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Becoming a Road Warrior

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Becoming a Road Warrior

by Jerry Korten

Read on if you are young and running a startup, or if you are in charge of sales or technology. If you have spent a lifetime on the road you can probably skip this one. I thought my last blog for the season might be about what life is like on the road and some tricks and coping mechanisms for those of you starting out. Frequent time on the road is tough: it takes you away from your spouse or family and away from those things you like to do to relax and it can get you in kind of a generally angry mood. This opinion is based on a sample of one (me) plus the input of buddies.

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Nov 27, 2013

Paying Forward

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Paying Forward

by Jerry Korten

 

One of the things you need to cultivate as an entrepreneur is your network. You need friends and they need you too. You don’t yet know why and neither do they. But usually getting connected to somebody is what you or your friend needs. This can be for business reasons: you’re looking for a good sales person who knows the disposable business, or you need a good design house. Or you may need a connection to help you find funding for your startup. In all cases, you won’t get introduced to many people if you haven’t demonstrated that you are willing to help others get connected, too.

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Nov 8, 2013

Interview with Dr. Willa Appel of NYSBC

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Interview with Dr. Willa Appel, Executive Director of the New York Structural Biology Center

by Howard B. Johnson

I met with Willa Appel recently at the Upper Manhattan offices of the New York Structural Biology Center.   The NYSBC is one of the most advanced sites in the world for instrumentation for structural biology – one of the most important scientific frontiers in biomedical research and drug development. It provides the detailed structure of molecules that are essential for life and the targets of drug therapies.  NYSBC represents a breakthrough model for shared resources in the United States.  Founded in 2002 by nine eminent New York academic research institutions to provide cutting-edge instrumentation to their faculties, the NYSBC has a professional staff of 30 serving more than 100 Principal Investigators. NYSBC also offers its services to outside academics and for-profit research companies.

In addition to providing resources and services, NYSBC is an intellectual center for structural biology known throughout the world.  It conducts in-house research and sponsors multi-institutional research collaborations, symposia and conferences.  It alsooffers accredited graduate-level courses and training workshops available to students from all 9 member institutions such as:  Cryoelectron Microscopy of Macromolecular Assemblies, Biomolecular NMR Spectroscopy, and NMR Spectroscopy of Macromolecules.

Willa Appel was one of the founders and chief organizers of the NYSBC.  She has been with the NYSBC since its inception and serves as its Executive Director.

I recently asked Willa a few questions of potential importance to New York City bioscience entrepreneurs.

 

1. Tell us about what NYSBC has brought to New York’s scientific community.

Having advanced resources available to visualize proteins in three dimensions has enabled NY researchers to pursue projects that otherwise would not have been possible.

One example is the study of the nuclear pore complex via Cryoelectron Microscopy that provides insights into this important transport activity in and out of the nucleus that is implicated in certain types of cancer and developmental defects. Another is research to understand why Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s diseases develop; this work uses advanced atomic resolution spectroscopic methods to visualize the proteins that are associated with the development of those diseases. These are two among hundreds of research projects that have been made possible by our advanced instrumentation.

Each of the different technologies of structural biology provides detailed images of proteins which provide insight into how these critical molecules function.  At NYSBC, we are fortunate to have the three major technologies of structural biology under one roof.  These technologies are complementary and having all three allows us to determine protein structures at the atomic level of resolution – via x-ray crystallography and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy – as well as the macro level through Cryoelectron Microscopy which entails visualizing molecular molecular machines or assemblies.

 

2. Tell us about the leading-edge instrumentation at the NYSBC.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) uses extremely powerful magnets to analyze the arrangements and movements of atoms within a protein.  It’s a technology similar to MRIs in hospitals but in NMR, the magnets are far more powerful and the focus is far smaller – individual proteins as opposed to organs. The data generated are then modeled into three-dimensional images of a biomolecule at the atomic level. The value of this information is that it provides exquisite detail of protein interactions, the behavior of molecules as they move, and drug interactions with molecules.  All this makes it possible to understand molecular behavior in normal and pathological states.  NYSBC’s NMR facility is the most advanced in the world.

