01 February 2017

Regional Prejudice

For the last few years, I've been following the bio-pharma industry, since it remains more available to innovation than semiconductor tech. The reason I say that is kind of simplistic: bio-pharma is, to a great extent, defined by organic chemistry, while tech these days is limited to what one can do with silicon. We've seen that the asymptote of progress in the silicon venue is right in front of us, if not reached. Some postulate that tech is about to move beyond silicon, but that presents a key problem: semiconductor tech didn't begin with, or was most efficient with, silicon. Silicon became the basis of semiconductor tech for the most craven reason: it's cheap and plentiful. The alternatives, known for decades, are neither.

If you took, or knew someone who did, chemistry major as an undergraduate then you know that the biggest, bad assed text you ever saw was your organic book. I don't recall which one I had to deal with, much too long ago. But here's one from Amazon, at 1320 pages. While the definition of organic is short and sweet, the tsunami of compounds one can concoct from so few atoms is mind boggling. And that's just your sophomore year. Just wait until you do your graduate studies; I didn't, thanks to PChem. Yes, if you want to work as an organic chemist in real life, you'll do that.

So, bio-pharma for fun. What I've concluded from this desultory study is that where the company is actually matters. At least to my very discerning mind. San Diego and environs is the snake pit of snake oil, while the Boston/128 Beltway is honest innovation. Well, mostly. The mid-Atlantic is a mixed bag, as is the mid-West. Stay away from Southern mixologists.

Now, muscular dystrophy has been a tough nut to crack forever. A couple of years ago, a tiny bio-pharma (now called Sarepta) got a drug approved on marginal evidence for a small cohort of one type of MD. It's been in Cambridge for some years. Another tiny bio-pharma, Catabasis, has been working on a drug for a different cohort. Here's the thing: that drug is just aspirin plus DHA (just another omega fatty acid), yet another sleight of hand snake oil one might expect from San Diego. It flopped like a flounder.

Too bad they didn't wait for the Kim Jong-Don new FDA commissioner who'll approval any old thing.

No comments: