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Deal flow, diagnostics and defeating COVID-19: a BioCentury podcast

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Venture money is flowing. Deals are being completed at a healthy pace. Diagnostics are sitting in the spotlight. And all the while, there’s no sign of where the bottom of the COVID-19 crisis will be.

BioCentury Editor in Chief Simone Fishburn plays host to Paul Biondi, Rob Hershberg and James Sabry as the biopharma BD leaders discuss the state of biopharma during the pandemic, and consider what lasting changes may emerge from the crisis on how companies run clinical trials, conduct deals and deploy diagnostics.

In the latest BioCentury This Week -- Special Report PODCAST, the trio discusses the robust state of deal-making and venture funding as well as how smaller companies are turning the adversity of the crisis into an opportunity.

“I’ve just been amazed by the COVID deals, and I hope that has some stickiness into the future,” says Flagship Pioneering Executive Partner Biondi, remarking at the speed at which companies have created new collaborations.

Platform companies with preclinical programs are better situated than single asset companies with early-stage clinical programs, says Hershberg, a venture partner at Frazier Healthcare Partners.

“People are using COVID as an opportunity to show the value of their platform,” he said. “You see companies that are developing drugs for oncology or other indications that now turn their attention to COVID probably trying to secure some degree of money, but also to show the world what their platform can do.”

Sabry is global head of pharma partnering at Roche (SIX:ROG; OTCQX:RHHBY), and Hershberg and Biondi are the architects of the $74 billion takeout of Celgene Corp. by Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY).

Citing the many small clinical biotechs whose trials have ground to a halt, Biondi, Hershberg and Sabry discuss how these companies can use tools such as digital endpoints, remote monitoring and real-world data to their advantage and how the crisis may set in motion changes to how trials are run in the future.

They also dig into how new applications of technology like that of immune medicine platform company Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp. (NASDAQ:ADPT) could lead to a new way of thinking about diagnostics as well as how the body itself responds to viruses.

“I wonder whether this will open up a more sophisticated view of how the immune system responds to viral infection,” says Sabry.

The response to the pandemic has also underscored the wide swath of technologies -- repurposed and innovative -- being explored as countermeasures. There are more than 450 vaccines and therapies in development, according to BioCentury’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

“This is in some ways, a very modern pandemic,” says Sabry. “We’re using tools like Adaptive’s and other ones to look at this in a way that we couldn’t 10 years ago, and I’m very interested in how this changes how we think about the relationship between infection and the host system, for other diseases as well.”

All of BioCentury’s podcasts are available via our website, at, in addition to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.

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