BioPharma

PA BIO changes with the times to welcome CROs and HIT companies

If you want a sense of how Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry association is evolving, its recent conference offered some clues. In one corner of the room, health IT company pitches were  interwoven with presentations by biotech and medical device startups. There were discussions about patient-centered care and mobile health. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania shared […]

If you want a sense of how Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry association is evolving, its recent conference offered some clues.

In one corner of the room, health IT company pitches were  interwoven with presentations by biotech and medical device startups. There were discussions about patient-centered care and mobile health. Researchers from University of Pennsylvania shared a stage with a family to discuss how a revolutionary therapeutic they developed was successfully used to help beat a child’s leukemia into remission. A Pulitzer prize-winning author talked about the history of cancer.

It illustrated the excitement around the potential for biotech to drive development of transformative solutions and how Pennsylvania Bio is adapting to the market forces of leaner pharmaceutical companies, the use of IT to cut clinical trial costs and the impact of healthcare reform on drug development and reimbursement.

Chris Molineaux Pennsylvania BIO CEO said the move reflected a combination of the growth of IT companies among its members and the transformation of the pharmaceutical industry toward leaner companies. The leukemia therapeutic developed by Penn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia researchers was particularly exciting because it represents a medical breakthrough in the use of T cell immunotherapy.

Novartis has a research and development alliance with Penn. A couple of years ago the 20-year-old industry association had two contract research organizations. Now there are 52 CROs. There are also 16 technology companies from  Microsoft to Veeva which offer support services for life science companies among its 600+ members. It reflects the trend of pharmaceutical companies outsourcing more and more research and development services to reduce costs.

As Obamacare continues to take hold, pharmaceutical companies will work more closely with payers and there will be a lot more interdependency with health IT companies and other industry groups.

“Our conference was a decisive moment for us,” Molineaux said. Looking ahead to next year, he said ” We expect to see a lot of activity on the licensing front and M&A deals and collaborations in the larger markets.”

Among its achievements this year include the state’s approval of the Innovate PA plan to provide funding for early-stage biotech companies by selling  $100 million in tax credits. Pennsylvania Bio had championed the legislation with the state’s economic development arm, Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The initiative will restore allocations to the economic development programs that fund early-stage companies, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which have been scaled back since the recession.

One of the ongoing goals for Pennsylvania Bio has been to attract more investors to the region — a goal shared by many other industry and economic development groups. Next year, Molineaux said, it anticipates that some west coast venture firms will expand into the region, although he declined to disclose any details.

Looking ahead to 2014, Pennsylvania Bio will be partly focused on  gearing up for the international Bio industry conference coming to Philadelphia in 2015.  It will offer a lot of opportunities to spotlight regional life science companies and the technology innovations they’re developing.

[Photo credit: Group of tiny people by BigStockPhoto]