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April 14, 2009
I try to keep up with the drug-industry news in general, so once in a while I just hop over to Google News and type "pharmaceutical" into the search box. That generally gets me a barrage of press releases, lucky me, and this morning was no different. But what struck me was that basically the whole page of results was talking about companies that either I only vaguely recognized, or (in most cases) had never heard of at all.
Raptor Pharmaceuticals I remembered from somewhere, mostly because of that bizarre name. But then there's a run of who-they names: Nanobac merging with Eureka Genomics? Osprey? Poniard? Tekmira? Stellar? Kanion? Optimer? Come to think of it, I actually have heard of those last folks, although I can't tell you much about them. Looking closer, I find that several of these are generic producers (Kanion, from China) or seem to be more medical-device companies (Stellar), which makes me feel better. Nanobac seems to be the most way-out-there, supposedly focusing on treatment of nanobacteria-related diseases, which is news to me, since last I heard you could start a major shouting match over the question of whether nanobacteria even exist (or even can).
But the others are real drug shops: Tekmira's another RNAi outfit that I'd never heard of, and Poniard seems to be betting on new platinum-based oncology agents. Osprey is working on chemokine fusion proteins. This sort of thing (coming across companies that I'd never realized existed) always cheers me up, actually. I continue to think that one of the US's main strengths is the ability to fund ideas, to try all sorts of things out in the hopes that something interesting will turn up. I want there to be many more companies than I have time to keep up with or even hear of. That, to me, is the sign of a healthy research culture.
Which is what has me worried, given the current economic climate. This is not a particularly good time to get a small company off the ground, to put it mildly. Will there be a notch cut into the startup population as the years go on? How deep and broad will it be?
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