Best of the Blog: Start-Up April 2008
This article was originally published in Start Up
"Best of the Blog" is a monthly column highlighting the best of our free online content at www.windhover.com/blog. In May: cell therapy for Parkinson's, the difficulty of SPACs, Roche buys Piramed, and another boost for microRNA.
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A trio of recent papers provides encouragement about the use of cell therapy to treat motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease. But the discussions also highlight how much is not known about the origins of Parkinson's disease, and suggest there may be fundamental limitations to any therapy strategy based on restoring dopamine--be it through implanting dopamine neurons or via existing drugs.
Special Purpose Acquisition Companies--SPACs--are springing up in the wide spaces abandoned by IPOs-- and they look tempting for those biotechs who can't get to a Big Pharma deal without first raising a big slug of money. That's Dynogen's problem: no deal until it can show solid efficacy from its two lead compounds. With no IPO or big private financing likely, Dynogen turned to a SPAC, a public shell company created to find a Dynogen-like opportunity. But SPAC investors can extract a big price for their cooperation-particularly in the current risk-averse public market.
Some Big Pharma have looked at the risk-reward equation for gastrointestinal R&D and they have opted out. But GI still represents a massive opportunity for Big Pharma, both in terms of its traditional primary care strengths and more recent forays into specialist medicine. This combination should open up new doors for GI-focused biotech players, several of which feel they can succeed where pharma has failed in tricky areas like IBS, with next generation drugs. Others have hitched their stars to commercially unvalidated targets, exploring new and potentially lucrative mechanisms of action.