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OncoMed Pharmaceuticals: Novel Anti-Cancer Stem Cell Therapeutics
Lasky, Larry
Publication date: 8/1/2012, pages 1-18

The OncoMed case study illustrates the significant challenges facing a company that pursues novel therapies in the biotechnology industry. This is as opposed to me-too or second generation drug companies, such as Proteolix, where the company is attempting to make an improved treatment directed against a target for which there is significant clinical validation (a challenging pursuit as well--see the Proteolix case study, also published at the Berkeley-Haas School of Business). OncoMed Pharmaceuticals was a clinical stage cancer stem cell (CSC) company founded in August 2004. The company’s novel idea in cancer research was that tumors are composed of heterogeneous cell types, and that cancer growth and metastasis are driven by a sub-population of cells within the tumor coined "cancer stem cells." By 2012, although the company had no revenue and no product candidates in pivotal clinical trials or approved for sale, the team had successfully achieved significant scientific milestones that led it to file for an initial public offering on May 11, 2012. By that time, OncoMed had four clinical trials occurring and another starting later that year, thus achieving unlikely, partial success as a novel drug development company in the challenging field of biotechnology where failure far exceeded success.

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