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Big Pharma's valuations are depressed; biotech is red-hot. Alliance volumes have fallen, but average deal values are up. The valuation divide masks the subtler cracks dividing biotech's elite from a mass of undifferentiated technology providers. Drug companies are recognizing that basing discovery programs around new, proprietary targets is highly risky and lengthens R&D time. Targets themselves, absent optimized lead compounds, are increasingly commoditized. Therefore, companies who don't provide integrated discovery capabilities aren't going to get the high-value deals that will justify their current, sky-high valuations. Meanwhile, companies with integrated solutions must back up their promises of productivity enhancement with their own money--though they also get a richer share of the end proceeds.
After executives at drug discovery firm Arena Pharmaceuticals went through the laborious and time-consuming process of contacting suppliers to assemble a large library of chemical compounds for screening, they knew there must be a better way. They thus hit upon the idea of an e-procurement business to supply compounds for pharmaceutical lead optimization, forming ChemNavigator.com Inc. in 1999. ChemNavigator.com is the first e-commerce company to aggregate global suppliers of chemical compounds for drug discovery, its founders believe.
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