NZBio Conference Notes Part 1

Below are some notes I made at the 2009 NZBio conference. Rather than dumping them all down at once , I will release them session by session. One of the first sessions was a plenary lecture where keynote speakers, Doug Williams CEO of Zymogenetics Inc and Boon Swan Foo, Executive chairman of A*Star Exploit Technologies spoke about ‘ The Importance of Innovation in an Economic Downturn: Leading Economic Change’.

Boon Swan Foo – Executive Chairman A*Star Exploit Technologies

  • Need to innovate our way out of the downturn
  • China’s exports dropped by 17.5% in Jan09
  • The world growth rate is only 0.5% this year – the lowest since WWII
  • 50 million jobs will be lost in 2009
  • In the US, 650,000 jobs were lost just in Feb09
  • The IPO market has disappeared
  • Big crisis can create big changes
  • It is not time to hibernate but innovate

Doug Williams, Chief Executive – ZymoGenetics Inc.

  • Previously involved in the Amgen acquired Immunex which at one point was worth more than Genentech
  • Biotech is the innovation engine of the pharma industry
  • Because pharma is unproductive they acquire  bio SMEs to inject it
  • 1% of US jobs are biotech related
  • For every job in biotech 6-8 jobs are created outside e.g. support services
  • VC landscape – US$ 5 billion was raised in 2008 which was similar to 04 -06 but less than 07. While there is still money around the nature of these investments has changed, focusing on current portfolio investments in order to get them through these tough times especially considering that the IPO exit is closed at present
  • There was only 1 IPO for biotech in ‘08
  • It is actually a great time to invest in biotech companies as the share price is undervaluing the companies
  • It is the small and emerging companies that are at risk of being killed off under the current conditions
  • 65% of the 400+ US Biotechs have less than 1 year of cash reserves
  • In MAs/deals the upfront money is becoming smaller
  • Young companies are having to partner earlier to get the cash in despite having to give away a great slice of the capital pie
  • Highlighted Washington state as a place where biotech is booming – the state’s economic focus is primarily on biotech
  • 35 states have biotech as a focus area for investment
  • Initiatives in Washington state – life sciences discovery fund, innovation partnership zones, University of Washinton TTO has Launch Pad, Career website for Life Sciences
  • Southern Lake Union is the biotech hot bed – there was no cluster in 2000 = Rapid Expansion.
  • Instead of building new faculties they simply restored old buildings
  • Invested heavily in infrastructure, essential for establishing their critical focal mass
  • Average wage in Zymogenetics is US $100K , 500 employees – this is truly creating wealth
  • Ingredients for establishing cluster critical mass
  1. Engage universities
  2. Build entrepreneurial cultures with networking
  3. Capital at all stages of the business cycle
  4. Talented work force
  5. Acces to facilities and equipment
  6. Supporting businesses , tax and regulations
  7. Long term perspective
  • Advice – be prepared to shutdown things you don’t want to


Graeme @


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