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Vertex: Sticking To Its Story

Executive Summary

Unlike many biotechs, Vertex has consistently cast itself as a product-focused company. To get there, Vertex built a remarkably productive discovery engine that has generated an impressive development pipeline. But to date, the company has produced only one commercial product, an HIV therapy marketed by GSK. That relatively slow path to commercialization is in large part attributable to the company's reliance on its internal R&D to produce drugs. By eschewing the in-licensing path that other biotechs have taken to jumpstart their commercial development, and partnering away commercial rights to a number of its later-stage compounds, the company has left some doubting its commitment to marketing its own drugs. But Vertex is now laying the foundation for creating a full-fledged commercial capability. And if the company can stay on track as it tackles the challenges of integrating a commercial operation into its organization, it may prove the skeptics wrong and accomplish something that perhaps no other biotech has: create a fully integrated pharmaceutical firm on the back of its own R&D.

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Combining Chemical Genetics and Cancer Immunotherapy

Two years ago, a team at Stanford described a new "chemical genetics" technique--a more precise way to use small molecules to perturb gene products and living systems. Now they have published more data on the system. And of acute interest to drug developers, they have linked the work to therapeutic applications in cancer immunotherapy, showing the ability to regulate secreted proteins such as IL-2 and TNF.

Biotech Layoffs Hit Hardest In Discovery

As the financing drought continues and their cash supplies dwindle, biotechs are resorting to big layoffs to drastically cut back on spending (See exhibit 1). But however rigorous a company's turnaround effort, the target of the layoffs always seems to be discovery research, with the remaining employees focusing on clinical programs.

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