Monday, February 23, 2009

Burrill Says Biotech Industry Profitable for First Time in History

The big headline from the influential Burrill & Company merchant bank is "Biotech Scores Black Ink" for the first time ever.

According to Peter Winter(see photo), editor of the Burrill Report, the biotech industry turned profitable in 2008. Winter made this "startling discovery" after analyzing the numbers for 360 publicly traded biotech companies. Presumably the conclusion might change if private firms were included.

The Burrill finding is another piece to consider in the case for and against the $10 billion biotech federal assistance package championed by CIRM Chairman Robert Klein.

However, Winter also said that only 67 of the 360 companies were profitable with the largest sums coming from only three companies: Genentech, Amgen and Gilead.

He said the have-not companies are struggling, and he predicted that a year from now, perhaps only 200 of the 360 companies will survive.

Burrill did not offer a text version of Winter's findings -- only a podcast. We respect Burrill and the authoritative information it provides, but we regard podcasts and recorded videos as a cyberspace abomination when it comes to dispensing information. When recordings replace carefully crafted, written analysis, they are an inefficient, inadequate and miserable substitute.

Just consider the numbers: Normal speech runs about 150 words a minute. Question-and-answer interviews, including trivial remarks, take longer. Downloading and listening to the Q&A with Winter took about 9-10 minutes. In that time, we could have read about 6,000 or 7,000 words or more. We also assume that nearly all the readers of this blog and the Burrill website can handle written information much more rapidly than listening to oral presentations, which often miss important details and nuances. The discipline of writing almost forces the inclusion of those elements.

Recordings on the Internet have their place and can communicate certain kinds of emphasis and emotion better than text. But for the most part, they are used on the Internet like some new gadget, whose novelty is more alluring than its effectiveness.

Serious enterprises that deal with hard facts and numbers should avoid them. That's the conclusion from the California Stem Cell Report in our cyberspace rant of the day. Sphere: Related Content

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