The intersection of art and technology

Evaluating the quality of biotechnology companies and handicapping their chances of success has been a black hole for investors who want any hope of a return on their investments in fledgling companies.

But while there are reasonable - though hardly foolproof - ways to measure the quality and progress of the "classic" biotech companies that are taking products through clinical development to the market, the prognostication is even less simple for the more service-oriented genomics, combinatorial chemistry and screening companies.

The classic drug development company can be judged largely by the quality of its development efforts, as it takes a candidate product through animal testing and into the clinic (see BioCentury's Clear Route to ROI, Dec. 20, 1993). But for the so-called technology service providers, there usually is no individual compound to judge. Rather, there is technology and art, which can both be much harder to get a handle on and require much more technical expertise to enable investors to make comparisons between one company and the next.

Where's the Clear Route?

The question, in the context of BioCentury's Clear Route to ROI concept, is how investors can identify the parameters of success for these companies, and monitor their progress. With this goal in mind, BioCentury asked executives from drug discovery and enabling technology companies to identify their Clear Route issues, which they described along three major axes: