Lisa Banket
Cofounding Partner/Publisher
Taren Grom
Cofounding Partner/Editor-in-Chief
Heather Hummel
Project Coordinator
Dan Limbach
Producer, Webcast Network
Denise Myshko
Managing Editor
Kim Ribbink
Features Editor
Robin Robinson
Senior Editor
Marah Walsh
Cofounding Partner/New Business Development

PharmaVOICE Editors' Blog

Friday, January 29, 2010

Scorpion Venom a Good Thing?

Denise Myshko

One of the first stories I wrote when I joined PharmaVOICE in 2003 was about a small biotech company, TransMolecular Inc., which was conducting early studies on a product to treat glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer.

The product is a synthetic version of a peptide from the venom of scorpions combined with a radioactive iodine.
I recently spoke with Dr. Alison O’Neill, VP of medical affairs at the company, for a February 2009 article in PharmaVOICE about trends in oncology drug development. Dr. O’Neill gave me an update on the program as well.
TransMolecular is now conducting several research projects with TM601 (chlorotoxin). Local delivery of a radiolabeled TM601 is being evaluated in recurrent malignant glioma, and the company has demonstrated that it can provide a targeted dose to the tumor without affecting normal cells.
“We have a Special Protocol Agreement with the FDA for the design of a Phase III study, and we are looking for partners to help us bring this forward,” she says.
The company, Dr. O’Neill says, has also completed Phase I studies of intravenous delivery of the radiolabeled compound and has made some initial steps toward Phase I/Phase II programs in solid tumor indications using IV delivery.
“Our sweet spot remains primary brain tumors, but there is certainly is a role for the drug in solid tumor indications well beyond that.”
When I wrote the initial story, the scorpion venom captured my imagination — something dangerous was being flipped on its head to give hope to those with few options. I thought of this company again last year after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Despite more than 25 years of research and a variety of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical approaches, the prognosis for these tumors has not changed significantly. Primary brain tumors remain one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat cancers.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,810 malignant tumors of the brain or spinal cord were diagnosed in the United States last year. About 13,070 people (7,420 men and 5,650 women) will die from these malignant tumors.
Please see page 12 in the digital edition of the February issue of PharmaVOICE for more from Dr. O’Neill and other industry experts about the challenges and opportunities in oncology drug development. Go to:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Man of lists — Dr. Daniel Vasella

Taren Grom

One thing can be said about Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella, MD — he’s a list maker.

I’m not sure if he uses them to organize his busy day, but I do know that he ends up on a lot of them. As the well-known CEO steps aside for successor Joe Jimenez (he retains his chairman title), he makes another list: the longest-serving chief executive in the European pharmaceuticals industry to date, and the only physician to lead a major drug company, who motor bikes in the Alps.
Dr. Vasella’s accomplishments can be read in a myriad of lists. For example, his name appears on the Board of Directors directory for Pepsico and Alcon companies, on the membership registries for the Global Health Program Advisory Panel of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on the International Business Leaders Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai, and on the International Board of Governors of the Peres Center for Peace in Israel. He also tops several honors lists, including being a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And of course there are awards lists, like the Harvard Business School's Alumni Achievement Award, the Appeal of Conscience Award, the AJ Congress Humanitarian Award, and The CancerCare Human Services Award, to name few.
Dr. Vasellas has been voted the most influential European businessman of the past 25 years by the readership of the Financial Times, and named one of the world's 100 Most Influential People by Time in 2004.
All the coverage is not positive, however. This past summer, he even made the hit list of an animal rights activist group, which painted the word "murderer" on his local church, desecrated the graves of his sister and parents, and set fire to his Austrian vacation home. Most of all, Dr. Vasella is a favorite of our list — the PharmaVOICE 100, published in our July/August edition.
Dr. Vasella has been nominated not just once, but three times, to our list — in 2005, 2006, and 2009.
The PharmaVOICE 100 is a yearly feature of our publication that highlights the top 100 most inspiring people in the life sciences industry, as nominated by their peers.
To read Dr. Vasella’s Top 100 biographies see the links below, or to nominate someone you know to this year’s list, please visit

Dr. Vasella - PharmaVOICE 100 - 2005, download article now!
Dr. Vasella - PharmaVOICE 100 - 2006, download article now!
Dr. Vasella - PharmaVOICE 100 - 2009, download article now!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

John Crowley’s “Extraordinary Measures” Podcast

Dan Limbach

Many of you have seen or heard about the newest film starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser entitled "Extraordinary Measures."
PharmaVOICE conducted a podcast with the real life father whose incredible story led to the making of the movie. In our podcast, Mr. Crowley shares his personal journey to find viable treatments for Pompe disease, a condition which two of his children are afflicted. His amazing story was also showcased in the January 2009 issue of PharmaVOICE.

Play the Podcast

See the trailer

Jimenez Appointment No Surprise for PharmaVOICE

Marah Walsh

Jimenez carries many successes from his CPG career and his time at Novartis into his new position.

It doesn’t surprise anyone at PharmaVOICE that Mr. Jimenez will take over for Daniel Vasella as head of Novartis; we’ve been anticipating the move ever since we interviewed Mr. Jimenez for our Bio section in the October 2008 issue. Features Editor Kim Ribbink interviewed Mr. Jimenez, and wrote an indepth article about his vision for Novartis, his focus on the consumer, and his ability to steer the company towards a more commercial and streamlined model. Mr. Jimenez told PharmaVOICE back in October ’08 that in order for Novartis to prosper, it would require new ways of thinking and the adoption of best practices from other industries. Mr. Jimenez parlayed this into a four-step plan.
Step One:
Change the existing functionally driven development model to a cross-functional model. The result has been the creation of small, autonomous, development teams, led by a global head, for each development project.
Step Two: Change the commercial model. Jimenez shifted the majority focus from physicians to insurance companies and payers.
Step Three:
Reducing non value adding costs by simplifying and delayering business activities. Step Four: Greater investment in emerging markets through increased sales, medical affairs, and development efforts.
Jimenez says he draws on his competitive swimming days at Stanford for inspiration. “Setting a goal, working very hard, and celebrating the success is imprinted in me and it’s the way I run my business at Novartis.”

To read more about Mr. Jimenez and his accomplishments, download article now!