Bob Coughlin, CEO of MassBio explains the amazing 51% growth in the biotech work force in Massachusetts in the last nine years.




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Video title: Bob Coughlin, CEO of MassBio explains the amazing 51% growth in the biotech work force in Massachusetts in the last nine years.
Released on: October 14, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Bob Coughlin, CEO of MassBio
Key changes Biotech industry in Boston over the last year
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here in Boston at BioPharm America. On this show I have Bob Coughlin, who is the CEO of MassBio based across here in Boston, welcome to the show.
Robert K. Coughlin:
Hello Fintan, thanks for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Well it was a year ago when we did have a previous interview Bob so as I said you are the CEO of MassBio you must have your finger on the pulse of what's going on here locally in the Boston area?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes we certainly do, I am having a hard time believing that that was a year ago already.
Fintan Walton:
Yes exactly.
Robert K. Coughlin:
The year has certainly flown by.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so what the question really is for you then Bob is what is it being like this last year for MassBio and particularly obviously the industry here in the local Boston?
Robert K. Coughlin:
You know believe it or not it's been extra ordinarily good as you know MassBio was founded in 1985 we were the first biotechnology trade association founded in the world, we currently represent over 640 member companies and in the last year we've seen extra ordinary growth we actually last year we brought on a 100 and member companies which is a great sign, this year we are on track with about 85 new members already and we are sure that as a result of BioPharm America here in Boston more companies are gonna be created.
Fintan Walton:
So where are those memberships coming from? What types of companies are joining you now?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Small companies, very small companies we have focused with our new innovation services product on the tech transfer offices, at the world class academic medical centres and the world class academic institutions that are right here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our innovation services line will connect those technologies with potential investors not only local investors but investors from all over the world, we found that the business development departments of large pharma companies have been extremely interested in the resources, and the technologies, and the innovation that's taking place here in Massachusetts to help their pipeline become more robust and come up with the next blockbuster technologies.
Growth of Biotech industry in Boston area
Fintan Walton:
So, I mean clearly you know you've described very quickly there some of the real key changes and as you said there it's the pharma companies moving into this area which has really transformed the whole industry I suppose locally the fact that they have now described the Boston area or the area of you know Cambridge and Boston of course the whole local area as a place where they wanna set up their R&D centres, so what is it that is influencing their decisions in this?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Well I think in the downturn in the economy the market has changed, its changed for biotech, its changed for big pharma and in fact I don't even refer to our industry as the biotechnology industry anymore it's biopharma, because the two are becoming one and that's not necessarily a bad thing biotech companies typically will get some early stage investment get to the point where they can have an IPO and generate a bowl lot of cash that you can actually get this product all the way from the bench through the bed side and through all of the clinical trials, some drugs take 10-years and a billion dollars to invent that's a lot of money IPO has gone away, IPOs have gone away and our biotech industry the work force here in Massachusetts in the last nine-years has grown by 51% that's amazing and it's happened because the big pharma companies are pumping a generous amount of money into deals in the local market so that they can come up with their next blockbuster drug.
Fintan Walton:
So is this just a classic cluster effect, I mean the fact that you've got these excellent academic, not-for-profit research institutions working closely alongside the you know historical biotech industry that emerged here in the Boston area?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes, I often argue that this is the best place in the world for innovation and people will often ask why is biotech so successful in this market? Why is it happened? What is the secrets are so to speak well, well the secret it isn't a secret it's a world class workforce, well educated.
Fintan Walton:
So it's people, it's all about people?
Robert K. Coughlin:
its people, its people who are willing to.
Fintan Walton:
It can be the weather?
Robert K. Coughlin:
No, no the weather is not great if that's the case would head south, we would head south. When you look at the people that are coming out of Harvard, MIT, UMass, Tufts and working closely with the clinicians at these world class academic medical centres you know we are home to the top five academic medical centres that are funded by top five NIH funded academic medical centres and we are also the top five NIH funded academic institutions those public money is funding early stage research to the best and brightest these are competitive grant dollars that are coming in from a federal government create ideas and technologies and licenses that turn into companies that create jobs that ultimately turn into medicines and turn into cures for sick people.
