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Biotech's "Fierce 15"

The Sector's Best Privately-Held Companies


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Every year, FierceBiotech scours the world of biotech industry to identify 15 outstanding privately-held biotech groups to create the so-called “Fierce 15,” a listing that is eagerly scrutinized both by industry insiders and by interested investors.

This year, the list of companies included groups that are working in some high-risk areas like development programs for interferon-free Hepatitis C drugs, early-stage work on Alzheimer’s, gene therapies—the list goes on.

But risk is an integral part of what sets these chosen companies apart. They demonstrate both the ability to identify and formulate challenges and the capacity or potential to meet them.

R&D might be the biggest obstacle for the biotech sector; companies must take on something “big” (and thereby impress investors), or they might quickly peter out.

One such company, named on the 2012 “Fierce 15” list, is Mersana Therapeutics, Inc. Mersana is a biopharma company that’s developing the Fleximer antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) platform and pipeline of small-molecule Fleximer conjugates.

From the Sacramento Bee:

"Mersana's Fleximer platform is clinically validated and now offers a new technology for generating antibody-drug conjugates, one of the hottest fields in drug development today," says FierceBiotech Editor Ryan McBride. "The Company's fresh round of financing led by NEA and earlier partnership with Endo Pharmaceuticals should help propel its antibody-drug conjugates toward the clinic in the years ahead. We'll be watching its progress."

Mersana develops novel drug conjugates that expand the potential of established therapeutic classes (and sometimes develops new ones).

Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc., an R&D-focused biotech company that specializes in small-molecule drugs targeting infectious diseases, was another such company named to the “Fierce 15” list this year.

From Sacramento Bee:

"While biotechs have been scrambling in the race to the market with an interferon-free treatment for hepatitis C, Enanta has been building its pipeline of compounds for use in HCV combination therapies," said FierceBiotech Editor John Carroll. "It's struck key partnerships with Abbott and Novartis and has additional unpartnered programs."

Enanta relies on its chemistry-driven approach and drug discovery capabilities to develop small-molecule drugs that attack infectious diseases. Currently, the company is creating new inhibitors designed to target the Hepatitis-C virus.

The company has also developed Bicyclolides, a new class of antibiotics to treat multi-drug resistant bacteria, and it is trying to develop intravenous and oral treatments for use in hospital and community MRSA infections.

The full list of “Fierce 15” companies can be found here.


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