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Biotechs strike partnerships to spread their costs, risks

Jan 16, 2012   |   by Robert Weisman   |   The Boston Globe

In long days packed with back-to-back meetings last week, Tillman Gerngross pressed drug company leaders from around the world to farm out some specialized research and development to his New Hampshire start-up, Adimab LLC.

Gerngross even bought advertisements promoting his biotech firm on this city’s fabled cable cars to catch executives’ attention as the cars rumbled down Powell Street past the Westin St. Francis hotel, where more than 8,000 life sciences movers and shakers congregated for the 30th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

“Pharmaceutical companies are tuning down their internal R&D,’’ said Gerngross, an engineering professor at Dartmouth, who has booked business from Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co., Novartis AG, and Weston-based Biogen Idec Inc., and other drug makers. “That’s very positive for companies like ours.’’

Adimab, of Lebanon, N.H., was one of hundreds of smaller biotechnology and medical device firms seeking to find research partners, strike collaborations, raise money, buy other companies, or be acquired themselves in the nonstop deal making that surrounded the annual conference. After several sluggish years, life sciences deal making has begun to rebound, with investors and companies increasingly turning to partnerships to share the costs and risks of bringing expensive new therapies to market.

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