Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pete Shepherd fastest in Friday's Truck Series 'Happy Hour' at Memphis

O’Reilly 200, Practice Quotes, Page 1 June 29, 2007
Memphis Motorsports Park // From Ford

In his second race this season, Peter Shepherd, driver of the No. 50 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150, sets the fastest time in Friday’s Happy Hour practice. Shepherd made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut at Memphis Motorsports Park last year.

PETER SHEPHERD – No. 50 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 – “Everything went pretty well, I think. When we first went out in the first practice session, the truck wasn’t that good. We tried to improve step-by-step throughout the day and we did. I can’t thank Northern Tool + Equipment enough for their sponsorship at this race. I don’t know if you pick-up a bit by having a sponsor, but confidence wise, it’s good having a name on the side of the Ford F-150. We worked on it all day; it wasn’t easy. I can’t thank the crew enough for working so hard in putting together a great truck. My crew chief, Matt Puccia, and the whole crew did a great job. I’m probably not the easiest guy to work with right now since I having very little experience. I can’t thank them enough for getting it right for me.”

THIS IS YOUR SECOND RACE THIS SEASON SINCE LAST YEAR, MILWAUKEE WAS A SHORT AND FLAT TRACK AND MEMPHIS IS A LITTLE BIT LONGER WITH BANKING. “This track is a little different than most short tracks. It’s a big short track, but it runs like a short track. It is kind of what I grew-up on so it’s too out of the ordinary for me.”

MATT PUCCIA – No. 50 - CREW CHIEF – ON TODAY’S PRACTICE “I think we had a pretty good day today considering last week we were a bit unfortunate and had some problems with the truck. This week started off in the first practice and it wasn’t quite right, but we talked about it and worked on it to get it right. In the second practice, the truck stared off pretty good, we made a few adjustments and got it running pretty good. We put a set of stickers there in the end for a mock qualifying run. So hopefully, we’ll get a good qualifying run tomorrow. We hope to get a good starting position tomorrow and keep the Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 running up front and away from trouble.”

WILL TEMPERATURE BE A FACTOR HERE? “Temperature is always an issue, especially here in Memphis. We’ve learned that our trucks turn better when the sun goes down. Hopefully, the conditions will be similar to where we are tonight and we’ll keep the truck where it is right now, because I think we’ve got it set-up to where it can compete.”

Friday, June 29, 2007

Jack Bauer 22%, Jim Long 12%

The NC Center for Voter Education released a new poll yesterday that, according to the group, shows “voter concern about the role of special interests in deciding elections and strong support for reform…”

Some more selective quotations from their press release:
  • “The study finds that 68 percent of North Carolina voters favor public campaign financing for those Council of State offices…”
  • “Voters have virtually no knowledge of many of the statewide elected officials in North Carolina and aren’t sure what these offices actually do in state government.”
  • “There is a high level of concern over the influence of special interests in determining the outcome of elections and the conflicts of interests that potentially arise from their donations to candidates.”
  • “92 percent of state voters believe that campaign contributions influence the decisions of elected officials…”“The poll was conducted statewide by the Alexandria, V.A.-based polling firm American Viewpoint from June 12-13 among 600 registered North Carolina voters and has a margin of error of 4 percent.”
This poll has some fun stuff in it. Check out the PowerPoint here. I’ll have more to say later.

Could've Seen That One Coming

Talk about trying to hide bad news on a Friday night.

Sanofi-Aventis sent out two press releases on Friday afternoon, one announcing that it was submitting updated safety data on its blighted rimonabant (approved last year in Europe as Acomplia) to the European authorities, and the other to say that it’s withdrawing its US NDA for the drug.

Neither is particularly surprising. Of course EMEA is “reviewing the available data on psychiatric events” associated with the drug. There are 200,000 patients in Europe taking a compound that 14 US experts unanimously judged unfit for approval in an advisory committee vote earlier in June. (An outcome which, as my colleague argues this month in The RPM Report, wasn’t particularly surprising either.)

Judging from the Q&A session on the conference call—held at 6pm Paris time, about an hour after we received the press releases, but nevertheless caught by more analysts and journalists than Sanofi probably expected--there’s still some confusion over data. A meta-analysis of trial data studied by FDA advisors showed up some rather different results when it came to suicidality rates than those submitted in Sanofi-Aventis’ original package. “We disagree with the FDA analysis,” noted Marc Cluzel, SVP Science and Medical Affairs, on the call.

Still, the company has withdrawn its NDA filing, since, it feels, there wasn’t enough time to discuss with FDA the various points raised by the advisory committee before the July 26th PDUFA date.

Is it an admission of defeat? Not a bit, said the Sanofi SVPs. “We feel it’s our duty to try to allow US patients to benefit from such a drug. Unfortunately though there’s a misunderstanding” over its risk-benefit profile, the executives said.

Indeed there is. Sanofi still thinks it can get the drug approved for a subset of obese patients, those with various co-morbidities. It’s still downplaying the depression issue. Indeed, “we found that in animals models rimonabant even had anti-depressant activity,” noted Cluzel.

Nice try. But if rimonabant, a cannabinoid receptor antagonist, works by reversing the "munchies" effect associated with taking cannabis, it seems logical—quite apart from whoever’s data interpretation you believe--that it could also reverse the mood-enhancing effects, too. Either way, it’s clear that no one yet understands the cannabinoid system sufficiently well to be entirely sure. And that’s not a good situation to be in given today’s super-safety-conscious FDA. Indeed, as Cluzel acknowledged in the call, most of the key rimonabant trials "were done between 2001 and 2004, before Vioxx."

Though not impressed by Sanofi-Aventis’ Friday night trick, if that's what it was, IN VIVO Blog can only commend the company for keeping its chin up, publicly at least. Remember colorectal cancer drug oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), Cluzel pointed out: it got turned down in 1999 by an advisory committee, due to unconvincing data on survival benefit, but later, post re-submission, received one of the fastest approvals ever.

That was three years later, though. Rimonabant may yet arrive in the US, for some patient groups, but it won’t be in the second half of this year. Even data from the long-term Crescendo trial investigating the drug’s impact on cardiovascular events, due to report in 2010, may not do it--some advisory panel members said none of the ongoing trials of rimonabant are designed to provide sufficient clarity over adverse events. Much later than that (the drug’s key patent expires in Europe in 2019) and Sanofi-Aventis might just be moving straight onto its two back-up compounds.

Meantime, keep an eye out for a shopping bag marked ‘Bristol-Myers Squibb’.

2007 Lucas Oil Canadian Dirt Series to start at Autodrome Granby on July 13

Cornwall, Ont. – June 28, 2007 - The month of July is always one of the busiest months of the season in dirt racing. It will also be the same this year as the Lucas Oil Canadian Dirt Series will hit Autodrome Granby, Autodrome Drummond, Autodrome Edelweiss, Brockville Speedway and Cornwall Motor Speedway in that month.

The series starts at Autodrome Granby on Friday, July 13th and will be presented by Bert Transmission. Everyone that was in Granby last remembers the epic battle between Mario Clair and David Hebert during the last 40 laps of the feature, Hebert was finally the winner. On the following night, Autodrome Drummond will be the host of the second race of the series and Coffrage 20-20 will proudly present this event.

Last year, Hebert had dominated the race by winning by a convincing margin over Kayle Robidoux. Two weeks later, Toitures Marcel Raymond will host the third race of the series at Autodrome Edelweiss on Friday, July 27th to kick off a three night week-end of racing action. Local favourite, Pierre Dagenais had won last year’s race. Brockville Ontario Speedway is next on the schedule for the series on the following night. The series ends at Cornwall Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 29th. Brian McDonald was in the winner in 2006 at the ¼ mile bullring. Both Brockville and Cornwall races will be sponsored by 730 Truck Stop.

Every race will be 100 laps of distance and will also count in the 358 DIRTcar Regional Championship points funds for the North region. Points will be awarded for the best finishes (15 in North) in DIRTcar-sanctioned 358-Modified events. It is a good incentive for drivers to participate in this series so that they can use those results for the DIRTcar Regional point funds.

The winner of each race will receive a guaranteed spot in the All-Star Race of the famous Victoria 200 which is held at Fulton Speedway on Saturday September 30. Even better, the 2007 Canadian DIRT Series champion will receive a guaranteed starting spot in the big 200 laps feature of that event.