Contribution and influence of MassBio to the healthcare reform
Fintan Walton:
But the key thing here Bob is you know in that is MassBio obviously somewhere, so what is it that MassBio is doing to change this industry here? What is the what's your contribution to it?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Our mission is to create an environment so that our biopharma companies can achieve their outmost potential, when we talk about environment it means the deal environment, Biopharma America is one of our signature capital foundation events each year so we help these companies and these ideas to generate capital so that they can succeed. I spend a great deal of my time down Washington DC focusing on federal healthcare reform and I spend quite a bit of time over to stay capital here in Massachusetts in Boston focusing on local policy climate, politicians could come up with something they may be politically popular and put innovation out of business we can't allow that to happen.
Fintan Walton:
So is policy generated at the state level and a federal level working in the favor of our industry?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes Massachusetts with the Governor Deval Patrick and his administration has done an unbelievable job supporting this industry by creating a state policy that is good for innovation. The last year something that has changed significantly since you and I had spoken last year around federal healthcare reform it has become law and now the implementation it's really where the rubber meets the road and I am spending a terrific amount of time down in Washington DC utilizing our patient advocates to make sure that our policy leaders and our elected officials do not implement that law in a way that's gonna hurt sick people or strive for innovation areas like biosimilars, comparative effectiveness, importation, price controls, product restrictions those all are very important issues that we need to keep focused on.
Fintan Walton:
So when you have an influence on the implementation of this incredible changes taken in the healthcare reform that's happened at a federal level what sort of influences can you have, I mean you talk about those changes that the various threats can occur here for the state of Massachusetts, but you know what can you actually do, what's your influence? What's your influence with that?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Well we it's significant influence, because we have the ability to mobilize the employees of all of our companies to let their elected officials to know that we require jobs, we want jobs this industry is creating jobs with that 51% growth and workforce and then more importantly we have the ability to mobilize the patient population. MassBio works with American Cancer Society, the Brain Trauma Organizations, ALS and Michael J. Fox in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation we work with all of the disease foundations to make sure that we are getting the patients that live in these areas to go meet with their elected officials and let them know that we support innovation, we support becoming healthy, we support living another day and we would hope the people that we put in office would do the same thing and we also believe that innovation is part of the solution that adds value to the healthcare system to drive the cost down.
Fintan Walton:
It is that mean the fact that you are trying to influence the federal healthcare reform the act that was passed this year is really not that palatable to MassBio ?
Robert K. Coughlin:
No we wanna make sure that it's implemented in a way that will not adversely affect innovation.
Fintan Walton:
So you are happy with it but as long as it's implemented in the right way?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Where we wanted to be implemented in the right way, this parts of healthcare reform.
Fintan Walton:
Even though it's a document that is like a telephone directory?
Robert K. Coughlin:
You know what they say well making laws is like watching making sausage you know it's not pretty and it's something that at the end of the day.
Fintan Walton:
Yes it's part of the negotiations well, yes.
Robert K. Coughlin:
In order to achieve consensus and concurrence there is a lot of things that go into it we were very, very active during the process and at the end of the day we realize there needs to be healthcare reform as an industry, we need to get our arms around the cost, but we wanna make sure it's done in the those wont adversely affect innovation.
Fintan Walton:
I mean that there are kind of (indiscernable) in there that you need to smooth out there are crinkles in there that you need to smooth out there are crinkles in that document that you need to smooth out?
Robert K. Coughlin:
During implementation, yes. So that there aren't any unforeseen, unintended consequences.
Robert's views: Effects of acquistions
Fintan Walton:
Right. So lets just go look back over the year again, so the other key thing that happened here obviously was that Genzyme was bought eventually by Sanofi [PharmaDeals ID = 37246], was that a good thing?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes, I mean obviously we don't like when one of our proudest, largest home grown companies is no longer Massachusetts based business, but in reality you know lets look back you look at when Takeda bought Millennium [PharmaDeals ID = 30116], Millennium has done nothing but growing, when you look at the Pfizer and Wyeth acquisition [PharmaDeals ID = 32282]Pfizerhas done nothing but growing in this market, prior to Sanofi purchasing Genzyme they choose Massachusetts to be the worldwide research centre for oncology so they are committed here anyway, and you know I am seeing it is a game of addition not subtraction, because they not buying these companies to uproot them and pull them somewhere else they are buying them because they want earning, so we have not seen any adversed effect, adverse effects of these acquisitions.