NYSBC’s expert staff operates nine NMRs including: two at 900 megahertz (MHz); three at 800 MHz; one at 750 MHz and one at 700 MHz – all equipped with cryoprobes to increase sensitivity.  We have recently installed a high-field Dynamic Nuclear Polarization spectrometer, the first commercially available in the U.S., whose technology may revolutionize the field by increasing sensitivity by several orders of magnitude.  NYSBC’s NMR facility is the most advanced in the world.

X-ray Crystallography uses light a billion times more powerful than that of the sun, generated by a synchrotron, to reveal the architecture of molecules in crystal form at atomic scale.   NYSBC operates two synchrotron beamlines at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) on Long Island.  We are building a new, next-generation next-generation beamline, “NYX”, that will exploit the increase energy of the new $1 billion synchrotron being completed at BNL. We expect that NYX will be the most advanced beamline for x-ray crystallography in the world.  Of course, we also have ‘home source’ generators at our main facility in Manhattan that are suitable for crystal screening and some structure determination.

Cryolectron Microscopy (CEM) uses electrons to reveal images of individual molecules and molecular assemblies.  In CEM, the samples are frozen to preserve them in their native states — unlike conventional electron microscopes that require samples to be fixed and stained. The electrons illuminate the sample much as light does in an ordinary microscope, but the electromagnetic lenses magnify the image up to one million fold.  CEM is highly complementary to NMR and X-ray Crystallography as it can create images of transient, large, multi-molecular complexes.  NYSBC operates one of the most advanced CEM facilities in the U.S.

Its instrumentation includes: one 300 kilovolt (kV) microscope, two 200 kV microscopes, and one 120 kV microscope all with field emission guns, and a Dual-Beam Scanning Electron and  Focused Ion Beam microscope, that can  produce 3D reconstructions of tissue from 1-10 microns.  The latter is of especial interest to cell biologists, especially neuroscientists who want to quickly visualize the pathway through a cell.

The NYSBC also operates a high throughput protein production facility that uses robotic methods to produce hundreds of functional integral membrane and other proteins in bacterial, insect and mammalian expression systems. One great advantage we have is that we can make multiple proteins in parallel, simultaneously testing the benefits of different conditions and different vectors.  This is a different scale of operations from most academic labs that are capable of making proteins do not use high throughput techniques. Many other labs can’t make proteins at all and simply buy them from commercial vendors and these are often low quality.  Because NYSBC produces high quality proteins rapidly, our facility is increasingly asked to do work for outside research labs.

 

3. Who are your Member Institutions?  How do they access the resources at the NYSBC?

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, City University of New York, Columbia University, New York University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, State University of New York, The Rockefeller University, Wadsworth Center, New York Department of Health, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.  Faculty from all of these institutions can access our instrumentation and our staff.  Right now, we provide resources to more than 100 laboratories working on a range of problems.  A few examples of these research efforts include: developing inhibitors to prevent HIV from entering the cell; working on receptors that are critical to the cardiovascular system and hypertension; and understanding why morphological defects in mitochondrial membranes explain the symptom of Barth Syndrome.  All of this work relies on access to the New York Structural Biology Center and its scientific staff.

 

4. Do you conduct your own research?  What does this research focus on?  Do you patent your inventions?

Yes, we do. We have a great deal of expertise on membrane proteins that are critical for effective drug development thanks to large, multiyear grants to NYSBC for work on these challenging proteins.  Our Scientific Director, Dr. Wayne Hendrickson, is the Principal Investigator of the New York Consortium on Membrane Protein Structure (NYCOMPS) and has 8 full time staff dedicated to it.  Another multiyear NIH grant uses Cryoelectron Microscopy to determine the 2-D structures of membrane proteins, also with dedicated staff. A separate research group at NYSBC has made major advances in the understanding of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme critical to human nervous system and a target of chemical weapons such as Sarin, and we have patented those results.

 

5. Do you work with the private sector as well?  Tell us about how New York City bioscience entrepreneurs can take advantage of your instrumentation and expertise.

Yes, we opened our doors this past year to the private sector.  We have structural biology equipment and expertise that rival or surpass what many large pharmaceutical companies; these resources are far more advanced than what bioscience entrepreneurs might have. We offer our services to these groups. While some may just need access to instrumentation, most have particular projects where they would like our expertise. Usually, a project relates to drug development where seeing exactly where and how a protein binds to a target is extremely useful for drug design and optimization. Our expertise in membrane proteins is also a big draw since so many drugs involve them.   We encourage bioscience entrepreneurs to contact us if they’d like to hear about our services.  I should add that when these projects create new intellectual property, the entrepreneur or company engaging us maintains ownership.

