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In My Opinion-Bio 

Embracing Generics and Emerging Markets
Posted By Ross Petras on January 25, 2012 in In My Opinion-Bio
Atleast twice daily I get the question.....what is the future or our business from current and future Biotech and Pharma executives?  Being a lowly Biotech recruiter I really can't begin to postulate on this question but I have pondered it quite a bit and I feel that Karl Theils article below sheds some light on the next decade of our business.  I feel that emerging markets are quickly becoming the "next big thing" and shortly will be the benchmark for continued success in this business......RP
Article by Karl Theil
1/23/2012 3:40:55 PM

Embracing Generics and Emerging Markets

Did you know that the average daily cost of drugs dropped by one third between 2005 and 2010? And that Medicare drug spending has come in below predicted levels? Seems like a strange thing in this age of stealth inflation and $200,000-a-year medicines, but the reason is quite simple: We are in freefall off the patent cliff, and the average drug spend for consumers should continue to decline as popular drugs go generic. Prices should decrease by another third through 2015, according to IMS Health estimates.

That's great news for consumers; maybe not so much for drug companies. But needless to say, they've seen this coming for a long time, and they've been planning. Plan A--to replace all those off-patent drugs with new innovative blockbusters (or value-added versions of the same products) has met with mixed success at best. Plan B--to make highly targeted, very expensive specialty drugs, often linked to companion diagnostics--is shaping up to be one of the most interesting trends of the next decade. But in the meantime, there's Plan C, and it's likely to gain momentum in 2012: The move to emerging markets.

The industry's embrace of emerging markets gained momentum during the merger mania of 2009, and it's not likely to slack off this year for a number of reasons. Obviously, these markets--particularly what IMS Health dubbed the 17 "pharmerging" markets (most notably China, Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey, South Korea and Mexico) are a source of new, and increasingly affluent, customers. The easy way to access them--and work through a tangle of regional regulation, patent laws, and more--is to buy local generics companies and manufacturers.

An added benefit is that these acquisitions can magnify the value of other assets. At the recent JP Morgan Healthcare conference, GlaxoSmithKline CFO Simon Dingemans pointed out (hat tip to the In Vivo Blog) how well its 2009 acquisition of Stiefel has worked out. GSK was able to plug Stiefel's dermatology products, which had limited international distribution, into its own expanding global network and get a lot of new business out of emerging markets that Stiefel by itself was unlikely to tap.

Emerging markets also serve as a way to help companies participate in the surging global generics market. Sanofi, for instance, got the ball rolling in Latin America with its 2009 acquisition of Medley, which made it the number one generics company throughout Mexico and Latin America. Now the company wants more. Fresh from the acquisition of Genzyme, Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher recently said he is looking at a potential $2.6 billion in bolt-on acquisitions this year, most likely focused on emerging markets. And German pharma Gruenenthal has just put together a $1.3 billion warchest earmarked specifically for Latin America, particularly the large markets of Brazil and Mexico.

We've seen how this focus is shifting company priorities--like fewer jobs in the U.S. and Europe, more in Asia. That too will probably continue, because the opportunities are so large and yet the obstacles so formidable. IMS predicts the pharmaceutical industry sales in emerging markets will total more than $300 billion by 2017. That dwarfs the U.S. market.

Yet it won't be easy. Consider China, which offers the dual advantages of not only being the world's fastest growing pharmaceutical market but also being a relatively cheap place to conduct R&D, particularly in preclinical chemistry. That's attracted contract research organizations to the region--Quintiles continues to expand there (see Career Track), and it has also led major pharma companies to expand their presence. But making the most of this opportunity will require a lot more effort, because even large companies have a hard time reaching their customers. There are over 7,000 drug distributors in China, and the top three account for only 20% of the market. Struggling with those kinds of issues will be taking up a lot of attention from pharma's top brass. Biotech, meanwhile, can concentrate on those expensive new drugs.

-Karl Thiel
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Breakthrough in Nanocrystals Growth
Posted By Ross Petras on October 19, 2010 in In My Opinion-Bio

Very interesting breakthrough in observence of Nanocrystals growth may have energy applications.....RP

ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2010) — For the first time, scientists have been able to watch nanoparticles grow from the earliest stages of their formation. Nanoparticles are the foundation of nanotechnology and their performance depends on their structure, composition, and size. Researchers will now be able to develop ways to control conditions under which they are grown. The breakthrough will affect a wide range of applications including solar-cell technology and chemical and biological sensors.

As coauthor Wenge Yang of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory explained: "It's been very difficult to watch these tiny particles be born and grow in the past because traditional techniques require that the sample be in a vacuum and many nanoparticles are grown in a metal-conducting liquid. So we have not been able to see how different conditions affect the particles, much less understand how we can tweak the conditions to get a desired effect."