Again in 2007, numerous sponsors contributed, starting by Lucas Oil Products which is for a second year the major sponsor of the series. Other ones like Babe Design, Finish Line Racewear, Pats Radiator, Bert Transmission, Coffrage 20-20, Toitures Marcel Raymond, Engine Research (Mike Block) and 730 Truck Stop. Because of them, drivers will compete for over $100,000 in prize and money. Competitors that will participate in all 5 events will be eligible to win many prizes.

With all those contributions, it will be the most successful year since the series was born six years ago. Do not miss the opportunity to see some of the best drivers in the eastern part of Canada.

- By Martin Bélanger

Private Equity: Muscling in on Big Pharma at Biotech's High Rollers' Table

Talk about co-dependency. Pharma needs biotech’s products; biotech needs pharma’s cash. Oh, they say they need other things, but when it comes down to it – that’s about the equation.

So if biotech had a different source of cash (or Pharma had a different source of products), well – this marriage would turn open.

That’s why private equity has become such an interesting game changer. PE firms, stuffed with too much cash as it is and incentivized with management fees to stuff themselves still further, are all chasing the same buyout opportunities, throwing ever greater sums at owners and managers in order to get into the deals.

Biotech, which certainly needs cash, doesn’t return money on anything like a PE firm’s preferred timeline. But biotechs are also relatively unmined territory. Therefore cheap. That’s why you’re beginning to see major private equity players doing things private equity rules say they shouldn’t do.

Consider this progression. In 2004, KKR put something like $200 million into Jazz Pharmaceuticals—a theoretically stable, spec pharma-ish kind of investment. The financing underwrote Jazz’s takeover of the commercial-stage Orphan Medical, so KKR at least got some cash flow, which PE investors like to see. And there was no discovery risk—but certainly development risk. (Not that it's worked out brilliantly, so far. See our recent post.)

Two years later, New Mountain enables the Ikaria/Ino deal – creating a theoretically self-financing company (like Jazz, it has a commercial organization providing the requisite cash flow) but it nonetheless depends for its success on the crapshoot of discovery.

And now The Invus Group is putting $205 million into Lexicon, with the potential to add another $345 million down the road. They’ll get a minimum of 40% of the company and could end up owning far more. But now the whole thing is based on discovery – and not just me-too discovery, but Lexicon’s novel-target, novel-compound approach (see our upcoming article in the July/August IN VIVO).

In short, private equity is moving into pharma territory, funding companies the way only pharmas once could. The whole point is to build organizations of such size that a biotech can do its deals on relatively equal terms with pharma – which means that if it doesn’t get its deal price, it can walk away and do its own development and commercialization, continuing to increase its assets’ value.

The theory underlying this game is that biotechs are still leaving way too much value on the negotiating table. That’s the value the PE investor needs to retain in order to counterbalance his basic disadvantage as a purely financial, not strategic, buyer. That strategic buyer—Big Pharma--can pay more for particular assets because they can do more with them (like shoring up a fading portfolio or keeping profitable and busy a sales they don’t want to lose). Can PE use its money to extract that strategic premium biotechs on their own can’t? It’s an interesting gamble: both biotech and Big Pharma need to get to know the new dice-throwers at the high-rollers’ table.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

ATLANTIC DODGE DEALERS TO SPONSOR RIVERSIDE NASCAR EVENT

JAMES RIVER, NS (June 28, 2007) - The management of Riverside Speedway is excited to announce the Atlantic Dodge Dealers as title sponsor of the much anticipated inaugural NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event on September 15. The event will be entitled the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300.

"We're very pleased to have the Atlantic Dodge Dealers join us as we present what is expected to be the highest profile stock car racing event ever held in Atlantic Canada," said Paul McLean, general manager of Riverside Speedway. "In our preliminary planning with the Atlantic Dodge Dealer's Advertising Association in partnership with DaimlerChrysler, it is clear they share our enthusiasm both for motorsports and for this new NASCAR series."

Not that there was ever any doubt race fans would share the enthusiasm for the event, but over 2,000 advance ticket requests to-date for the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 have confirmed Atlantic Canadian race fans are eager to see the premiere stock car racing series in Canada compete at the premiere stock car racing facility in Eastern Canada - perhaps in all of Canada.

"With this sponsorship at Riverside Speedway we are telling Dodge owners in the Atlantic region that we are committed to bringing them world-class stock-car racing," said Judy Wheeler, Vice President, Marketing - Chrysler. "We have a strong affiliation with NASCAR fans all over North America and strengthening that connection is a natural extension of Dodge motorsports programs."

Duane Rath, President, Atlantic Dodge Dealer Advertising Association sees the partnership as a perfect fit.

"The benefit of being involved with NASCAR and its loyal fans has been clearly demonstrated throughout North America," said Rath. "We're really excited to be able to share in that passion regionally with the sponsorship of this event."

The Dodge brand has been involved with NASCAR since the beginning with the manufacturer's first series win in 1953 when Lee Petty wheeled his Dodge Diplomat to victory. David Pearson won the 1966 championship driving a Dodge Charger. The Charger was the first car NASCAR allowed to use a rear spoiler when, in 1966, it was found that the short trunk area of the streamlined hardtop would lift under high speed; a small strip of metal was added to the rear deck lid to increase stabilization.

The super aerodynamic Dodge Daytona, with its sloped nose and large rear stabilizing wing, was introduced at the inaugural race at Talladega, Ala., in September of 1969. Plymouth countered with its 1970 model Superbird. The era of sophisticated factory-based aerodynamics had dawned over stock car racing with Bobby Isaac winning the 1970 championship piloting a Dodge. Dodge discontinued its factory involvement with NASCAR racing in 1977. In 2001, faithful Dodge fans were rewarded when Dodge returned to NASCAR. The Dodge Charger returned to competition in 2005; Dodge has introduced the Avenger as its Car of Tomorrow model in 2007.

Several promotions are planned in conjunction with the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 entitlement; details will be announced as available.

Advance tickets for the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 are expected to be available for sale July 21 at the IWK 250 at Riverside Speedway. Starting July 23, advance tickets for the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 will be available at the track administration office.

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season began May 26 at Cayuga Speedway Park in Hamilton, Ontario and finishes Sept. 23 at Kawartha Speedway in Peterborough, Ontario. The 12-race schedule will stretch across Canada, from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.

About Riverside Speedway
Riverside Speedway, 1/3-mile high banked asphalt oval, is located in James River, between New Glasgow and Antigonish, at exit 30 off Trans Canada Highway 104. Opened in 1969, the facility was totally rebuilt in 2006 to become a premiere motorsports site, comparable to the best short tracks in Canada and the U.S. The 2007 schedule includes three CARQUEST Pro Stock Tour events on June 9, August 4 and August 11; the IWK 250 PASS North event on July 21; and the Atlantic Dodge Dealers 300 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series event on September 15. For more information about Riverside Speedway, please visit www.riversidespeedway.ca or call 902.863.2410.

# # #

This News Release has been distributed by Joan Roué for Riverside Speedway.

Busting at the seams

In the today's N&O, you'll find a report ranking our state's traffic among the nations worst. The report proves what we all know: traffic is terrible, and with the rapid growth, particularly in this area, we can only expect traffic to get worse.

Conducted by UNC-Charlotte for a Libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, the poll encourages states to take action to ease traffic issues through "long-term investment in key corriders."

But why not invest in mass transit alternatives? It makes sense to me.

OSCAAR Biederman Memorial this Saturday at Cayuga Speedway Park

(Don Biederman celebrating in victory lane with (L to R) Miss Flamboro Speedway, Frank Casale, John Casale, Don, Dizzy Dean and Gary Scott, after this 1981 win at Flamboro Speedway // Dave Franks Photos)

OSCAAR fans are looking forward to the greatly anticipated Don Biederman Memorial this Saturday June 30th at Cayuga Speedway. OSCAAR has not visited the Cayuga track for several years with the last race taking place in 2002.

Many of the drivers are very excited about returning to the .625 mile oval where their Outlaw Super Late Models will reach the highest speeds ever recorded. For some drivers this will be their first ever visit to the famous paved oval where in years past several NASCAR drivers made their mark.

ASA Late Model Series will headline the weekend, which should give the OSCAAR Teams a chance to rub shoulders with some of the greatest short track racers in America. OSCAAR will race first on Saturday evening in the 75 Lap Don Biederman Memorial race followed by the ASALMS Canada 200.Don Biederman is remembered as one of the all time great stock car racers in Canada.

Inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2001, Don lived and breathed stock car racing until his death from cancer in 1999. In honour of his racing achievements and his passion for Super Late Model racing, OSCAAR has since held the Don Biederman Memorial every year.

The event has become the premiere race of the season for OSCAAR drivers. Don's famous #43 was faithfully restored and is show-cased at the Hall of Fame facilities. It makes the yearly trek to Ontario Speedways during the Don Biederman Memorial.

The tradition will continue as Dave Franks has already made the arrangements for its transport to Cayuga. Dave has also arranged for Don's sister Bernice Collins to attend this year's event. This year offers something a little different with the famous #43 doing some laps before the race.

During the regular OSCAAR season over the past two years, fans have come to recognize the #43 and driver TJ Woolsey. TJ has by tradition sported a different number for the Don Biederman and last year it was the #57.

It brought him good fortune as the V&L Transportation #57 Outlaw charged to the front in TJ Woolsey's first OSCAAR win. I wonder which number TJ will use this year!?

One thing is for sure - predicting a winner for this year's Don Biederman Memorial is not easy. In three races so far in 2007 there have been three different winners. With a very competitive field of sharp looking Outlaws, it is any one's guess who will win the 2007 Don Biederman Memorial!

SCHEDULE: OSCAAR June 30 Race Information: Spectator Gates Open at 9am, Heat Races 4:15pm, Autographs 4:45pm , Feature Race 6:30pm - complete schedule is available at www.oscaar.ca

- By Don McLeod / OSCAAR

Amherst Daily News: Frank Fraser Sr. - The Richard Petty of River Glade

By BEATRICE LANGILLE // The Amherst Daily News
RIVER GLADE, N.B. – Who knew a trip to a drag race in Ontario would lead to a life of racing?Frank Fraser had no aspirations to be a racer. The driver of the Wild Mountain Blueberry Prostock machine soon found out differently.“I went to a drag race once and someone raced a car that was the same as mine. I knew mine would beat his,’’ he recalled.“I went back with my car and I beat him. That got me started in drag racing and that’s how I ended up here. I drag raced for two years but it got too expensive,’’ he added.He moved back to Saint John, N.B., in 1965 where he and a friend commenced building a stock car.This machine raced at the old Airport Speedway in Saint John.“When we went to the first race, our car cost $80 and we made $60,’’ he said. “Today you still make $60 but your car costs $8,000. I’ve been going in circles ever since.”

... continued at the link above

Live from Paris: Roger's dealmaking overview

Everyone was feeling a bit fuzzy this morning

Day two of our Euro-Biotech Forum opened up this morning with Roger Longman's dealmaking overview. One of the topics that Roger touched on was the increased specialization of biotech companies along the development continuum: Phase III specialists, proof-of-concept specialists, and--perhaps getting back to biotech's roots--discovery specialists.
The idea is to latch on to a particular and finite piece of the so-called value chain where investors can take advantage of an inflection point. Thanks to some of the astounding deal values we heard about yesterday this specialism is increasingly popular and undeniable profitable (when products work out--of course it's also a cheaper means of finding out quickly when they don't).
Below is a quick snapshot of the upshot for some of the discovery shops out there. Of course not all discovery companies opt-out at IND; some hang on to considerable upside. But the very idea that biotechs can subsist, and even thrive, as pure drug discovery purveyors recalls what seems to be a different, pre-FIPCO era.

Drug Discovery Pays

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

GP of Edmonton announces title sponsor with less than a month to go until the event

EDMONTON (CP) - The Rexall/Katz Group was named lead sponsor of the Grand Prix of Edmonton Champ Car race on Wednesday. The race, to be held July 22 at the Edmonton City Centre Airport, will be called the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton.

TSN has the full story here.

NEWALTA Late Model Challenge Series - Mac's 100 scheduled for this weekend at Race City has been canceled

Calgary, AB (June 26, 2007) - Round Four of the NEWALTA Late Model Challenge Series 2007 season, the Mac's 100, scheduled for Saturday, June 30th at Race City in Calgary has been canceled.

Heavy rains have caused extensive damage to the surface of the high banked, high speed half mile oval making it unsafe to conduct a motor racing event. As a result, all oval competition at the facility has been canceled for this weekend. "We are extremely disappointed for our Super Late Model race fans in the Calgary area," commented Series President Craig Ball.

"I visited Race City today (Tuesday) and the conditions are poor. Water is seeping out of the surface of the track. There is no way that we could safely stage an event this weekend." Core samples are being taken to determine the level of saturation below the surface of the track.

The race City oval is hosting the Vans Warped Tour 07 music concert on July 5th. It is likely that repair efforts will begin after that event and when the ground has had a chance to dry.

"The NEWALTA Late Model Challenge Series would like to thank our corporate sponsor of the event, Mac's Convenience Stores," continued Ball. " We look forward to continuing our relationship with Mac's at a future event."

The 2 day Parts Canada SuperBike Championship will run as scheduled on the road course at Race City this weekend. The next NEWALTA Late Model Challenge Series event is the second of four scheduled Border Challenge 150 races and runs Saturday, July 14th at Race City in Calgary, AB.

- from Craig Ball

Young Americans on the Right Track

The New York Times released a poll today in collaboration with CBS News and MTV concerning young people ages 17-29 and their views on virtually every political issue. Full results can be found here.

The poll found that young Americans are more liberal than the general public and more supportive of issues like universal health care and legalizing gay marriage. However, young people for some reason are more optimistic about the War in Iraq. Twenty-seven percent of young people think things in Iraq are going well, as opposed to 23% of all adults. Also, 51% of young people say that we are likely to succeed in Iraq, while only 45% of all adults feel that way.

One upbeat result is that there is a continuing trend of young voters moving away from the Republican party and towards the Democratic party. Of those surveyed, 54% said they would vote for a Democrat in 2008, and 35% consider themselves Democrats compared to only 23% who consider themselves Republican.

Another good sign is the increasing growth of the youth vote and the fact that more and more young people are paying attention to politics. According to the poll, 58% of young people are paying at least some attention to the 2008 Presidential election and 77% say that their vote will influence who is our next President. Also, 70% said that they are likely to vote in a Presidential primary next year.

What all this says to me is that there is a growing trend among young Americans to become more politically informed and active. The fact that most young voters are drifting toward the left has to be exploited by the Democrats and used to their advantage. Barack Obama has done a great job doing this, as evidenced by his large name recognition among young voters. I just hope all those young people don't become more conservative as they grow older; it would be their loss.

Richardson showing well in Iowa

I found the chart to the right today on pollster.com that shows Bill Richardson's support growing substantially in Iowa.

The writing is a little hard to read, but I'll tell you this: Richardson is the blue line on the bottom.

Another poll by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates poll confirms Richardson's gain in Iowa.
Among likely caucus-goers, former Sen. John Edwards leads Sen. Hillary Clinton (34% to 24%) in a statewide caucus; Sen. Barack Obama trails at 17%, Richardson at 13%.

Among the "likeliest" caucus-goers -- "who attended the 2004 caucus, voted in the 2006 primary, and say they are definite to attend next year's caucus," Edwards runs at 31%, Clinton at 23%, Richardson at 18%, and Obama at 16%
Although Bill Richardson shows gains in Iowa and New Hampshire, he still trails the other major Democratic contenders significantly in the national primary polls.

Pete Shepherd Memphis Truck preview from Roush Fenway

Peter Shepherd returns to the seat of the No. 50 Ford this weekend at Memphis Motorsports Park. Shepherd made his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start in this race one year ago. The No. 50 will carry the colors of Northern Tool + Equipment this weekend, in a reverse scheme of teammate Erik Darnell’s No. 99 Ford.

The No. 50 team is bringing chassis RK308-42 to Memphis. This chassis last raced at Dover, where Erik Darnell started 21st and finished 18th. In his first start of 2007, Shepherd finished 32nd last week at Milwaukee.

PETER SHEPHERD ON MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK. . .
“Memphis is a very special place for me, it’s where I made my first Craftsman Truck Series start. We had a good race here last year, managed to keep ourselves out of trouble and raced to the finish. We had a rough go of things last week, so we’ll be looking to redeem ourselves. We’ve got Northern Tool + Equipment on our F-150 this weekend, and I’m very happy to be representing them.”

MATT PUCCIA ON MEMPHIS MOTORSPORTS PARK. . .
“Peter ran his first race for us here last year and did a great job. He is so accustomed to running on short tracks, but for him this is a little more like a speedway. We’ve got the same goals this week as we had for Milwaukee last week, to finish all the laps and keep out of trouble.”

