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The First Five Years


By Kevin Davies

March 12, 2007 | It really doesn’t seem like five years ago that my colleagues and I were nervously putting together the inaugural issue of Bio•IT World magazine. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun!                                              

If you’ll forgive the temporary nostalgia, it was an exciting period, not least because of our collective pride and responsibility in expanding the vistas of IDG, the premier IT magazine publisher, into the life sciences. Despite the horrific events in the fall of 2001, we were convinced of the buoyancy of the market, its potential for growth, and its ability to deliver on the promise of the genomic revolution. In our debut issue, we simultaneously introduced and defined the nascent bio-IT field by inviting the “champions” from some 60 companies — IT juggernauts and software start-ups alike — to outline their vision not only for their organization but also for the industry as a whole.

But even as we celebrated our launch at the first Bio-IT World Expo, there were signs of rough seas ahead. Companies we had championed in the debut issue were already dissolving or merging before the ink had dried — a trend that continues more or less unabated. Market forecasts were revised downwards, and despite rising R&D expenditures, the drug industry struggled to overcome safety fears, rising costs, and patent expiries. 2007 was only weeks old when Pfizer withdrew its highly touted cholesterol drug torcetrapib, and shortly thereafter announced major job cuts.

Even so, there are signs of optimism. The recent CHI Pharmaceutical Leadership Summit showcased many splendid examples of how biopharma companies such as Novartis, Merck, Biogen-Idec, and Decode are embracing new strategies and initiatives that will surely impact those companies’ pipelines in the years ahead (See p. 12). Their proposed solutions should be familiar to Bio•IT World readers, including high-throughput and informatics-driven approaches; alliances with smaller, nimbler organizations; and a strong emphasis on computational tools that can speed the entry of drugs into the clinic. Biogen-Idec has even launched an Innovation Incubator!

To mark this our 5th anniversary, we decided to revisit the Champions theme, and have devoted most of this issue (See p. 18) to what we’re calling “Champions 2.0.” After all, what better way to review the trials of the past few years and the navigational strategies ahead than to ask the captains of industry themselves? As explained elsewhere, the complete Champions 2.0 report can be found on our website — including many more companies, and the unedited answers to all questions. I urge you to take a look. Many of the individuals and companies have changed over five years, but their positive outlook is sweetened by the invaluable experiences gained by so many of the executives that successfully guided their organizations through rough times.

Publish Or...
The turbulence of the past five years has affected Bio•IT World no doubt as well. Early on, we belatedly recognized the immense importance of eClinical research, launching eCliniqua, which quickly became (and remains) the jewel of our e-newsletter franchise. We also jumped enthusiastically into the massive field of Health-IT, and although we discontinued our monthly digital magazine, we see great promise in our electronic publication, Digital Healthcare and Productivity.

One year ago this month, we joined forces with CHI, and we’ve already enjoyed participating in and reporting on several outstanding CHI events. Next month will have the pleasure of hosting the first Bio-IT World Conference & Expo produced as one of CHI’s key events.

Although we’ve changed taglines more often than Britney Spears has quit rehab, our commitment to delivering the most incisive coverage of enabling technologies driving the drug development process remains steadfast. As I have previously noted (see First Base, Bio•IT World, Sept. 2006), our focus is inexorably turning to predictive biology — how computational and informatics tools and approaches are facilitating more predictive assessments and decisions about biology, chemistry, clinical trials and drugs.

Although we would hardly expect the executives polled for “Champions 2.0” to be publicly pessimistic, their bullish outlook for the next five years strongly suggest better times ahead for the bio-IT community and the biopharma industry. So we hope you’ll join us in Boston at the Expo next month, where we can toast the next five years and the relentless march from predictive biology to personalized medicine.

Email Kevin Davies.

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