 

6. How have you raised your funding?

When they joined the consortium, each of our Member Institutions made a capital contribution that in the aggregate was about $10 million.  Since then, we have raised another $65+ million for new instrumentation and housing the new equipment. Our facility now comprises 45,000 square feet. Most funding has come through grants, primarily peer reviewed grants and contracts.

 

7. Can you tell us about how your site was retrofitted to handle your instrumentation?  It sounds like an architectural engineering feat.

The gut renovation of our first building was pretty special.  It was a former gymnasium — basketball court and swimming pool — on the City College campus that had been vacant for years.  The engineering challenge was placing four high field magnets (NMRs) in the old basketball court without the magnets interfering with each other while minimizing vibrationwhich these instruments can’t tolerate. We ended up placing each magnet on a solid concrete column that extended 30 feet from the floor of the former basketball court down through the swimming pool and then down to bedrock.  Each column required 600 tons of concrete.  The columns look like a cross between ‘Star Wars’ and James Bond.

 

Oct 29, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough – Five Tips for Communicating in Times of Crisis

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When the Going Gets Tough: Five Tips for Communicating in Times of Crisis

By Dr. Elma Hawkins

 

“Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.”

Good words to live by, but when it comes to crisis communications planning, too few companies actually do. The reasons for this are natural.  As I’ve said before on this blog, optimism is essential for entrepreneurs, and with all the things you need to do to make your venture run smoothly, the last thing you want to think about is what to do if things don’t go according to plan.

But at some point or another, you will have a crisis — big or small, it’s a matter of when, not if.  And when that time comes, how you communicate with your stakeholders will have a major impact on whether you sink or swim. In my experience, how a company fares during crisis largely boils down to preparation.  To help you shape up your own crisis communications strategy, here are five common pitfalls to avoid — and five best practices to help you navigate crises as smoothly as possible.

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Oct 22, 2013

Interview with Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher

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Interview with Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher

Dr. Glimcher is the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College & Provost for Medical Affairs, Cornell University

by Howard Johnson

I recently met Dr. Laurie Glimcher at the event to announce the new Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), formed by Weill Cornell Medical College, The Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Ltd.

Dr. Glimcher can be seen at the far left in the front row of the photo above, among the other principals from the three institutions and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. They are holding the proclamation from the formation of Tri-TDI from October 1st.

Tri-I TDI is a pioneering institute, designed to expedite early-stage drug discovery into innovative treatments and therapies for patients. This novel partnership of three leading academic institutions with a major pharmaceutical company was made possible by two significant philanthropic grants, $15 million from Lewis and Ali Sanders, and $5 million from Howard and Abby Milstein.

Tri-I TDI Research from Weill Cornell Medical College on Vimeo.

Before joining Weill Cornell as Dean last year, Dr. Glimcher was the Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she was director of the Division of Biological Sciences, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, where she headed one of the top immunology programs in the world. She also served as Senior Physician and Rheumatologist at the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital.

Dr. Glimcher received her postdoctoral training at Harvard and in the Laboratory of Immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, and is board certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology. She received her BA degree from Radcliffe College and her MD from Harvard Medical School. As an immunologist, her primary research interests are the biochemical and genetic approaches that elucidate the molecular pathways that regulate CD4 T helper cell development and activation.

Dr. Glimcher is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. She is the former President of the American Association of Immunologists. She is a member of the American Asthma Foundation, Immune Diseases Institute, Health Care Ventures, Burroughs-Wellcome Fund and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Scientific Advisory Boards, and serves on the Cancer Research Institute Fellowship Committee. She is on the Corporate Board of Directors of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Corporation and the Waters Corporation.

Dr. Glimcher speaks nationally and internationally on rheumatology, immunology, skeletal biology and translational medicine and has contributed more than 350 scholarly articles and papers to the medical literature.

I asked Dr. Glimcher to answer a few questions of potential importance to New York City bioscience entrepreneurs.

