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A reflection on the old and in with the new
In one of my favorite films, Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks as the movie's namesake and main character reflects, "Mama always said, 'There's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes.' Where they're going. Where they've been." As 2012 winds to a close, our dogs are barking. Heading into our ninth year of publication, we're always humbled when we compare our beginnings as a simple newspaper to the large and diverse news organization we are today. It's been a long and busy year for our editors and writers, as we brought you more content than ever before across our many news vehicles: this monthly print publication, including our expanded special reports and conference previews; our 24/7 website, our bi-monthly e- newsletter, our blog and finally, our specialized website dedicated to oncology news coverage, ddn Cancer Research News.
By the time you reach this column on page 10, you'll have noticed some big changes to our print publication. We've given the ol' girl a facelift and a fresh look in anticipation of what we hope will be another successful year. We have some exciting coverage planned for 2013, but before I introduce you to some of our new endeavors, here's a look back at some of my favorite stories from this year.
In our April issue, I had the great fortune of interviewing Dr. Chiang J. Li, founder of Boston Biomedical Inc. (BBI), a private biotechnology company in Norwood, Mass., that was acquired in March by Japanese pharma Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co. Ltd. What followed from that interview was the cover story, "Pharma pink- slippers find pot of gold," a story every biotech hopes will someday be theirs: A small company is founded to advance a promising new R&D platform—in this case, clinical-stage product pipeline targeting cancer stem cells—weathers economic storms and uncertain R&D waters and finally makes good when a large pharma with tons of resources swoops in with a big check and a solid chance to bring a new product to market. In this case, Li was forced by economic pressures to temporarily lay off BBI's employees, but he hired them all back as soon as he could—and to ensure that no one lost a job, Li cut his own salary down to minimum wage. For his sacrifice, Li was eventually rewarded with a $2.6 billion acquisition offer—all because he decided to take a risk, which he told me is "sometimes the best solution" to such challenges.
"From an executive's standpoint, I am excited because we have created a world-leading portfolio that provides a new direction for cancer stem cell treatment. From a business manager's standpoint, I'm glad things worked out so that no one was out of a job. The moral to our story is that this provides an example of what can be done," he told me.
Later in the year, our senior editor, Kelsey Kaustinen, brought you an interesting story via our ddn Cancer Research News website about bioengineering efforts at RMIT University in Australia that could make big waves in the cancer research arena. We report on countless research endeavors in oncology, but this one piqued our interest because the researchers have designed a peptide that mimics the proteins of the myxoma virus, allowing it to kill melanoma cells while leaving surrounding healthy skin cells untouched. The researchers hope to create a skin cream treatment containing this melanoma-killing peptide. This unique story is among the many that Kaustinen writes exclusively for ddn Cancer Research News, and you can access this story and all of our oncology-related news at www.ddncancer.com.
Finally, the summer of 2012 brought the return of our former executive editor, Randall C. Willis, as our newly appointed features editor, and Willis kicked off his new position in August with "Regenerating interest in stem cell medicine," an in-depth look at the stem cell technologies that show the potential to replace organs and tissues, and an examination of how some of the initial hype for this potential has been toned down. Willis followed up our series on trends in stem cell research with a fascinating two-part series on the latest buzz phrase in R&D: personalized medicine.
That brings me to an introduction to some of the topics Willis will be covering next year for our Special Reports division. We'll kick off the year with a look at how adjuvant advances, international interactions and personalized preventions are transforming the world of vaccine research. For the past two years, we have examined trends in both cancer and stem cell research, and we'll revisit these topics in 2013. Other, new topics on tap include clinical trials, public and private partnerships in R&D and medicinal chemistry.
We will also continue to provide you with useful market intelligence via our Market Research division, for which we conduct quarterly reader surveys with Mizuho Securities USA Inc., the U.S. investment-banking subsidiary of the Mizuho Financial Group in Tokyo. In this issue, we bring you the results of our recent survey on companion diagnostics, and throughout next year, we will be assessing reader opinion on genomics, cancer, stem cell research and personalized medicine. Keep an eye out for our quarterly invitations to participate in these surveys. We value your opinion!
Finally, we welcome a new face to our growing staff: Kevin E. Noonan, a biotechnology patent attorney and partner with the law firm of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP. Noonan, a former molecular biologist who now represents pharmaceutical companies of all sizes on a myriad of issues, is a frequent speaker and author on a variety of intellectual property law topics, and starting next month, he will be lending his expertise to ddn via a column that will appear in our Government Watch section. Noonan has been a great source to our editors and writers on matters related to patent law, and we look forward to sharing his insights with you on a regular basis.
We hope you will join us for another great year, and we wish you a happy holiday season—and a pair of sturdy, shiny new shoes to give you solid footing for it!