How does biotechnology reconcile ties to big bad pharmaceuticals industry?

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As the CEO of the Cambridge-based drug company Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Peter Hecht sees the blurring of the lines between the two industries traditionally referred to as “biotech” and “pharmaceuticals” as a good thing.

“I think that’s one of the big trends in the industry in the last few years,” he said in an interview this week, just a few days before he heads to San Francisco for the biggest annual event for the health care industry, the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. “We’re all trying to make therapies to change patients lives.”

The labels still persist, rooted in the decades-old distinction between drug companies — which grew out of the chemical and dye industry — and biotechs, which began in 1976 with the founding of the biology-focused startup, Genentech. But from the start, the two have been intertwined, and at times barely distinguishable. Josh Boger, founding CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals in 1989, says he’d never heard the term “biotech” until he was told by his finance people that that’s what he needed to call his company in order to attract investment on Wall Street.

In broad terms, “biotech” still enjoys relatively positive connotations, bringing to mind groups of scientists working on groundbreaking new drugs. “Pharma” on the other hand, carries the baggage of associations with illegal marketing, shady deals and price-gouging. Those reputations are not wholly deserved on either side, but as the two industries become one, the question remains: Does biotech really want to become more intertwined with one of the most distrusted industries in the world?

Read full, original post: How happy is the 40‐year‐old marriage of biotech and pharma, really?

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