 

1. Congratulations on forming Tri-I TDI.  Can you tell us more about it?

First of all, Tri-I TDI is a true collaboration among three of this country’s world-renowned academic medical institutions. And then it’s also an important partnership with the private sector.  The key here is that several entities will be working together with the goal that this collaborative institute will become more than the sum of its parts, and new medicines will be discovered and brought through development to patients that otherwise may not have been found.  I was struck by the simple truth in an old African saying quoted by Dr. Tadataka Yamada of Takeda Pharmaceuticals at our kickoff event today. The saying is, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone, if you want to walk far, walk together.”

Secondly, we believe that Tri-I TDI will help contribute to solving an important societal problem: how to improve the efficiency of drug development.  The process is fragmented, with many wasteful steps, on top of the structural, intellectual and funding barriers that have made it so difficult to translate basic research into clinical application.  With academia and industry working together closely, guiding each other in the laboratory, we have a better chance to translate research discoveries into lasting medical contributions, and to do so with far greater efficiency.

 

2. We understand that the three academic medical centers will drive the basic science.  How will Takeda be involved? Is there room for other private sector involvement?

The partnership with Takeda is focused on developing small chemical molecules. Takeda is a proven leader in pharmaceutical development. Medical chemists and pharmacologists from Takeda will bring their private sector experience to the academic setting by helping to conduct drug discovery research in the institute’s laboratories.  Takeda is a research-based global company with its main focus on pharmaceuticals and a world leader in drug development and manufacturing.

The institute will seek to create intellectual property, which will be retained by each scientist’s home institution, and that can be further developed by an open field of industry collaborators.  It will facilitate more efficient sharing of institutional core facilities while continuing to form industry partnerships with various pharmaceutical companies to further advance research investigations.

 

3. What will the Tri-I TDI focus on?  How will it be managed?

Tri-I TDI is an independent, nonprofit institute, which will have its own scientific advisory board and board of directors, will build a strong bridge between early-stage research discoveries and the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents for myriad health challenges, reflecting the diverse interests of the member institutions’ faculty.  Projects that will be tackled could range from addressing the developing world’s most deadly diseases, tuberculosis and malaria among them, to Alzheimer’s, cancer, HIV, heart disease and obesity, to neglected or “orphan” diseases that afflict small numbers of people.  The institute will select research projects that hold the greatest scientific promise and present the most innovative hypotheses.

Tri-I TDI will pool institutional resources to facilitate the translation of research results, initially in small chemical molecules, and later with biologic therapies and molecular imaging, into the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic agents.

 

4. You have been quoted as saying that U.S. healthcare is facing a watershed moment. What do you mean by that?

This is an exhilarating time in medicine.  We are now harnessing technologies and techniques to understand the human genome and the molecular underpinnings of disease, developments that we could only have dreamed about just a decade ago. At Weill Cornell, we encourage our clinicians, researchers and medical students to become “disruptive innovators”, by using these new tools creatively to advance the medical care of patients in New York City and beyond.  Our Belfer Research center, an 18-story building on the Upper East Side will open in January, and will house the Tri-I TDI’s medicinal chemistry activities on its top floor and will be a new hub on our campus for scientific discoveries in this era of precision medicine.  We are excited about the potential for new medical research that will become part of patient care in the near future.

However, there is also a threat in our country today to the research being done in our academic medical centers, the jewels in the crown of U.S. biomedical research. Federal funding of scientific research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is declining, and we are running the risk as a nation of losing a generation of scientists to other endeavors or to other countries.  Grant funding is now only making it to the top 10% of applications, and thus many worthy projects from both young and established scientists at great institutions are not getting backed.  This can be reasonably called a crisis, and a problem that we are shortsighted not to address as a country as it will affect the delivery of medical care for generations to come.

One of the reasons we were able to establish Tri-I TDI is that there were significant philanthropic contributions made by Mr. Sanders and Mr. Milstein to help fund it.  If the Federal government can no longer afford to allocate what it once did to basic medical research, we will need larger contributions from private individuals and foundations (philanthropy) and the private sector.

 

5. Can you tell us more specifically what cuts in Federal spending for medical research mean to New York?

New York State’s academic medical centers received $1.3 billion in NIH funding in 2012.

New York is the third-largest beneficiary of Federal medical grants, only behind Massachusetts and California.  Some 8% of the State economy is represented by academic medical centers, according to the economic consultancy Tripp Umbach.  And every $1 of investment in medical research returns $7.50 to the State.  Therefore, we estimated that the impact of the Federal budget sequestration in Fiscal Year 2013 on New York State alone was potentially $1.255 billion based on cuts of $167 million to our medical research facilities.

