The San Diego Story - Pharmaceutical Executive

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The San Diego Story


Pharmaceutical Executive


San Diego Synthesis

PHARM EXEC: Where are the major sources of opportunity likely to arise in biotech over the next five years? And will the San Diego biotech community be poised to seize them?

LICHTER: Industry is going to make significant progress in understanding the biological roots of disease. This in turn will lead to biomarkers to guide a tailored, targeted therapeutic response. There is enormous opportunity for innovation in how this is done and it is very centered on the patient. One of my constituent companies, Otonomy, is seeking new therapies to address diseases of the middle and inner ear. It is the only company in the world specializing in the development of treatments for diseases that affect 30 million people in the US alone. Other areas of focus include acute macular degeneration of the eye and sleep apnea. These all may be viewed as niche markets, but in the aggregate they are gigantic in revenue potential—if you have the right drug.

XANTHOPOULOS: With all of the medicines in use today, we are still addressing only about 10 percent of diseases. The unmet medical need is a big driver of opportunity, but there are challenges as well. San Diego is well positioned for this next curve. We have a diverse base of human capital—50,000 people are employed by life sciences companies in San Diego, which means all the key functions and resources required for drug development can be tapped without leaving the area. San Diego was the source of the science that gave us monoclonal antibody drugs, including best-in-class Rituxan. It was a key place for the development of protease inhibitor drugs for AIDS, and for the past 20 years has led the world in research to commercialize the next wave of drug innovation: RNA therapeutics. The region is also ahead of the curve in stem cell research, and will likely produce some major breakthroughs over a similar 20-year time frame. The state has invested more than $3 billion to seed stem cell research—more than any other jurisdiction. Finally, San Diego has outstanding companies leading in diagnostics, genomic sequencing, and services.

PANETTA: San Diego has also done an excellent job in persuading industry and academia to work together. The region is committed to translational medicine—taking all the good ideas and technologies out of the university and finding ways to commercialize it. Physicians will tell you they have always practiced personalized medicine. What they have not done is practice personal genetic medicine. We are starting to put that in place. The University of California at San Diego is building a new medical school that will make this a prime focus of instruction and research.

LICHTER: People are this region's mission-critical asset. It is better to have great people and good technology than great technology and good people.

NEWELL: My company is a contributor to this forward-looking dynamic. Our novel and scalable biochemical protein synthesis technology enables us and our collaborators to explore and engineer protein therapeutics and biosuperiors that are inaccessible by other methods. Additonally, our approach can enhance drug potency, and the therapeutic profiles of both known and novel therapeutics. Our work enhances the growth of tailored therapies that will be highly valued by payers in the future—the days of "one size fits all" interventions are gone.

PHARM EXEC: In the race for global competitive advantage, does geography still count?

PANETTA: Tomorrow's competition is not going to be with Boston, Research Triangle Park, Silicon Valley, or even Europe. Asia—Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and, of course, China and India—is the region that poses the biggest challenge. Southern California is the first stopoff point from Asia. Its proximity serves as a bridge that goes in both directions, providing a vast pool of patients and new therapeutic applications while giving Asian partners access to know-how covering research, clinical development, and manufacturing. BIOCOM's key priority is helping our members make sense of the Asian environment and facilitating productive partnerships. We also work hard at building the service infrastructure that help members bring the time and cost of development down. Companies based outside the US want to be part of that dynamic as well.


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