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Building A 21st Century Pharma Company

Anoop Kumar

Dr. Joshua Boger, the Chairman and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a NASDAQ-listed company with over $100 million in revenues and a market capitalization over $750 million spoke at TiE-Boston’s monthly dinner meeting on Tuesday, 24th May.  He explained what it means to be a “twenty-first century pharma company” and the business strategy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals.  Scott D. Sarazen, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Straumann North America moderated the session.

Dr. Berger began the talk by presenting an  interesting comparison of pharma industry with film industry. He said both industries rely on block-busters, make billion dollar products, have large R&D investments, have long product development cycles (Lord of the Rings  is a good example) and finally both industries have high risk and high return on investments. The young pharmaceutical industry can build up on  the experience of the older and established film industry.

“We need a model to get drug to market place. Clinical trials are expensive adding to the cost of drug development. The only real test for a drug is to test it on 5 million people instead of clinical trials,” said Dr. Berger.  He emphasized on the ‘Networked 21st century pharma company’ model that Vertex follows to bring drugs to market.  Vertex is thus based on innovation and uses partnerships to leverage the products. Vertex retains rights to downstream revenue. The model is unlike a ‘Super Pharma’ company, which not only does R&D but also sell the drugs in the market.

Vertex focuses on viral and inflammatory diseases and has some focus in cancer.  Vertex collaborates with Merck in  conducting a joint research program to characterize VX-680's activity across a broad range of cancer types.  VX-680, an Aurora Kinase inibitor  has  the potential to play an important role in the treatment and management of a wide range of tumor types. Aurora kinases are implicated in the onset of many human cancers. “In software industry the person who defines the standard owns the market.  Similary, the Person who defines the method to diagnose cancer will own the market,” said Dr. Berger.

More information about TiE and its upcoming events can be found at http://www.tie-boston.org/.

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