I would like to see New York State to take on some of this challenge, to do more to bridge the medical research funding gap caused by the decline in Federal funding, and to invest further in this important sector of the State’s economy.  We have seen what state initiatives in California (for stem cell research) and Texas (for cancer) have done.  It’s early yet, but it certainly can be said that the commitments of significant money to medical research in these two States has enhanced their ability to recruit first-rate medical researchers.

New York City has the opportunity to be the best medical research center in the world, as well as a hub for medical entrepreneurship.  Nowhere else is there the density of talent and world-class medical research institutions like in New York City.  Tri-I TDI is a great example of what can happen here if traditional walls are broken down and individuals and institutions think “out-of-the-box” on how to develop new therapies and bring them to patients more effectively.  Other good things are beginning to happen here.  The private sector is moving in, and I’ve always been a big promoter of relationships with the private sector.  There is a natural marriage between pharmaceutical companies and academia.  Pfizer is in New York City, and Roche has also established a translational research facility here.

And I feel the need to reiterate the importance of the impact that private individuals and their foundations can have. At Weill Cornell, we have recently recruited three leading scientists. And this has been done via philanthropic resources.  The scientists at all three of Tri-I TDI’s medical institutions are palpably excited about the potential for new collaborations.  We can continue to build on this excitement to bring more leading researchers to New York City.

We need to come together and do a lot more to find ways to bridge the so-called “valley of death,” the longstanding and critical gap for new medical discoveries, where they do not get the focus or the funding necessary to translate them into new medicines.  We need to help hasten innovations to patient care in this fiscally constrained environment. Tri-I TDI is one such effort.  We also need to help small bioscience businesses and entrepreneurs with more incubator space and initiatives like Start-Up NY, which would create zones on or near some of the campuses of colleges and universities in New York State within which certain kinds of businesses could operate tax-free.

 

6. How can the U.S. reduce the overall cost of its healthcare system while maintaining excellence in the delivery of healthcare to its citizens?

Because of scientific advances and their application in patient care over the last two generations, we can now treat diseases like cancer and heart diseases that were the causes of early mortality to our ancestors.  Lifespans have increased by 20 years, but so have our healthcare costs.

Look at Alzheimer’s disease, for instance.  We are now spending $200 billion in care, with expectations for significant increases due to the demographics of an aging population. Some studies now say that 50% of people over 85 years of age will get this devastating disease.  This could lead to $1 trillion in annual costs of care.

How are we as a nation going to treat chronic conditions such as this?  We all know that 5% of our patients drive a disproportionate amount of our healthcare costs.

The simplest answer is, of course, prevention.  We’ve got to find ways to prevent diseases.  And the basic discoveries for prevention are going to be made in academic medical centers or through collaborations with the private sector like we’ve established with Tri-I TDI.  Pharmaceutical companies are great at drug development, but the basic research for new drugs has for the most part come from academia.

 

 For more information on the Tri-I TDI, visit http://weill.cornell.edu/news/releases/feature/10_01_13.shtml

Oct 3, 2013

Boldly going where no man has gone before — but why?

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Boldly going where no man has gone before — but why?

by Dr. Elma Hawkins

‘Enterprise’ was the name of the ship in Star Trek, whose mission was “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, ‘enterprise’ is also a synonym for a company or business.  But while yours may be founded with a similarly noble mission, real-life entrepreneurs will have to answer a pesky question that somehow was never posed to Captain Kirk: Why?

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Sep 10, 2013

True COGs in the Enterprise

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True COGs in the Enterprise

by Jerry Korten

 

Many times I see business plans for a startup company where (to be polite) not a lot of work has been done to understand the cost of goods for the item that a startup company wants to manufacture and sell. The lower the price of the item a company plans to sell, the more crucial knowing the true cost of goods will be. Why is this issue so important to a startup? Cash flow. The more profitable you are, the less investment you will need and the more of your company you will keep. Let’s dig down a bit to understand.

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Sep 4, 2013

Interview with Seth Lederman, M.D., Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of TONIX Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp.