UPDATE: Roush Fenway Racing to Conduct Real-Time Gong Show Competition

Concord, NC (June 27, 2006) - As Roush Fenway Racing makes plans for the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the team has decided to showcase some of its young driving talent in several upcoming Craftsman Truck Series races. The No. 50 truck will serve as the test truck, with a few different drivers slated to make starts for the remainder of the 2007 season.
"We have a talented pool of young drivers at Roush Fenway Racing," said team owner Jack Roush. "Peter Shepherd and Danny O'Quinn have been impressive, and T.J. Bell has shown great promise as well. We're going to give these guys an opportunity to show what they can do, and we'll make a decision as far as who we're going to put in our trucks for 2008 based off of that."
Peter Shepherd made his first start of the 2007 season at Milwaukee last week, and is scheduled to race the No. 50 at Memphis Motorsports Park this weekend and Kentucky Speedway next month. Danny O'Quinn will make the first Craftsman Truck Series start of his career at O'Reilly Raceway Park in July. T.J. Bell will return to the seat of the No. 50 truck at Nashville, with additional races later in the season.
Northern Tool + Equipment, primary sponsor of Roush Fenway Racing's No. 99 Ford in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will sponsor the No. 50 in selected upcoming races. The truck will carry a reversed paint scheme of Darnell's No. 99 F-150.
"We're really happy to be involved in this opportunity to give an up-and-coming driver an opportunity," said Randy Rudolph, Director of Advertising for Northern Tool + Equipment. "Roush Fenway Racing has a history of finding great drivers to fill the seats of their trucks, including our driver, Erik Darnell. We see this as a great opportunity to be involved with selecting the next driver to join their program."
The complete schedule of drivers and their races will be released at a later date.

From: Rory W. Connellan // Roush Fenway Racing

CAYUGA SPEEDWAY: OSS Photo Gallery from Bill Mehlenbacher

Thanks to Bill Mehlenbacher for forwarding this photo gallery from the Ontario Sportsman Series race this past weekend (June 23) at Cayuga Speedway Park.

Thunder Road and ACT Turn Up Summer Heat

BARRE, VT – Thunder Road in Barre and the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) are teaming up for a busy early summer stock car racing schedule. With six race events in just 10 days, the summer action will heat up in a hurry.

Beginning with Sanel Parts Plus Night this Thursday (June 28), NASCAR star Kenny Wallace will take on the “Kings of the Road” behind the wheel of an ACT Late Model. Thunder Road’s low regular ticket prices remain in effect for the special event, with general admission only $9 for adults, $3 for children, and just $18 for a family of four. Green flag qualifying action for Street Stocks and Warriors begins at 6:30pm, with the traditional Thunder Road Post Parade rolling out at 7:00pm.

Also highlighting the schedule is an action-packed Independence Day week doubleheader at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” in Barre. Pepsi presents the annual Independence Day fireworks extravaganza at Thunder Road on Tuesday, July 3 with a full card of Late Models, NAPA Tiger Sportsmen, Allen Lumber Street Stocks, and Power Shift Junkyard Warriors. Just two days later, all four divisions return for Charter Communications Night on Thursday, July 5. Street Stocks and Warriors begin qualifying at 6:30pm at both events, with the Post Parade 7:00pm.

Wrapped around the Thunder Road doubleheader are exciting ACT events at three race tracks, beginning with the Série ACT Castrol PRO-FAB 100 at Autodrome Chaudière in Vallée Jonction, Québec on Friday, June 29 at 7:00pm. The following night, on Saturday, June 30, the ACT Late Model Tour invades White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH. The White Mountain 150 will pit the champions of ACT against White Mountain’s hometown heroes. Racing begins at 5:00pm.

The action-packed schedule winds down with the Time Warner Cable 150 at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. Like the White Mountain event, hometown Oxford Late Model drivers will show their stuff against the ACT Late Model Tour’s best on Saturday, July 7 at 6:30pm. The Time Warner Cable 150 will serve as the final tune-up date for the $150,000 TD Banknorth 250 at Oxford on Sunday, July 22.

Thunder Road and ACT turn up the summer heat beginning this Thursday with Sanel Parts Plus Night at “The Nation’s Site of Excitement.” For more information, call (802) 244-6963, or visit www.thunderroadspeedbowl.com.

From ACT / Justin St. Louis

OHSWEKEN: Friday June 29 racing cancelled for construction

RACING CANCELLED FOR FRIDAY JUNE 29TH.
Racing for this Friday night at Ohsweken Speedway has unfortunately been cancelled. The construction of new safety fencing will not be finished in time for this week's event.
Ohsweken Speedway apologizes for this situation and reminds you to join us on Friday July 6th as the ASCS Patriots will be in town along with a regular card of action.

From Ohsweken Speedway Online

In Our Face

Take THAT, IN VIVO Blog.

Boston Scientific Corp., in an obvious thumbing of the nose to our suggestion that it wouldn’t be acquiring new companies any time soon, did just that.
The Natick, Mass. company reached an agreement to buy Remon Medical Technologies Inc., a privately held and venture-backed company based in Caesarea, Israel.

(We know. This is Karl Rove, not Jim Tobin.)

The acquisition shouldn't be seen as a sign that Boston Scientific is out shopping again. The company inherited a business agreement between Remon and Guidant Corp. established in 2004, long before Boston Scientific acquired the latter for $27 billion last year. Boston Scientific presumably is still busy fixing Guidant and identifying potential business to divest.

Boston Scientific clearly is excited at the potential of remote monitoring. CEO Jim Tobin singled out the former Guidant’s Latitude monitoring system in past speeches. Fred Colen, executive vice president of operations and technology, CRM and Chief Technology officer, said in a statement, “This acquisition reflects our commitment to being a leader in the CRM market through the introduction of innovative products and services for the benefit of physicians and their patients."

Read a lot more about Remon and other remote monitoring companies here. To sum up, the company has a platform to develop miniature devices capable of using ultrasound for a multitude of reasons from monitoring to drug delivery to tissue stimulation.

We may have more on the acquisition in the next START-UP. For now, here’s a quick Q&A with CEO Hezi Himelfarb and Terry McGuire, general partner at Polaris Venture Partners, one of Remon’s earlier investors. (Terms weren't disclosed, btw, but McGuire seemed very happy with the outcome.)

IN VIVO Blog: So who approached whom about merging?
McGuire: We already had relationship with Guidant that was going on a couple of years. And that turned out to be a prosperous relationship in the sense that we really developed some important technology that Boston Scientific recognized would continue to be important. And through the [Guidant] acquisition we got to know Boston Scientific even better and the time seemed right to talk about merging the companies.


IVB: Were there other opportunities for an exit? Did CardioMEMS failed IPO make a sale more appealing?
McGuire: CardioMEMS has a very different business model. CardioMEMS never entered into our relationship in any way. This acquisition was based on a relationship that had been evolving over two years. It’s what I would describe is a perfect baton pass. Here is this really innovative company and Boston Scientific saw what they could do with this. It was based on a long-term relationship. It really wasn’t based on the fact CardioMEMS did XYZ. Remon had a very strong balance sheet. It wasn’t like we needed to do anything.


IVB: Were there other options for Remon?
Himelfarb: We’ve been actually working on evaluating other [partnership] opportunities with other companies and there was a lot of interest in our technology because our technology is actually the only one today that provides real intrabody communication in a totally wireless manner …But eventually you can do such a deal with one company and luckily Boston Scientific was the one.


IVB: Where do you fit into BSX?
Himelfarb: Right now we are continuing exactly as we were. We continue to be in our facility which is located in Israel with the same employees, same management team. Everything actually remains the same. Then, probably again after a short-period of training and education we will find out what are the objectives. For now we are staying the same as before the acquisition.


IVB: Any changes within the next 12 months?
Himelfarb: I believe after they learn more about our technology they may do some changes in the focus of the company

Welcome to Paris: take my drug ... Please

Mood lighting for the hot dealmaking topics panel

Windhover's Euro-Biotech Forum kicked off this morning in an overcast Paris with a panel discussion on deal structure and rationale. We'll keep readers apprised of the goings on here but most of the action as it were takes place behind closed doors, in the one-on-one partnering discussions.

