Nov 082010
Image by Lillou Merlin via Flickr

Biotech firms need a new burst of innovation in fields like diagnostic testing and biofuels production to adapt to a changing marketplace, a veteran biotech financier told about 200 industry leaders in Santa Clara Thursday.

“I’m afraid that innovation is declining. We’re losing it at a time when we need it the most,” Stelios Papadopoulos said in the opening address of the BioEconomy Summit.

Papadopoulos, chairman of the Bay Area biotech firm Exelixis and one of the industry’s original investment bankers, said biotech did well in the past by developing novel medicines.

He said five of the world’s top-10 selling medicinal compounds were developed by biotech firms, a remarkable achievement considering they compete against much larger pharmaceutical companies.

But biotech enjoyed those successes because the industry arose at a time when Wall Street was willing to risk huge sums on 10-year-long efforts to develop blockbuster drugs. Now, Wall Street has lost its appetite for such long-term bets, forcing biotech firms to invent new tactics and explore new markets, he said.

“Diagnostics is a huge opportunity,” Papadopoulos said, adding that another area is the development of biofuels.

“I’m personally reinventing myself into an energy person,” he said.

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