These researchers work at the Center for Nanoscale Materials and the Advanced Photon Source (APS)-both operated by Argonne National Laboratory-and the High Pressure Synergetic Consortium (HPSynC), a program jointly run by the Geophysical Laboratory and Argonne. The scientists used high-energy X-rays from the APS to carry out diffraction studies that enabled them to gain information on the crystal structure of the materials. Thanks to the highly brilliant and high penetration of this X-ray source-the largest of its kind in the US-the researchers were able to watch the crystals grow from the beginning of their lives. The atoms scatter very short wavelength X-rays and the resulting diffraction pattern reveals the structure of these unusual particles. Quite often the chemical reaction occurs in a very short time and then evolves. The scientists used highly focused high-energy X-rays and a fast area detector, the key components to make this investigation possible. This is the first time-resolved study of the evolution of nanoparticles from the time they are born.

HPSynC, is also a part of the Energy Frontier for Research in Extreme Environments (EFree) Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center supported at Carnegie by DOE-BES. One of the missions of this center is to harness new synchrotron radiation techniques for in situ studies of materials structure and dynamics in extreme conditions and thereby to understand and produce new energy materials.

"This study shows the promise of new techniques for probing crystal growth in real time. Our ultimate goal is to use these new methods to track chemical reactions as they occur under a variety of conditions, including variable pressures and temperatures, and to use that knowledge to design and make new materials for energy applications. This is a major thrust area of the HPSynC program that we have launched in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory," remarked Russell Hemley, the director of Geophysical Laboratory.

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What is BioInfomatics? Experts weigh in on their definitions.
Posted By Ross Petras on October 8, 2009 in In My Opinion-Bio

Comments (17)

  1. Brian Moldover

    Bioinformatics, data analysis, research management, strategic planning and management consultant for Pharma and Biotech.

    Here's a few, I'm sure there are others. What is Bioinformatics?

    Bioinformatics is the application of information technology to the field of molecular biology. (Wikipedia)

    The sum of the computational approaches to analyze, manage, and store biological data. (MedTerms)

    Roughly, bioinformatics describes any use of computers to handle biological information. (Bioinformatics Org.)

    Bioinformatics is the analysis of biological information using computers and statistical techniques (this is what was originally called Computational Biology).

    The computational enabler of genomics (my old boss’ definition).

    Molecular biology in silico.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  2. Robert Peitzsch

    Head: Neuroscience Computational Biology and Neuromics at PGRD

    Yeah, the above pretty much captures it. Most people contrast Bioinformatics with Computational Biology as in: Bioinformatics is more sequence and large-scale analysis oriented whereas Computational Biology is more targeted "small scale") in its analyses. An example would be divide genes into gene families vs. determine ab initio the hairpin structure of an RNA.

    These days, the 2 disciplines are merging together as the focus is more on how to the pieces in the parts catalogue work together in pathways and/or cellular processes.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  3. Harikrishnadhar Sonnenahalli

    Research Assistant at Thomas Jefferson University

    In simple lay man terms it can be defined as :

    Solving biological problem with implementation of computer science........

    For example; Proteomics: Here you study Proteins there structure there functions...etc ,How ? Using the tools ..... How tools are developed??????

    By using languages such Perl,Python,Java,R ......(So many) on Biological Data to find there motifs(functional domains),Structure,related pathways......etc

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  4. Cath Brooksbank

    Head of Outreach and Training at EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute

    At the European Bioinformatics Institute we define it as the science of storing, retrieving and analysing large amounts of biological information.

    In the beginning, most of that biological information was sequence based. However, the field has broadened considerably and bioinformaticians now have to deal with many different types of information - sequences, structures, interactions, pathways, networks, taxonomie, small molecules of relevance to biology...I suspect this is why the terms 'bioinformatics' and 'computational biology' are now used almost interchangeably.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  5. Bipin Bihari

    Application Programmer at Jubilant Biosys Pvt Ltd.

    Here is the simple definition....

    Understanding large amount of biological information using Computer, Mathematics and statistics.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  6. Simon Topp

    Freelance photographer

    The above are good broad definitions, but as Richard is a contract staffing specialist a more detailed description of the skills that come under the umbrella of bioinformatics might be helpful.
    Bioinformaticians come from a wide variety of disciplines:
    Statisticians are needed to ensure the most appropriate methods are used to analyse large data sets and experimental results.
    Engineers are needed to develop new tools and algorithms, many of which are web-based.
    Database admins are needed to store large amounts of data for the tools to access in the most efficient ways.
    Systems admins are needed to maintain the computing infrastructure behind the tools and databases.
    And last, but certainly not least (as this is the category I come from), biochemists/molecular biologists/geneticists are needed to direct the development of new tools and to use them. If they also have some programming experience it can help, as often the available tools have to be 'glued' together with some additional scripting.
    All of these can claim to 'do bioinformatics'. I hope I haven't missed anyone out :)

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  7. Dan Rosauer

    PhD Student at University of New South Wales

    There's an important distinction touched on, indirectly in a couple of the preceding posts.