The morning panel though, moderated by IN VIVO Blog's own Melanie Senior and sporting three pharmaceutical executives (Scott Myers, VP global strategic marketing with UCB, Nigel Sheail VP global head of licensing Roche Pharma Partnering, and Beverly Jordan VP Finance for Strategic Planning, AZ), gave us all a peek at the mindset of a few European in-licensors/acquirors at a time when the leverage in dealmaking sits squarely on the other side of the table.
Most of the panelists' comments about specific deals were just that--specific--and of the "if you've seen one deal, you've seen one deal" variety (AZ's Beverly Jordan went as far as to suggest that deals were like snowflakes, though we're relatively sure she didn't mean that they were small, cold, wet and disappear as soon as you catch them).

But accepting the premise that deal structures and the strategies that propel companies toward alliance or acquisitions are in fact unique, there are some more broad generalizations that can be drawn from our guests remarks.

More than ever Big Pharma (and smaller, medium-sized outfits like UCB) are comfortable in their roles as collectors and integrators of biotechnology products and technologies (snowball makers?). AZ in particular has embarked on a significant and deliberate externalization strategy going back to early 2006 (Beverly Jordan noted the MedImmune acquisition but focused more on an earlier important move, the takeover of alliance partner Cambridge Antibody); UCB's dual acquisitions of Celltech and Schwarz Pharma, we heard from Scott Myers, have created a force in mid-sized European pharma; and Roche is perennially near the top of the deals tables. When challenged that surely all that external spending might come at the cost of supporting in-house R&D, the answer was a resounding 'not necessarily.' AZ, said Beverly Jordan, has one of the lowest R&D spend-to-sales ratios in the industry, so there may be room to maneuvre.

Melanie set the scene with a dealmaking review, which mostly illustrated biotechs' increased leverage in dealmaking with the pharma counterparts (though, as she pointed out, part of the bump in 2007 figures is a reflection of intra-pharma dealmaking, in as much as Bristol-Myers Squibb remains a Big Pharma).
Trending Upward
It is mainly in response to the price of later stage deals, Roche's Nigel Sheail reminded us later, that preclinical and Phase I deals have soared in number and price as well. But upfront payments for later stage assets suggest there is still plenty of competition further down the value chain: the average upfront payment in licensing deals in 2005-07 for Phase II products was $41 million, according to data that Melanie crunched from our Strategic Transactions Database. From 2000-02, that same figure for Phase III projects was only $28 million.
The rising costs of doing business development combined with the increasingly sensitive and uncertain safety/reimbursement environments are certainly contributing to Big Pharma's embrace of large molecule technologies and specialty products in general. But surprisingly the data doesn't necessarily reflect this phenomenon when it comes to licensing deals, where traditionally primary-care oriented spaces like metabolic and cardiovascular disease kept pace--both in number of deals and value of up-front payments--with specialist areas.

Still, oncology, the favorite specialist area for most companies, continues to dominate in number of deals. This is generally due to the availability of oncology products, thanks to the myriad targets and unmet need which make it a fertile ground for many biotech companies, points out Nigel Sheail.

Although biotech companies seemingly have the upper hand--at least as reflected by deal valuations--the panelists stressed that high-upfronts and big payoffs weren't necessarily the way forward for every deal, thanks to tax considerations etc. Partners should "be creative," think about downstream rights, quids, and revenue sharing. Scott Myers encouraged potential partners to dream up new structures: "don't expect us to have a formula, because we don't."
All that said, IN VIVO Blog prefers for now to look at the numbers. If as Aesop (and today, Nigel Sheail) said, "the value is in the worth, not in the number," then surely as biotech's own products become more valuable to the future of Big Pharma that worth will increase. We think the numbers will continue to follow.

If you're here, happy dealmaking.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Roche to Ventana: We want you so bad

It was apparent from today's Roche investor call that five months of trying to open acquisition discussions with Ventana Medical Systems has left the Swiss firm frustrated and desperate. It may well win the fair hand of Ventana with some combination of a carrot (we'd be so good together) and/or a stick (we're gonna get ya one way or the other), but by putting its cards on the table the way it has, Roche seems to have given Ventana all the leverage.

Several times, CFO Erich Hunziker acknowledged the strength of his firm's desire. "You may ask why Roche sees a certain urgency for this deal," he said early in the call. "Leaving Ventana's successful team unchanged and giving them the support of a global company could be very crucial at a time when key competitors in this market are still aligning their efforts after having just been taken over," he declared. "We are prepared for long discussions but a quick negotiated solution would have clear benefits for everybody involved." Roche has proposed in writing a Genentech-style buyout of a majority of Ventana's shares, as well as yesterday's announced hostile tender plan, which values Ventana at $3 billion, or 44% above Ventana's June 22 closing stock price. Under either scenario, it has promised to keep Ventana independent and in place ("We love you just the way you are..."). Thus far, however, Ventana is still screening Roche's calls.

With Ventana, a specialist in tissue-based oncology assays using both IHC and ISH (in situ hybridization) techniques, in the fold, Roche believes it would have a complete set of diagnostic technologies for the development of oncology drugs and companion diagnostics, including for therapy selection. And importantly, it would have the ability to begin the development process--for itself as well as for other companies that work with it on a service basis--early. "The earlier you start the exchange of ideas between pharma research and diagnostics, the better chance you have to come in parallel with the development of a companion diagnostic," Hunziker explained, adding that at this early stage of the research discussion, "not all of the IP is protected. I think you would shy away from opening up totally with a third party with whom you just have a partnership."

That's fine from Roche's point of view, but our guess is that Ventana does not necessarily share that perspective, and may prefer the potential clout such an interdependency could give it. It is, after all, already collaborating with Genentech (successfully, says Roche), Novartis, and ImClone.
Ventana also surely knows that, like Biosite and others with the rare commodity of molecular diagnostic content, it will command a sizable dowry tomorrow as well as today. Other potential acquirers, like GE, may indeed be wrapped up in merger integration at the moment. Or they may be on the phone with Ventana right now.

Immigration Revisited

Another interesting poll popped up on PollingReport today dealing with immigration reform. It was conducted by CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation on June 22-24. The poll only has one question but the results are interesting in seeing how people feel about the immigration bill in Congress. The question asks:
"As you may know, the U.S. Senate has been considering a bill to change the way the government handles the issue of illegal immigration. Based on what you have read or heard about all the proposals in the Senate immigration bill, do you favor or oppose that bill?" If oppose: "Do you oppose the Senate immigration bill MOSTLY because you think it goes too far toward helping illegal immigrants, or MOSTLY because it does not go far enough toward helping illegal immigrants?"
Thirty percent of respondents favor the bill, while 28% say it goes too far and 15% say it doesn't go far enough. The 28% who say it goes too far are presumably conservatives who aren't happy with the citizenship measure. Conversely, the 15% who say it doesn't go far enough are most likely angry at the provision that gives preference to skills and education when admitting immigrants and limits immigration in general.

As you can see, it doesn't have anywhere near widespread support, and 22% of people are still unsure as to what to think. Such a split across support, opposition, and indecision is not good when discussing a major change in immigration policy and how we should go forward in the long term.

For your blogging pleasure

PPP released a poll today regarding the effect of the rising cost of gas on North Carolina's families and their driving habits, investigating who North Carolinians feel is responsible for the pain at the pump.


Here's a quick run down:

89% = percent of NC adults who are very concerned by the high gas costs.
60% = percent who say the cost of gas has greatly affected driving habits
88% = percent of respondents who report trying to drive less
28% = percent who use alternative transportation (public transit, carpooling, walking or bicycling)
54% = respondents who do not use alt. transportation and do not intend to


These last two numbers are what I find most interesting, 89% of folks are concerned by the high cost of gas (reasonably so) and 88% report a effort to drive less (great!), but the majority of respondents will not even consider alternative transportation.

One explanation for the low rate of use of alternative transportation is that our North Carolina communities are set up for driving. If North Carolina communities had better transportation options and pedestrian-friendly communities, more people would be willing to use alternative transportation. Currently, the options are so poor that although 89% of the public is very concerned by the cost of gas, over half of the respondents, 54%, polled will not even consider alternative transportation. The perception of current mass transit systems as inefficient, inadequate, and unsafe for travelers also decreases the use of alternative transportation.

For more information as to whom North Carolinians feel is responsible for the high gas costs (hint: American oil companies and George Bush/ the War in Iraq) ....Enjoy!

Good Things Come

Six months have passed since the deal was first announced, but shareholders of Ithaka Acquisiton Corp., the special purpose acquisition company, last week agreed to the merger with Alsius Corp., the temperature control device company.