Robert's perspective: Future shape and challenges for biotech industry
Fintan Walton:
So looking at that landscape that's changing that we've just described I think over the last year and obviously over the last few years, what is the shape of our industry going forward you know you are in there you are amongst all the biotech companies you've got these huge membership, you talk to the guys there as well, so from your view point what are you seeing you know what can we expect the typical structure of your members will be within MassBio what we are gonna be, what's a tiny little companies and one huge couple of big huge corporations, what do you see?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Let me make a few comments, first and foremost the industry is changing and it needs to and that's fine, you gonna continue to see the larger companies role up and it's time for role up in the industry, the day and age of huge campuses that do high throughputs screening are over, these large pharma companies are gonna down size campuses they gonna down size sales forces and they gonna continue to put their resources towards innovation to continue to drive value you are going to see companies say how do we provide value to the healthcare system as opposed to just coming up with the drug and trying to sell as much of it as you can in 14-years, you know where can we make a difference, where can we solve unmet medical needs and where can we be part of the solution and you know we benefit from that here locally because we are the hub for innovation and again you'll see all of that investment coming in because of that.
Fintan Walton:
And you know it has the you mentioned a very important point there it has to be the right innovation, it has to be the right innovation for a different market which brings you back to the healthcare reform issues?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
So is Massachusetts in other position to ensure it's future innovation capabilities so it's not just doing innovation in the style that was suitable say 10-years ago, but it is actually you know suitable for innovation over the next 10-years where there are these new challenges is it ready for that?
Robert K. Coughlin:
Yes, because we are seeing a growth in specialty pharma companies, we are seeing a growth in researches that relates to rare orphan genetic diseases and that's what we are all about and you know you solve those rare unmet medical needs and it unlocks the door that will open to so many others solutions in healthcare you see personalized medicine the increase of the focus on personalized medicine what drug would work for you that may not work for me so that we are not prescribing it to me that works for you because of your genetic makeup you need this much at this time you drive the cost down now when we focus on personalized medicine we are seeing coming through our innovation exchange and through our innovation services group a tremendous amount of diagnostic technologies, devices, combination products, we are seeing a whole new industry spread up around personalized medicine and I think that with specialty pharma and rare genetic disorders orphan diseases we are gonna continue to grow here.
Fintan Walton:
Excellent. Well Bob Coughlin, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Robert K. Coughlin:
Thanks for having me, it was a pleasure.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Robert K Coughlin
President
Robert K. Coughlin currently serves as President & CEO of Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). As President and CEO of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council , Bob's mission is to foster a positive environment that enables each biotechnology company to achieve its full potential in Massachusetts, making the state a world center for biotechnology. He is very familiar with all areas of the Massachusetts life sciences super cluster and is a passionate advocate for research and the biotechnology community. Bob has spent his career in both the public and private sectors, most recently serving as Undersecretary of Economic Development within Governor Deval Patrick's administration in 2007. Prior to that, he was elected as State Representative to the 11th Norfolk district for three terms. In the legislature both healthcare and economic development were his priorities. In the world of business he specialized in the environmental services industry and moved on to capital management and venture capital. He has held senior executive positions in both fields. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy where he majored in Marine Engineering, and is a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve. Coughlin has also been active in the community, having served on the boards of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. He has served as the honorary chairman of the Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk since 1996. In 2009, he co-chaired the Children's Hospital Boston signature event, Champions for Children's.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio)
The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council a not-for-profit organization that represents and provides services and support for the Massachusetts biotechnology industry, is the nation's oldest biotechnology trade association. Founded in 1985, MassBio is committed to advancing the development of critical new science, technology and medicines that benefit people worldwide.