hands them on to its highly focused marketing and sales teams. A series of acquisitions-bolting on products, development programs and skills-has allowed Shire to quickly expand globally and broaden its portfolio. But as drugs get harder to find and more expensive, the company has had to throw its S&D net wider.

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