The merger gives the new entity--called Alsius Corp.--roughly $45 million in cash and a ticker on Nasdaq. We'll have a lot more on this IPO alternative and Alsius' future plans in our upcoming START-UP.

We'd love to hear any thoughts on the whole SPAC model, which really doesn't appear to have taken off, at least not in the health care industry.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Roche makes Ventana an offer it may or may not be able to refuse: $3 billion

As the market in the US closed today, Roche offered to buy the histopathology company Ventana Medical Systems for $75 per share, or about $3 billion to complement its in vitro diagnostics business. The bid is a 44% premium to Ventana's share price last Friday.

Lovely. The only problem? Ventana isn't playing ball. Which forced Roche to go public with the offer, and even disclose Roche chairman and CEO Franz Humer's "Dear Jack" letter to Ventana CEO Jack Schuler (see the link the the PR, above). Apparently Jack won't even take Franz's telephone calls; Ventana has been unwilling to engage in dialogue, etc. (No word on whether Ventana still sends Roche flowers or sings it love songs. We'll keep you posted.)
Meanwhile, there's a call for investors tomorrow--more to come.

Big Week For the Bushes

While President Bush hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin at the family’s tiny Kennebunkport bungalow , Jonathan Bush, a first cousin of the president, is having a fairly big week himself. Athenahealth Inc., the company he co-founded and leads, filed to go public. One of the few success stories to emerge from the e-health mania of the late 1990s, the Waltham, Mass.-based company—which manages billing and collections for physician offices—hopes to sell up to $86 million in stock. Athenahealth is a service, rather than a software company, although its service is Internet-enabled. Why bring this up in the IN VIVO blog? First, it gives us a chance to run dueling Bush photos. Second, Jonathan Bush matches his cousin in swagger and has suggested in the past that VCs don’t have the fortitude to invest in health care services/IT companies like his. We recently wondered aloud whether David Brailer's new $700m effort will alter that perception. Third, this will be an important IPO. A poor showing could be a setback for the health care IT/services industry.



Now back to your regularly scheduled pharma discussion.

p.s. In case you were wondering what global warming could mean to future Bushes. We suspect the Crawford Ranch is safe.

New Presidential Poll

PollingReport has information about a new Newsweek presidential poll. They did a presidential matchup poll just like we did for NC, but nationwide. There's also individual results for the Democratic and Republican races.

On the Democratic side, it seems as though Hillary Clinton is dominating the field, leading Obama 43% to 27%. John Edwards trails with only 14%. It's interesting that this poll doesn't include Al Gore, which is probably a realistic scenario. That might explain why Hillary has so much support. However, my problem with the poll is that only 422 Democrats were surveyed and the MoE is +/-7%. That's a pretty huge margin of error for a national poll done by a large magazine. Although its probably accurate, it still makes Hillary's huge lead suspect.

One extremely strange fact that's easy to miss is that Michael Bloomberg was included in the Democratic field for whatever reason. Why he's in there and Al Gore isn't makes no sense to me. What's even more surprising though, is that he only received 1% support. Bloomberg was also included in the Republican field and only got 2% support. The low numbers make some sense because only registered Democrats and Republicans were included in the each party poll.

The Republican poll includes Fred Thompson, and he has a good showing, coming in second with 19%. Rudy Giuliani still leads with 27%. McCain seems to continue his downward slide, with 15%, while Mitt Romney is the only other candidate in double digits with 12%. This poll surveyed even fewer people (only 324 Republicans) and the MoE is +/-8%, theoretically negating the lead that Giuliani has over Thompson and putting them in a statistical tie. This essentially makes the poll useless because the MoE is so high.

There are a lot of results in the matchups part of the poll that I'll let you read for yourself. But, they did include Bloomberg as a third party candidate in some matchups, and he consistently got over 10%, which makes the fact that he only got 1% in the Democratic field even stranger. It looks like he steals votes from both party, but slightly more from Republicans. Whether or not that factors in to the election next year, we shall see.

One last tidbit: The Democrats win every single matchup listed, with the top three Democrats going against the top four Republicans. However, while McCain and Giuliani's numbers have been steady in the mid to lower 40s for a few months, Romney has gained about 10 points since the tracking poll began in December.

Venture Debt in Europe: Opportunity Missed?

European biotechs may bemoan their funding disadvantages relative to US counterparts—the lack of specialist investors, fragmented public markets, poor liquidity and meagre or non-existent PIPEs—but some of the trouble is of their own making.

They’re simply not seizing the alternative funding options available to them—such as venture debt, for instance. At least, that was the message from a panel of—you guessed--venture debt providers, speaking at the UK’s BioIndustry Association's BioFinance Europe 2007 meeting last week.

Venture debt has been going strong in the US for at least 20 years; it offers VC-backed companies the opportunity to leverage their equity capital by borrowing quickly, non-dilutively, without affecting valuation, and usually without relinquishing any board seats or voting rights. Last year the US life sciences sector borrowed about $1 billion of this kind of money, according to executives at venture debt providers ETV Capital and GE Financial Services. In Europe, the equivalent figure was less than $50 million.

So what’s going on? That's what the debt providers wanted to find out.

Emotions and ignorance were the top two answers from the panel discussion. The emotional barrier is that these debt providers need to secure their loan—naturally enough—and typically do that against a company’s IP. At a minimum, borrowers may have to sign a “negative pledge” promising not to use their IP to raise debt elsewhere during the course of the loan. But since IP is what the CEO-founders have often spent several decades creating, they’re not, in general, keen to mortgage it, the panellists suggested.

Lack of confidence is another way of putting it: European biotech management and VCs see venture debt as too risky, was the suggestion, because they don’t think they will be able to create sufficient value to pay back the loan—and thus fear that their assets will be seized.

And indeed, venture debt isn’t a lifeline for struggling companies. It’s intended for firms that expect to create value in the near to mid-term and need tiding over—for “high return” situations, as one debt-provider explained in his presentation. If the borrower isn’t in a (relatively) strong position, the deal gets too risky for the lenders. “Companies must have VC support and more than 12 months’ cash” to qualify for venture debt, noted the panellists.

They’ll need enough cash to pay back the loan, too—plus up to 14% interest, and the legal fees associated with the loan. As in any business sector, creditors take priority over the shareholders if things go pear-shaped, which is why management does need to be pretty sure the next round is an up-round, or that the exit they’re after comes at a nice premium. The debt providers require that confidence, too: none will lend without taking share warrants so that they can participate in the hoped-for value creation and meet their return criteria.

Still, for any company not on its knees, venture debt offers “an option to use someone else’s money to create equity value,” the debt providers argued, at least if you think you can create more value than the cost of the loan, and do so before you need to pay it back.

But on to the other reason venture debt hasn't caught on in Europe: management and VCs in Europe just don’t get debt, according to Peter Keen, a partner at VC firm Esprit Capital Partners, chairing the panel. “When you start talking about debt, their eyes glaze over,” he says. Apparently your average European biotech board meeting doesn’t often include a discussion of cost-of-capital, either—and if it does, “that goes right over their heads,” Keen continues.

Here’s the thing: equity is more expensive than debt in many situations. Equity investors expect a 20-30% return (or they used to). Even expensive debt may not cost half that—provided, of course, you can pay it back. So sometimes it’s cheaper, and therefore makes sense, to use debt rather than equity to fund capital expenditure and working capital.

A few European firms have cottoned on. Arrow Therapeutics took a £4 million venture loan to help tide it over while considering its exit options—it was in the end acquired by AstraZeneca for $150 million, so had no trouble with repayments. UK firms Vectura (now public) and Domantis (now part of GlaxoSmithKline) have also used venture debt in the past, according to the panelists, both in order to buy time during financing negotiations.

But these are exceptions. So far, the rest of the UK and European biotech sector either doesn’t like debt, doesn’t get debt, or doesn't feel confident enough in future value creation to take it on.

This may soon change. Public investors, the conference heard, are exiting biotech, not entering. The few specialist funds that exist in the UK and Europe by and large haven't made great returns on that portion of their holdings. US and foreign investors are blocked by pre-emption rights, granting existing shareholders the right to maintain their ownership share in any capital increase. PIPEs are frowned upon (and not easy to do, also because of pre-emption rights).

So soon enough UK and European biotechs may have no choice but to look more pro-actively at alternative financing sources, including venture debt. Especially as M&A continues to offer the prospect of future value-creation.

