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The financial side of Langer’s fertility

Famed MIT professor Robert Langer is listed as a cofounder of more than 30 companies, and yet another one has queued up to go public. But the company, Selecta Biosciences, will presumably want to avoid the market performance of some of its siblings in the Langer family.

Selecta filed paperwork to trade on the Nasdaq, meaning Langer, who owns about 4.4 percent of the company, is likely in line to make a few million dollars on paper.


Biotech’s recent IPO boom has been quite kind to the prolific inventor. There are five publicly traded companies that listed Langer as a major shareholder at the time of their IPOs, and his stakes added up to more than $110 million. (Selecta hasn’t yet set a price for its shares, but Langer has about 2.1 million of them.)

However, that big dollar figure is based on each company’s value at IPO, and four of those five Langer-founded companies have lost a lot of that value since going public. One, Bind Therapeutics, is in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings and can right now be bought for less than 50 cents a share.

All of which is to say the most cited engineer in human history has not, to date, been a star on Wall Street. But then I suppose one can’t be good at everything.


Send your best (and worst) BIO stories

Each year, biotech’s many dealmakers, headhunters, and hangers-on descend upon an unsuspecting American city for the multi-day ode to the industry that is BIO, hearing pitches from would-be partners and loading up on inane tchotchkes from biocurious nations around the world.

This year, the conference is in San Francisco, and the theme is “Summer of Love,” because why not. Beginning June 6 is a week of wonky panels and schmoozy parties that hopefully won’t end the way its thematic namesake did.

Anyway, I want to hear your stories from BIOs past. Have an out-of-body experience during Boyz II Men’s performance last year? Witness a nationalist scuffle at BIO 2014’s weird World Cup pavilion thing? Or maybe you shared an elevator with the ex-boss who foolishly laid you off? Share your experience.

We’re talking about a New York biotech cluster —again

Here’s a familiar question: How come New York City, the seat of modern capitalism, isn’t more of a biotech hotbed?

You’ve probably read some version of this story — I’ve written at least two — and thus know that the Big Apple’s staggering cost of real estate is a hindrance, as is the lack of an anchoring industry cornerstone. Tarrytown’s Regeneron is the area’s biggest and most respected native biotech, but asking it to preside over a New York City cluster would be like expecting the staff at Gillette Stadium to nurture an ultimate frisbee league on Boston Common.

Anyway, the Financial Times is the latest to look at the issue, and it zeroed in on a huge new structure owned by life sciences megalandlord Alexandria Real Estate. The site consists of two towers on the East River, home to Roche, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and some smaller drug makers. The idea is to Kendallishly site private companies next to academic institutions — in this case Rockefeller University and Weill Cornell Medicine — and let the magic of entrepreneurial science do the rest.

But it hasn’t really happened. As the FT notes, the city’s academics are perhaps less commercially minded than those in Cambridge. Furthermore, two years since the Bloomberg Administration galvanized a public-private effort to assemble a $150 million fund to back biotech startups, not a penny has been invested. And as for Mayor Bill De Blasio, he “only cares about housing in Queens,” one industry exec said under the shroud of anonymity.

If only New York had the business-first, social welfare-later ethos of the People’s Republic of Cambridge.

The Biotech Devil’s Dictionary

There’s a lot of jargon, coded language, and outright nonsense in biotech, and I want to clear up — and celebrate — as much of it as I can through this glossary, updated weekly. Have a phrase to contribute? Email me.

Optionality (n.): Execspeak used describe a deal in which what is being acquired could potentially be more valuable in the future. But because that applies to pretty much everything, it is difficult to imagine an event with no optionality, except perhaps death, though that of course depends on your personal philosophy.

“I think the better way to think about it is our shareholders will own 44 percent of the leading biopharmaceutical company with tremendous future optionality for growth and value creation.” —Brent Saunders, CEO of Allergan, discussing a merger with Pfizer whose optionality was destroyed by the U.S. Treasury.

More reads

  • Biogen, alongside partner AbbVie, won FDA approval for a once-a-month multiple sclerosis treatment. (Press release)
  • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is the new sponsor of the storied American Museum of Natural History Science Talent Search, signaling a change in how our culture views the field. (STAT)
  • Biogen is among a group of major drugmakers under investigation for their ties to charities that help patients buy their drugs. (Bloomberg)