Biotech Blues & MedTech News - The "bounce back" may not be quick for biotech
I frequently get asked how I have time to write a newsletter. I’ll give you some insight into our editorial process. During the week, a few of us track interesting stories in our industry and put them into a shared note. Our team helps write a narrative around each of these topics. Currently, the short straw is held by Liz Abide our Manager of Marketing.
Then I write the beginning, end, and some of the middle parts. The two products should meet harmoniously in a timely, entertaining way.
Truth is Liz does her part and I don’t really think about mine until the day before. Then I’m hyper-focused on my surroundings trying to find inspiration. For example, I was on a flight back to Houston recently and the guy behind me had his hand on the back of the passenger seat next to me. I briefly envisioned the title of this newsletter as Harry Knuckles and the Road to Innovation. I could go on for a while. There was a pregnant woman next to me and a guy that looked like John Candy two rows up.
My point is, when the rubber meets the road, I start trying to tie meaning to everything around me for that sole purpose. It’s silly, I know, but it’s how our brains work. Availability heuristic? I don’t know. But it does make me wonder if there is an optimal level of observation. Pay too little attention, life passes you by. Pay too much, and you may see things that aren’t really there.
So apologies, there’s no segue into the news. It’s just going to hit like a pothole.
Biotech earnings being down the past year is not news. But upcoming readouts offer hope to analysts, investors, and the entire life sciences industry. In the first 6 months of 2022, the XBI biotech index dropped by 34% which rippled into a period of layoffs and cutbacks. Recently, Berenberg analysts have noticed that the XBI biotech index has increased 26% in the past month and has surpassed the S&P 500 by 4%.
I’m not waiting with bated breath for earnings to bounce back rapidly. Inflation (more specifically rising costs and supply chain instability) is increasing in the United States and Europe, and this is highly likely to impact the biotech industry for the rest of the year and is predicted to carry over into 2023, as well.
I am happy that my Cathy Woods ARK fund is up a few percent (down from 64% at beginning of the year - doh).
So here’s my advice to biotech and MedTech companies. Get cash conservative. Be ruthless with your prioritization. Don’t change your fundraising strategy (unless you are IPOing). Groups like Tiger Global and a16z are shifting their bets to early-phase startups. Why? Because there’s plenty of cash out there and if growth companies are going to struggle through the economy, why not swing for the fences? Herd mentality suggests others will do the same.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but soon a human heart could be
PC: Photo by Harvard SEAS
Not kidding - Harvard University researchers are using a technology called focused rotary jet spinning (FRJS) technology to fabricate polymer fibers that mimic the helical structure of heart muscles. If you didn’t already know, the human heart’s biological structure has multiple layers and is very complex to replicate.
How long would it take to 3D print a human heart? Harvard researchers claim it could take, “More than a century to 3D print every bit of collagen in the human heart at a single micron diameter resolution; it takes a single day with FRJS.”
How does this technology work? The Wyss Institute news release says, “The first step of FRJS works like a cotton candy machine — a liquid polymer solution is loaded into a reservoir and pushed out through a tiny opening by centrifugal force as the device spins. As the solution leaves the reservoir, the solvent evaporates, and the polymers solidify to form fibers. Then, a focused airstream controls the orientation of the fiber as they are deposited on a collector. The team found that by angling and rotating the collector, the fibers in the stream would align and twist around the collector as it spun, mimicking the helical structure of heart muscles. The alignment of the fibers can be tuned by changing the angle of the collector.”
If you’re interested in cardiac regenerative medicine there’s a cool company named Animatus utilizing proprietary mRNA to turn dead cells back into live ones. They are raising. If you want to hear more reach out to my friend Dr. Stephen Navran at firstname.lastname@example.org. (How’s that Steve?)
A visual learner’s dream come true for almost every protein known to science
PC: Photo by The Scientist
Proteins are the building blocks of biology, this is why DeepMind's AlphaFold AI (artificial intelligence) reveals the 3D structure of almost every protein known to science. Fierce Biotech reports, “The new details will help researchers visualize the nearly 200 million proteins that form the basis of life for animals, plants, bacteria and more—spanning nearly every organism on the planet that has had its genome sequenced.”
How can this AI discovery help humanity? In many ways. DeepMind claims AlphaFold can help combat diseases and solve problems such as plastic pollution and food insecurity. AlphaFold has a direct correlation to the advance of biopharma discoveries. Rosana Kapaller, CEO of the former Fierce 15 winner in 2020 said, “AlphaFold became an essential tool for biopharma research nearly overnight, including here at Rome Therapeutics where it is allowing us to predict protein structures in areas of the dark genome that have never been solved for before.”
Manual sutures are an invention of the past, introducing: Surgical nerve-repairing tape
PC: Photo by BioCircuit Technologies
The standard care for peripheral nerves has risen. When a peripheral nerve is damaged it requires surgery to repair. The current status-quo treatment requires manual suturing of the nerve’s outer connective tissue, a complex process that demands precision and focus.
BioCircuit Technologies just received FDA 510(k) clearance for their medical device, Nerve Tape. It’s comparable to a piece of Scotch tape quickly and effectively rejoins nerve ends.
Jonathan Isaacs, M.D., co-inventor of the system and a professor and chair in the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center’s hand surgery division said, “The development and clearance of Nerve Tape represents a significant advancement in the treatment of nerve injuries. This product has the potential to offer surgeons a faster, simpler method for achieving a precise, reliable repair of injured nerves.” I tried to convince one of our readers to pivot their product into something very similar. If you’re still subscribed – it’s not too late!
Liz, thanks for making me look good. I hope everyone has a solid week.
Very truly yours,
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