Meanwhile the inexorable rise of private equity, across all sectors, may help change attitudes too. If anyone knows how to do debt, private equity does. And they’re all getting rich, so eventually perhaps the love-debt message will trickle down to biotech.

Immigration, Smoking, and Gas Poll

We released a new survey today concerning immigration, smoking, and gas prices. The complete survey and report is here, but here are the essentials.

Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants
39% support
50% oppose

Temporary Guest Worker Program
47% support
45% oppose

Basis for Admitting Immigrants
Family: 22%
Skills: 57%

The only result that really surprised was the amount of support for admitting people based on skills. I thought people valued family more but I guess it speaks to our country's priorities: rewarding people based on their merit.

When it comes to smoking, most people oppose it. Sixty-two and 58% of people said they support banning smoking in puplic places and college campuses, respectively.

As evidenced by the recent energy bill passed in the Senate, people are supportive of mandating higher fuel economy standards for car makers. Sixty-six percent of the people in our poll supported it. However, people never like taxes, so the idea of a higher gas tax to encourage conservation is seemingly a dead end, with 75% opposition.

Read the entire report and let us know your thoughts.

P.S. on Iraq issue

Another Gallup poll shows the influence of a candidates past and previous position/s on Iraq as a major factor in respondents voting choice in the upcoming 2008 election.

Concern over War in Iraq and American Dissatisfaction go hand in hand

In this graph is from a recent Gallup poll, Gallup plotted the percentages of repondents who reported Iraq, Immigration, or Fuel and oil prices as the most important issue against the percentage of those who are dissatisfied with the general direction of the country. Analysis of their June 11-14 poll offered:

"The trend in Most Important Problem since January of this year suggests that
increased public concern about fuel prices and immigration may be to blame
for
the recent downturn in Americans' mood."

However the anaylsis goes further to say that concern over fuel prices and immigration are still lower than they were in 2006, so fuel and immigration concerns are not primarily to blame. (Check the PPP blog and website in the next few days for North Caroliniansopinions about Immigration issues and the effect of gasoline on NC driving behavior!)

If you check out this graph from Gallup we see that the growing dissatifaction in the country from 2000- present follows pretty closely the growing concern over the Situation in Iraq.

Peter Shepherd - Race Recap

The Milwaukee Mile/West Allis, Wisconsin/June 22, 2007
Started 18th / Finished 32nd
DISAPPOINTING FINISH FOR SHEPHERD IN MILWAUKEE
Peter Shepherd, No. 50 Roush Fenway Racing Ford F-150

WEST ALLIS, Wisc. (June 22, 2007) - Peter Shepherd looked strong in the early going of Friday night's Milwaukee 200, but the end result was not what he hoped for in his return to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Shepherd started Friday night's race in the 18th position, and by lap 10 had advanced to the 14th position. Shepherd reported in the early going to his crew that his Ford was loose on the exit of the turns, but he was able to run times comparable to the trucks running in the top-10. Shepherd gave up a couple of positions, sliding back to the 16th position when the caution came out at lap 67 for debris. Shepherd came to pit road for tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
Shepherd restarted in the 16th position, but as soon as the green flag dropped he reported to his crew that he had a flat left front tire. Shepherd came to pit road to change all four tires at lap 73, and was hit with a penalty for speeding on the exit of pit road.
Shepherd continued on, but reported that the left side of the truck was dragging the racetrack. Crew chief Matt Puccia called Shepherd to pit road, allowing the crew to jack the truck and look underneath it for a possible part failure. The decision was made to change front shocks, but Shepherd reported that the problem continued when he rejoined the field. Puccia made the decision to bring Shepherd to the garage so the crew could take a better look at diagnosing and repairing the problem. The crew examined the No. 50 Ford, but were not able to find a certain problem. Shepherd returned to the racetrack for the closing laps, some 44 laps down to the leaders.
"We really don't know what happened, we might have bent a sway bar or something, but we couldn't see anything wrong with the truck," said Puccia. "We'll take it back to the shop and try to figure out what happened."
"Obviously it's pretty disappointing," said Shepherd of his 32nd place finish. "We had a good run going, but when we came to pit road something happened to the truck. We really don't know what happened, but it felt like the whole left side of the truck was dragging the racetrack. I'm anxious to figure out what happened. We'll look forward to Memphis next week, hopefully we can get a better finish there."

- From RoushFenway

Sunday, June 24, 2007

While You Were at ADA

Here are a few of the stories that IN VIVO Blog picked up on over the weekend ...
  • Not technically a weekend event, but late on Friday Congress introduced legislation that would change the tax treatment of carried interest from a capital gain to regular income, effectively jacking up the tax rate on VCs, hedge funds and private equity shops from 15% to 35%. Spirited discussion continues over at PE Hub, but comments encouraged here too. Will this truly hurt the pace of innovation in the US, as has been and will be argued? Or are undertaxed investors only looking out for #1? Both?

  • The American Diabetes Association's annual meeting kicked off in Chicago. Among the companies presenting data was Merck. Reuters reports on some new Januvia data that suggests the drug added to standard therapies (study 1: metformin, study 2: metformin plus sulfonylureas) improves blood sugar better than those therapies alone. The incidence of hypoglycaemia, however, was up in the Januvia groups in each study when compared to the control.

  • In other ADA news, Lilly and Amylin presented solid data from a long-term study of Byetta, including progressive weight loss over a three and a half year period. Novo Nordisk's liraglutide is no slouch either. See this June IN VIVO story for the low down on Novo's diabetes prowess.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Brailer's New Quest

IN VIVO Blog had the opportunity to talk with David Brailer in a previous professional life. He’s thoughtful, intelligent, and proved to be a very good pick to be the federal government’s first health care IT czar. He gave a face to the important need for IT and health care integration, and it’s a concept that has since stuck with the American public.

In that conversation, which came after he’d already announced his decision to resign his post and go back to California, Brailer more than hinted that private equity or venture capital might be in his future. Smart money had him joining an established firm, probably some big name technology investor with a fair amount of dough already being invested in multiple industries. Brailer, in this scenario, would head up a foray into health care-IT investing, and he’d be a great pick to do so.

What was not envisioned, however, is what actually happened. The California Public Employees' Retirement System--eager to find new technologies to save money on its $4.9 billion in annual health care costs--gave Brailer $700 million from Calpers to invest in health care-IT and health care services companies.

Acccording to reports like this one in Modern Healthcare, Brailer's new firm, Health Evolution Partners, will invest $500 million of that money directly into companies. The rest will go into a $200 million fund of funds that will be committed to other venture firms that invest in the space.

Okay. Does this concern anyone?

No knock against Brailer. He isn't an experienced investor, but he's got street cred, clout and spent the past 15 years doing some level of due diligence. In 1992, he founded CareScience Inc., a supplier of technology tools used in practice management and patient care. He took it public in 2000. But he resigned in 2003 citing differences with the board over the strategic direction of the company. This opened the door for him to be Health Care-IT Czar, giving him an extraordinary perspective on the industry.

But…

Is this sector, which just emerging from the hangover of the "e-health days" of 1999-2000, going to be able to absorb $700 million? According to the published reports, Brailer expects to run through this dough in five years or less. That's $100 million per year or roughly 10% to 15% of what's gone into the health care IT sector and health care services sectors over each of the past two years, according to VentureOne. That’s an enormous influx of cash in a sector that only recently has begun showing some nice returns, albeit mostly on the clinical/hospital sides with companies like Visicu and Emageon.

Perhaps the Internet bubble has us conditioned to think that too much money is always a bad thing. Maybe this is just what the health care-IT czar ordered, a shock of cash to give this somewhat moribund business new life.

But is this good investing? Calpers, according to the reports, is more interested in finding companies with technologies that may someday save it money rather than making money on investments. This sounds an awful lot like a corporate venture capital program in which the parent company is more interested in identifying new technologies than seeing returns. But those corporate investors bring a lot more to the deal than capital. They bring distribution, marketing and usually an established customer base along with decades of expertise.

Brailer brings some of that to the deal, no doubt. He's promising discipline. He told the Sacramento Bee. "We're not going to give them money and say, 'Good luck.' It's going to be very hands-on with these companies." And Calpers could be a huge help if it quickly adopted the products put forth by Health Evolution Partners' portfolio. Brailer, in fact, boldly suggested to the Sacramento Bee that Calpers members could begin benefiting from these advances as soon as next year. (We placed a call at Health Evolution Partners and hadn’t heard back yet. We hope to run an interview with Brailer in an upcoming post.)

