In one of the best in-depth features about executives seeking funding and more during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference week, Lisa M. Jarvis (for Chemical & Engineering News) writes a cover story, “The Long, Rocky Road From Idea To Successful Biotech,” about Zak Zimmerman and David Puerta of Forge Therapeutics (San Diego) and their days and nights in San Francisco. The intro:
“The sun is nearly down in San Francisco and Zak Zimmerman and David Puerta are worried about arriving late for their final meeting on a long day. It is the first day of the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, and the men, leaders of the biotech start-up Forge Therapeutics, have been up since long before dawn. They walk briskly out of the Hotel Nikko and turn left on Powell Street toward Union Square, where swaths of men and the occasional woman are spilling out of nearby hotels to hit the first cocktail parties of the night. Zimmerman and Puerta weave through the crowds, cut across to Stockton Street, and start up the hill to the Ritz-Carlton.
Oh, that hill. So steep, even a former college soccer player like Puerta slows his pace on the hike up. So notorious, one hedge fund manager says of the Ritz, “I won’t take meetings there.”
As the Forge executives march up the hill, the challenge of what they are trying to accomplish that week is manifesting itself in physical form. They have come to sell the promise of their chemistry for developing metalloprotein inhibitors. They are here to make a deal.
Their ambitions are no different from those of the thousands of other biotech entrepreneurs who flocked to San Francisco, which for a few days every January becomes the global nexus for drug industry money, connections, and opportunity. They are here at a time when the environment has never been riper for early-stage science like theirs. Last year, nearly $1.9 billion went into the first major funding rounds for biotech companies, $1 billion more than the year before. And big pharma’s hunger for science coming out of academia and young biotech firms is unabated.
But even with that money and appetite, the way forward isn’t easy for young companies. For the Forge executives—Zimmerman is the chief executive officer and Puerta the head of chemistry—the goal at the JPMorgan meeting is to push their company to the next level.”