All the small startups: running dry?

More

You've probably never heard of La Jolla Pharmaceuticals. To be honest, even though I work in the industry, neither had I. But this small company had a drug in Phase III for lupus, a disease for which there are no good treatments. And today they were notified by their review board that the whole study had to be scrapped, immediately: there was no chance that the drug could possibly be showing a useful endpoint, and continuing it would be unethical. La Jolla's stock went down about 90 per cent, and I would imagine that the future of the company is very much in doubt (especially given the current climate for financing).

There are all sorts of small drug companies like this, pursuing long-shot ideas and hoping for the best. Once in a while, one of them comes through, and we're all better off for it. But we're all better off for the willingness of investors to back such ideas in general, and that's one of the things that worries me about the current economic troubles. The United States has one of its greatest advantages in its constant bubbling ferment of start-up companies - and not just in the drug industry, of course. But many of these outfits have been caught short by the downturn, since they run close to the edge of their finances even under good conditions.

How many ideas that might have taken off are we going to miss, and how many therapies that could have worked out, if the money had held out a bit longer? The Citis and Caterpillers of the world are getting the headlines with their massive layoffs, understandably. But there are a lot of outfits that you've never heard of that are in the process of losing everything. Money wouldn't have saved La Jolla Pharmaceutical's drug for lupus - the science just wasn't there, in the end. But lack of money could keep the next drug from even being found.


Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Lowe

Derek Lowe is a drug discovery chemist with 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, which is still very much his day job. He's worked on projects targeted at Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, infectious diseases, and other areas, but like most discovery scientists in the business, he has yet to produce a marketed drug. Explaining how and why this happens is what led to the launch of his blog, "In the Pipeline", in 2002, and the explaining continues. . .
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Fascinating Short Film About the Multiverse

If life is a series of infinite possibilities, what does it mean to be alive?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In