    There is a large body of biological informatics research and practice which involves whole organisms, rather than genes or molecular data. For example, large volumes of data on the distributions and habitats of species are analysed in sophisticated ways to answer questions relating to taxonomy, biogeography, evolution, ecology, conservation, agriculture, invasive species and more.

    For example the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( is an access point for > 170 million records of observed locations for particular taxa. GBIF is in many ways analogous to genbank in its role.

    Whole organism bioinformatics includes the range of IT, statistical and biological professions described in the preceding post with the addition of spatial analysis / geographic information systems, and less emphasis on molecular biology / genetics.

    Bioinformatics is often defined to include only the molecular end of the spectrum. Practitioners of whole organism bioinformatics need to assert their place within the field of bioinformatics, or alternatively use a different term to define their field. Often the variant 'biodiversity informatics' is used to distinguish whole organism informatics, but the distinction is a little subtle.

    As a practitioner who works with large scale spatial analysis of biodiversity data as well as phylogenetic data, I would love to see better recognition of whole organism bioinformatics, its overlaps and distinctions from molecular bioinformatics.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  8. Satish Gupta

    Scientist-II at Strand Life Sciences,Bangalore

    Extracting valuable biological information and its significance using any of the existing softwares or your own designed computational programs can be coined as Bioinformatics but at the same time it also involves the knowledge information from almost all subjects like physics, chemistry, statistics, biology, life science and mathematics and it defines completely the term "Bioinformatics".

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  9. Ana Rojas Mendoza

    Group Leader at IMPPC at Institute for Predictive and Personalised Medicine of Cancer

    Approaching/addressing Biological (whether relevant or not) questions using computers instead pipettes.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  10. Brian Moldover

    Bioinformatics, data analysis, research management, strategic planning and management consultant for Pharma and Biotech.

    Hey Ana, you made me laugh. As someone who started out at the bench (until 1993), I get defensive when I'm called a 'computer person'. I always tell people I'm still a scientist, I just traded pipettes and centrifuges for computers.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  11. Ana Rojas Mendoza

    Group Leader at IMPPC at Institute for Predictive and Personalised Medicine of Cancer

    Well, like you, I am Biologist by training as well, and do not consider myself a computer person, but I like computers and I find them as useful as pipettes ;-)... In fact the wet lab people, loves us (most of the times ouch) because we save them lots of work!
    Another definition is "Biology by other means", according to my former boss...
    Truly, is difficult to define something so broad... think about Molecular Biology or Cell biology...

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  12. Elliot Kleiman

    Student at San Diego State University-California State University

    I think Dr. Russ Altman from Stanford University explains it best because he is able to differentiate between what is computational biology and what is bioinformatics; and as his blog article illustrates, there is a difference.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  13. Atul Srivastav

    Bioinformatics Analyst

    One more simple way to explain-handeling large datasets and solving bio problems using informatics.

    Posted 2 months ago | Reply Privately

  14. Kevin Karplus

    professor at UCSC

    I have regarded "computational biology" and "bioinformatics" as the same filed for over a decade, and was prepared to argue with Russ Altman's claim that they are distinct. But I read his post at and I can't really quibble with the distinction he makes, because it is the same science/engineering split that I make. The best practitioners still do both (just as the best experimental physicists do a lot of engineering of instruments), but there is a difference between a "methods" paper and an "applications" paper. The unusual thing in bioinformatics are that the "applications" papers are more likely to be the "science" papers and the fundamental methods papers are more likely to be "engineering".

    Posted 19 days ago | Reply Privately

  15. Matt Healy

    Senior Research Investigator at Bristol-Myers Squibb

    Fundamentally I would say bioinformatics is the art of throwing assorted computational tools at genomic data to solve two classes of data mining tasks: generating hypotheses from the data and testing hypotheses from the data. CS types call these problem classes "unsupervised machine learning" or "pattern recognition" versus "supervised learning."

    More sardonically I often describe it as "al dente data mining." I throw various algorithms at my data until something sticks!

    PS: I like the line about "computers instead of pipettes" above, since I last used a pipette some time around 1990 myself.

    Posted 13 days ago | Reply Privately

  16. Nicholas Murgolo

    Fellow at Schering-Plough Research Institute

    A basic definiton:
    Computational Analysis an Organization of Biological Sequence Data and Associated Information from Organism Genomes to Assess Potential Biological Function

    Posted 7 days ago | Reply Privately

  17. Kevin Karplus

    professor at UCSC

    Nicholas. Genomes are not our only information sources, nor is sequence data all that bioinformatics deals with. Your definition is too tied to the current common data sources, not to the field as a whole. Matt, it's not all pattern recognition and data-mining, though those are useful and commonly used tools.

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About Ross Petras
Ross Petras founded PSR Company in 2003. Since it's inception Ross has become one of the most successful Biotech and Life Science recruiters in the US. He has personally recruited some of the highest level scientific and senior management staff for our Biotech, Clinical and Life Science clients.  [More]

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