The fear here is Calpers is throwing money at a complex problem, and that money will be wasted because the infrastructure—customers, public investors, other sources of capital, regulatory freedom—just isn't in place to support these businesses. It certainly helps that they signed a talent to do the throwing for them. But time will tell whether money is all that was missing.

Now, for a look at the Crosstabs...

The Presidential tracking poll we released on Wednesday had lots of numbers and lots of crosstabs. After some analysis, here's what we found:

Not surprisingly, support for President Bush and Senator Dole was split along party lines. Independent support for Bush is only at 32%. Dole has very high marks among Republicans, but she is losing support among Independents, which is not a good sign for her upcoming reelection. Interestingly, disapproval for President Bush is equally dismal throughout every age group. About 60% of each group disapproves of Bush, regardless of party. His approval ratings continue to drop on a monthly basis, and if he keeps heading in the direction he is, especially on immigration, even his base will abandon him.

Among women voters, Dole seems to have higher support than Hillary Clinton, which is surprising considering that Hillary is the Democrat. Her support among women isn't as high as expected considering the high number of female Democratic voters. Even though she garners more female support than any one of her male candidates, she never receives more than 50% of her support from women. Oddly, Dole has the highest approval among young voters. Dole's approval rating is more than 50% among voters between 18 and 45.

In the Presidential matchups, Edwards and Obama have the most support among Independent voters. They receive more Independent support than any of their Republican rivals and more than Clinton. However, Clinton receives the highest portion of black support, even more than Obama. While Obama's support among blacks is around 70%, Clinton has support upwards of 75%. Her high support among blacks is likely due to her high name recognition and the fact that her husband is very highly supported in the black community.

Where Clinton garners support among blacks, though, Obama and Edwards have high support from younger voters. Both Obama and Edwards have the highest percentage of support from young people, with well over 50% of voters between 18 and 29 support either candidate. Interestingly, Fred Thompson also has relatively high support among young voters. More voters between 18 and 29 support Thompson than Clinton, and against Edwards, Thompson has 47% support.

Barack Obama has limited support throughout the state, only really having high support in the 919 area code (the Triangl), which is arguably the most Democratic area of the state. However, name recognition might be a problem since he is a freshman Senator and doesn't have very much support throughout the state.

By Carrie and Mark

Happy Ending for Delaware Jr. LM team

From John Houton / Delaware Speedway

UPDATE: The Krown Body Maintenance Junior Racing League fibreglass show body that was taken from the Byron (ON) area was dropped off and returned from where it was taken! Car #7 & the Charno family extends its appreciation to everyone who kept an eye out for this one of a kind item, as well as the various media outlets (including Inside Track) that carried the story.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hayes 45, Kissell 43

Saw this on Daily Kos:

Anzalone Liszt (D). 5/22. No trend lines.

Hayes (R) 45
Kissell (D) 43

Name ID

Hayes (R) 83%
Kissell (D) 34%

Bush approval rating

Approve 38
Disapprove 61

Some more findings from that poll, which I received via email (I don't know if it's posted anywhere online):
Hayes continues to be hurt by the harsh political environment still facing national Republicans. A majority (57%) of voters believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, while only 21% believe it is moving in the right direction.

A majority (56%) now believe we should not have gone to war, while 57% favor a plan to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq this year and having almost all the troops out by next year.
Talking to last cycle's DCCC crowd, this race, more than any other, makes them kick themselves. They swear up and down that late polling in the race (two separate polls) showed Hayes with a comfortable double-digit lead over Kissell so they looked elsewhere for pickup opportunities. And while they found plenty of them (it was a bumper crop), Kissell came just 329 votes shy of victory -- the tightest race and most painful House loss of the cycle.

Kissell ran easily the most innovative race of last cycle, and came close to this victory despite being outspent $2.4M to $781K.

This cycle is a little different. The DCCC clearly has targeted this seat and will focus resources on it (though hopefully won't touch Kissell's innovative campaign team). On the other hand, Hayes can't laugh off his opponent and take it easy. He'll be taking this race seriously, which should make Kissell's task that much tougher.

And now an update on BlueNC too.

The Wrong Man for This Job

Sometimes the right person comes along at the wrong time. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case with Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and his stewardship of the Food and Drug Administration.

Von Eschenbach was persuaded to come over from the prestigious National Cancer Institute to take the helm at FDA during troubled times. He answered the call to duty. His predecessor, Lester Crawford, pled guilty to two misdemeanors for withholding financial information related to food and drug stocks he owned (I wish I was making this up) and the public had lost trust in one of the most important federal agencies in the country. He seemed like the perfect choice to usher the agency through the final years of the Bush Administration.

With the Vioxx controversy seemingly behind the agency, it seemed like FDA had somewhat smooth sailing ahead for the twighlight years of Bush II. Uh, not so much. Results from the Institute of Medicine study on drug safety, the controversies over Sanofi-Aventis' antibiotic Ketek and GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia, and the re-emergence of whistleblower David Graham, among others, contributed to chipping away at FDA's credibility.

Now, more than ever, FDA needs strong leadership. And by strong leadership, I mean an authoritative voice with a clear message. I wrote a piece on this very subject in the June issue of The RPM Report. I'll let you judge for yourself: if you want to read it, click here, and as always, I would love to hear what you out there in the blogosphere have to say.

One of the misconceptions about this issue is that it's an inside-the-beltway issue. Wrong. This is a commercial issue for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Don't believe me? Look what the article of one clinical researcher did to GSK's stock. Would the stock have dropped billions in market cap if the docs, the media, the public and the investment community trusted FDA as the final word on drug safety? No doubt, Glaxo's stock price would have taken a hit, but a $13 billion hit in one day?

And that's why, in my opinion, FDA's credibility gap-real or perceived-ranks as the number one business problem for drug manufacturers for the foreseeable future. The credibility gap has infused arguably unprecedented unpredictability into the drug development system, and until it is somehow fixed, that unpredictability will hover over the agency, and only loom larger.

Overheard at the London Stock Exchange Mediscience Awards Dinner

IN VIVO Blog went to tonight's LSE Mediscience awards dinner in London. A quick anecdote:

Person 1: "They sold their drug to Sanofi-aventis."

Person 2: "Sanofi-aventis? They'll buy anything. I could sell my grandmother to Sanofi-aventis!"

Civitas Craziness

After attending the monthly Civitas Institute luncheon today downtown and listening to a room full of Republicans analyze a Civitas poll and bash Democratic ideals, I thought I'd respond.

Most of the results themselves weren't very surprising. The questions about Elizabeth Dole and potential challengers to her Senate seat in 2008 seemed reasonable, as did the results. However, the fact that Dole's approval rating is below 50% and a potential mathcup between her and Brad Miller has her only receiving 46% support is not a good thing for Republicans. As Justing noted, even though she leads Miller by 15 points, having less than 50% support is not a good sign for an incumbent.

Some of questions moreso than others seemed clearly slanted toward the right. The questions on immigration reform mentioned amnesty, a word that brings up very negative feelings on the subject. Its no surprise that when the recent Congressional bill was branded as amnesty, people showed overwhelming opposition to it.

When discussing the results of the taxation questions, it was noted that the way in which the questions were framed and what the taxes would pay for was very important in how people responded. Obviously, people are relatively opposed to higher taxes no matter what the circumstance, but telling people that the taxes would pay for pork projects, tax breaks to businesses, and new state jobs will create an even more negative reaction. Telling people their taxes will go to pay for useless or unnecessary budget expenses is not a good way to prove that taxes are bad. The majority of people accept taxes because they know they go towards essential social services and improving our state. If people wanted no new taxes as much as this poll and the ideologues at the Civitas meeting suggest, then people would vote that way. But they don't, which is why the Democrats have a majority in the state legislature and not the Republicans.

Aside from the poll, the overall perception I got from the meeting was that of desperate optimism over the direction in which the Republican party is moving. Many of the attendees were staunchly conservative and did little to hide their disdain over the Democratic leadership in Congress and North Carolina government. However, the facts don't lie. Bush's approval rating is the lowest it's ever been, people are fed up with the War, and the Democrats now control Congress and looking towards the White House.

They year 1994 was repeatedly brought up. The nostalgia for that year as the rise of Republican dominance was apparent and it seems as if those who still have faith in the party are trying their best to recreate the environment of 1994. I don't think that's going to happen soon, especially with the President making policy mistake after mistake and further alienating his supporters. The more people associate President Bush with the Republican establishment, the worse it will get for the party.