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Interview with Seth Lederman, M.D., Co-Founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of TONIX Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: TNXP)

 by Howard Johnson

Seth Lederman and I got together as we both have experience in starting and managing bioscience companies in the New York area.  Dr. Lederman is a physician, scientist, and specialty pharmaceuticals entrepreneur. Prior to founding TONIX in New York City, from 2007-2008 Dr. Lederman co-founded and was a managing partner of Konanda Pharma Partners, LLC and Konanda Pharma Fund I, LP. He co-founded and served as director and chairman of its wholly-owned operating companies Validus and Fontus Pharmaceuticals Inc., which market Equetro® (carbamazepine – Extended Release), Marplan® (isocarboxazid) and Rocaltrol® (calcitriol). In 2000 Dr. Lederman founded Targent Pharmaceuticals to develop late-stage oncology drugs including pure-isomer levofolinic acid, which was sold to Spectrum Pharmaceuticals and is now FDA-approved and marketed as Fusilev® for colorectal cancer. In 1998 Dr. Lederman co-founded Vela Pharmaceuticals, which developed several drugs for central nervous system disorders, including VLD-cyclobenzaprine. Read the rest of this post

Aug 27, 2013

5 Reasons Entrepreneurs Never Get Their Big Exit

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by Dr. Elma Hawkins

Over the summer, I received numerous requests for informal mentoring about starting biotech companies.  I realized how many misconceptions there are about entrepreneurship in life sciences.  It so happened that my good friend and serial entrepreneur, Dr. Taffy Williams, very recently wrote an excellent blog that highlighted so many of the issues I had witnessed during these mentoring sessions.  Taffy was kind enough to allow us to post his blog here.

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Aug 20, 2013

Interview with Dr. Robert Darnell, MD, PhD, President and Scientific Director, New York Genome Center

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by Howard Johnson

 

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Interview with Dr. Robert Darnell, MD, PhD, President and Scientific Director, New York Genome Center

I recently had the opportunity to tour Bob Darnell’s laboratory at Rockefeller University.  Dr. Darnell is a leading expert in RNA genomics.  His career in research and medicine has spanned more than 25 years and includes his current roles as the Heilbrunn Professor and Senior Physician at The Rockefeller University and as a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. In addition to his position at Rockefeller, Dr. Darnell is an Adjunct Attending Physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He is an alumnus of Columbia College and received his medical and neurology training at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and the Weill Cornell Medical College.

In November 2012, Bob took the helm of the New York Genome Center (“NYGC”). He has been involved with the growth and advancement of NYGC since its inception in 2010, as a member of the original group of New York scientists that helped to shape the Center’s early direction.

NYGC is an independent, non-profit genomics and bioinformatics institution located in Manhattan. Founded with the support of 12 of the area’s most prestigious research and healthcare institutions, NYGC’s unique collaborative model is already accelerating the potential for genomics research to transform clinical care in New York and beyond.

This model unites a diverse group of hospitals, research centers, technology companies, pharmaceutical companies, cultural institutions, and philanthropists who share a common goal of advancing biological research for the purpose of improving human health.

I asked Bob to answer a few questions of potential importance to NYC bioscience entrepreneurs.

 

1.  Why do you think genomics will “crack the code” for the innovation economy?

First, there are tremendous pressures to innovate healthcare right now.  Rising patient care costs, a rapidly aging population with more expensive treatment needs, reimbursement challenges, costs for development and paying for medicine, to name a few.  Genomics will play an increasingly important role in helping address the above concerns through faster and more efficient development of targeted diagnostics and medicines tailored to individuals.

One good example includes the sequencing of gene variants encoding individuals metabolic enzymes (P450 liver enzymes) that will help determine dose and potential toxicity to drugs—so called pharmacogenomics.  Consider warfarin, a drug taken by millions of people each day, where currently each person has a dose individualized by trial and error to be titrated to just the point where their ability to make blood clots is reduced, but not excessively so.  Understanding an individual’s metabolism by sequencing offers reduction of risk and increase drug effect for each person.  Other great illustrations are coming from the world of cancer…each individual patient’s tumor of one type—breast cancer, for example—turns out to be different, despite the same tumor label.  Sequencing each patient’s tumor reveals what mutations are present in that patient that are most amenable to treatment with pharmaceutical drugs.

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Jun 18, 2013

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