From The Editor | November 14, 2022

Where Biotech Business Nuance Isn't Lost


By Matthew Pillar, Editor, Bioprocess Online


You read, you watch, you listen, you travel to conferences and events, and you learn from all of it, but none of those are the leading source of information for those who seek it. What medium do most biopharma leaders actively seek when it’s learning they’re yearning? Conversations with their peers. I know it, because I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks asking them.

Conversations with the leaders of biopharma companies happens to be my day job. From those conversations spring forth content in a variety of formats – articles, live events, podcasts, etc. None of them has been as well-received as the Business of Biotech podcast.

The podcast project was an interesting one. We launched it back in 2020 as a bi-weekly. The idea was simple. I spend a lot of time on Zoom calls, asking questions of biopharma leaders. Rather than turn all those conversations into feature-length articles, why not publish the conversations themselves? Why not take anyone who’s interested along for the raw exchange, to learn and to hear me learn, complete with all the mispronunciations and naïve questions you might expect from a guy who’s new to the space And complete with all the nuance that hits the cutting room floor when conversations become transcripts and transcripts become columns.

Six months into the project, the appetite for the format became evident. Downloads and subscriptions blossomed. My runway for guests was long. We decided to go weekly. This is a big space full of lots of company leaders eager to share their stories. Listenership continued to grow, and it’s growing steadily still. Now, we’ve decided to take another step forward and launch a Business of Biotech newsletter. It’s not your typical “trade” newsletter for a couple of reasons. For starters, its content is totally editorial—no ads, no vendor/supplier content—just a handful of articles written by my colleagues and other biopharma leaders, hand-picked by yours truly. Secondly, it’s only delivered once per month. I’m not interested in pummeling your inbox. I am interested in extending the kinds of conversations we have on the podcast to a format you might enjoy equally, or maybe even more if you’re not a podcast person. Finally, the content you’ll find in the Business of Biotech newsletter is aligned with the topics and themes we cover on the podcast.

The Biotech People Behind The Biotech News

I make it clear to my guests that coming on the show doesn’t equate to a pitch deck opportunity ala JP Morgan. Sure, we talk about the therapies they’re working on, why they’re important and how they’re made. But I also ask my guests questions about who they are and what made them. Sometimes those conversations get personal. Many biopharma leaders I’ve interviewed have been inspired by their own experiences with chronic, rare, and infectious diseases—parents afflicted by Alzheimer’s, children battling rare diseases, brothers, sisters, and moms lost to cancer. Others were born into it. Their moms and dads were scientific academics and M.D.s, and their own paths to biologics exploration were seemingly written in the stars. Still others come from the unlikeliest of places – the former VP of marketing for a major macaroni and cheese brand now leading a clinical-stage gene therapy company, the child of poor and uneducated refugees earning his M.D. and moving on to lead a Flagship Pioneering startup, and a mechanical engineer who built high-tech racecars now leading a commercial-stage regenerative medicine company are just a few examples. Beyond the fascinating stories behind the molecules they’re working on, there are fascinating stories about the people leading the charge.

In many cases I ask my guests about the risks they accepted to launch or lead their own biotech companies. Those questions lead to insightful conversations about capital markets, business strategy, board leadership, exit strategies, fortitude, risk tolerance, and mettle.

I often ask the veterans of the space what they’ve seen on their journeys, and what they see coming next. Their retrospective takes on the progress biologic modalities have made—the hits and the misses, the resurrection of old technologies and the emergence of new ones—give listeners context that’s often missed when all hands are heads-down in the lab.

The Business of Biotech is about molecules and manufacturing. But it’s also about the external forces and internal fortitude that enable, or in some cases disable, biotech momentum. It’s about the nuance. I hope you enjoy the Business of Biotech podcast and its new newsletter. I invite you to subscribe to them via the links in the precious sentence. And if you have topical ideas for either forum, or a guest suggestion, or feedback, or if you’d like to be a guest yourself, I’d love to hear from you. I’m at