Last week, MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, participated on a panel entitled “Biotech Funding 2012: Innovation is Not Enough” at the 2012 Biotech Showcase in San Francisco, California. Given the state of the economy, and therefore the difficult funding environment, the panel addressed alternative methods for researchers to secure the needed capital to conduct and further their scientific research. Venture capital, historically a source of funding for biotechs, is still available, but the bar for investment is much higher. Interest from these investors is heightened the further the science is along the drug development pipeline, often only when the biotech is conducting a clinical trial. This interest in later-stage projects can be a challenge for many biotechs that need funds to conduct research that is still in the pre-clinical stages of development.
In his remarks, Sherer emphasized MJFF's active funding of biotechs, in line with the Foundation’s goals of accelerating science from discovery to the clinic, while de-risking innovative research projects to make them attractive to other investors (most often venture capitalists and pharma). As a result of Foundation support, a number of MJFF biotech awardees have already secured additional funding from larger investors and/or have entered into agreements with large pharma. ReMYND, a Belgian biotech, and AFFiRiS, an Austrian biotech, are two such examples. Following MJFF's funding of pre-clinical studies at ReMYND in 2009, the company announced a deal with Roche in 2010 that encompassed its PD and Alzheimer disease programs. AFFiRiS similarly announced €30 million of follow-on funding thanks in part to MJFF awards totaling nearly $2 million to bring a first-of-its kind PD vaccine candidate into the clinic.