Monthly Archives: July 2011

The promise of personalized cancer treatment

The Wall Street Journal has recently devoted some coverage to dramatic advances in the field of personalized oncology, in which genomic responses to therapies are leading to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.  One of our Florida-based portfolio companies, MolecularMD, provides highly validated, standardized pharmacogenomic tests that support regulatory approval and clinical adoption of such targeted cancer treatments.

MolecularMD is a vital part of the growing prominence and promise of the biotech industry in Florida, and is led by CEO Sheridan Snyder and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Brian Druker.  Mr. Snyder is a renowned leader in the biotechnology industry and behind several previous successful start-ups in the field, including Genzyme (NASDAQ: GENZ) where he served as Chairman, CEO, and President.  Dr. Druker is a recipient of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for his critical role in the development of Gleevec, a drug featured on the cover of Time magazine and described as a “magic bullet” that “convert(ed) a fatal cancer into a manageable chronic condition.”

Below you can find excerpts from the recent coverage of personalized oncology in the WSJ.  The National Comprehensive Cancer Network provides an introduction to the topic of biomarkers and targeted therapy here.

(For those who would like to enjoy the inspiring story behind the development of Gleevec, please see A Doctor in Full from The Wall Street Journal and this interview in The New York Times.)

June 5, WSJ – Major Shift in War on Cancer:

New research is signaling a major shift in how cancer drugs are developed and patients are treated—offering the promise of personalized therapies that reach patients faster and are more effective than other medicines.

At the heart of the change: an emerging ability for researchers to use genetic information to match drugs to the biological drivers of tumors in individuals. Studies released at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology here are helping to support previous findings that personalized medicine—introduced more than a decade ago—is closer to being realized as a weapon to fight cancer.


Top 10 Legal Mistakes of Entrepreneurs

A few weeks ago we shared this abbreviated version of the “10 Rules of Entrepreneurship” presented at a conference in Austin by a founder of LinkedIn.

We’ve come across a parallel list at Working Knowledge (from Harvard Business School):  “Top Ten Legal Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs.”  We’ll excerpt it as we did with 10 Rules… while also encouraging you to read the entire piece.  Here are a money graf and 2 (of the 10) most directly relevant to this audience:

“While the language of the law can be intimidating, the concepts are usually quite straightforward,” she [professor Connie Bagley] says. “Lawyers tend to be risk averse, and if you delegate to them you will usually stay out of legal trouble but can often compromise your business objectives.  [The coaching] I give entrepreneurs is to give them sufficient comfort with the legal concepts to feel confident in driving the process, to understand the ways in which the law is a constraint, but also the ways in which it is a tool that can help you create and capture value.”

#6 –  Negotiating venture capital financing based solely on the valuation. Valuation is not the only thing one should consider when selecting a venture capitalist or when negotiating the deal. There are many other ways for venture capitalists to get compensated if they end up paying a high price for shares. These include requiring participating preferred with a high cumulative dividend, redemption rights exercisable after only several years, and ratchet anti-dilution protection with no cap.  One must ask, what’s the reputation of this firm? Do they have a history of standing by the entrepreneur if the entrepreneur stumbles? Do they have good contacts in the industry? In trying to build alliances, do they know the big players? A no-name firm offering the highest valuation is often not the best source of equity.

#8 – Hiring a lawyer not experienced in dealing with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Many venture capitalists say that they often rate the judgment of entrepreneurs by their choice of legal counsel. Lawyers who have no experience working with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will most likely focus on the wrong things while failing to recognize some of the more subtle potential traps. It’s better to hire someone who has played the game, who knows what’s standard and what isn’t, and who will get the deal negotiated and closed promptly.

As with most aspects of building a business, choosing the right partners – including who represents your firm and its interests – is crucial.  The same rigor that is applied to building a sales force or augmenting an executive team should be utilized in selecting legal counsel.  Credible counsel will both protect your legal interests and facilitate a successful launch to the entrepreneur-venture capitalist marriage.

Southeastern cities dominate Forbes Top 10 list

Our region took 9 out of the 10 top spots in Forbes’ list of The Next Big Boom Towns in the U.S.  The rankings were done in conjunction with Mark Schill at the Praxis Strategy Group, and are based on job growth, attractive lifestyle, ease of starting a business, and a broad range of demographic factors.

We do love Phoenix, but these are several of the cities we and our entrepreneurs call home.

  1. Austin, TX
  2. Raleigh, NC
  3. Nashville, TN
  4. San Antonio, TX
  5. Houston, TX
  6. Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  8. Charlotte, NC-SC
  9. Phoenix, AZ
  10. Orlando, FL

Mid-year twitter digest

Enjoy this potpourri of our twitter activity from the first half of 2011, in case you missed any of them:

  • RIP Ray Townsend, the Thomas Edison of meat and member of inaugural HOF class w/Jimmy Dean and Frank Purdue.
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