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Get in or Get Left Behind

Verdana;”>NanoVec, a biotechnology firm, was launched in January 2006 to produce artificial vaccines. Most vaccines require biological systems to manufacture and require significant time to scale-up, but NanoVec vaccines can be produced in one to two months. Although based in Philadelphia, NanoVec is operated virtually; the company outsources its lab work to contracted research organizations.

 

Principal Founder, President, and Chief Science Officer Chad Womack, who also serves as president and chair of the executive board of directors of the National Association for Blacks in Bio, raised about $300,000 to begin design and development of a prototype vaccine against influenza. Though biotechnology is potentially lucrative, Womack cautions, “Most biotech companies take five to seven years on average before ever reaching the stage when they start to generate significant revenue.” He notes that his 2-year-old firm has yet to turn a profit. “The global flu vaccine market alone was $2.2 billion in 2006. Upon product launch, we hope to capture up to 25%of that market.”

 

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, an independent research group affiliated with Tufts University, puts the cost of developing a new drug at an estimated $1.1 billion, a figure that limits development to the big players. However, with genetic testing and personalized medicine being two of the fastest growing sectors within this industry, Stephen Keith, president and COO of Panacea Pharmaceuticals in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and also a co-founder of NanoVec, adds that the biotechnology boom means entry points for the creation of new businesses to conduct contract and clinical research for the preclinical and clinical trials required for FDA approval.

 

Womack agrees: “A lot of biotech is done virtually until the human clinical testing stage.” He confirms that NanoVec spent about 50%of its cash flow in outsourcing its lab work and about 40%in legal fees to protect intellectual property. And a summer 2008 study by biotechnology analysts with the investment firm Turner Investment Partners in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, revealed that contract and clinical research outsourcing is


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