Author Archives: Russo Partners

Russo Partners Prepares for BIO-Europe 2013


BIO-EuropeThis week Russo Partners prepared for BIO-Europe 2013, held November 4-6 in Vienna, Austria. BIO-Europe is Europe’s largest partnering conference, with this year’s conference expected to draw upwards of 3,000 industry attendees from over 40 countries, representing close to 1,800 companies for three days of high level networking.  

Several client companies will present at the event, including Cempra, a company developing differentiated antibiotics, Ambrx and Sutro, which have developed technologies to create improved antibody drug conjugates, S1 Biopharma, a company advancing a drug for female sexual dysfunction, and CureVac, a company developing mRNA-based therapeutics, as well as others.

Russo Partners is conducting proactive media outreach in preparation of the event to industry focused publications, including those based in Europe.

Feel free to drop us a line if you are planning on attending the conference, and to see the full list of attending companies, click here.

Data on Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Anti IL-6 Antibody, Clazakizumab, Developed by Alder Biopharmaceuticals, to Be Presented at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2013 Annual Meeting

This week, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company announced new data on the investigational anti-IL-6 antibody clazakizumab in adult patients with moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and an inadequate response to methotrexate will be highlighted at the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), taking place from October 25-30 in San Diego, Calif.

This asset was developed by Alder Biopharmaceuticals, and partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2009 in a deal worth $85 million up front and an additional $764 million in potential milestone payments. The therapeutic was developed using Alder’s yeast-based production technology, Mab Xpress, which enables the production of high quantities of antibodies.

Alder’s technology allows this class of therapeutics to enter disease areas that have previously been inaccessible for antibodies, such as migraine and cardiovascular disease.  Alder is advancing an antibody therapeutic developed using this technology, ALD403, which targets the calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and holds promise for treating migraine. This therapeutic is currently in Phase 2 study.

Russo Partners worked with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s communication team to develop news releases and speaking points surrounding this data announcement. Read more about the upcoming data in the news release below.

News release

Avielle’s Carnival Raises Approximately $12,000 for The Avielle Foundation

This weekend in San Diego, The Avielle Foundation hosted Avielle’s Carnival, a family friendly fundraising event featuring circus performers, carnival games, an inflatable slide, face painting, a silent auction, cupcake walks and more. Over 500 people were in attendance, raising approximately $12,000 for the non-profit foundation. The funds raised will be distributed to researchers through the Avielle Foundation’s grants program.

Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman with their daughter Avielle, 6, who was killed last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel with their daughter Avielle, 6, who was killed last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Avielle Foundation is a non-profit focused on raising funds to support brain health research into the causes of violence. Its founders, Jeremy Richman, Ph.D., and Jennifer Hensel, created the foundation after the devastating loss of their six year old daughter, Avielle, in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

Drawing on their scientific backgrounds, Dr. Richman and Ms. Hensel saw a need for brain health research into the underlying drivers of violent behavior, an area of research where still little is known. Once scientists have a better understanding of the biological and environmental factors associated with these pathologies, steps can be taken to prevent violent acts before they occur. This could potential be through therapeutic interventions as well as policies that facilitate counseling and education about warning signs.

Russo Partners secured coverage of Avielle’s Carnival in advance of the event in the form of a front-page article in the U-T San Diego. Read the article below to learn more about the aims of The Avielle Foundation and the story behind its founding.

U-T San Diego

StemCells, Inc. Receives FDA Authorization to Expand Spinal Cord Injury Trial to the United States


Last week, StemCells, Inc. received FDA authorization to expand its spinal cord injury trial to the United States.

The arrival of this Phase 1/2 study, which is currently ongoing in Switzerland and Canada and involves patients with chronic spinal cord injury, will significantly ease the travel burden for North American patients. Early results from the trial have been promising, showing two patients had gains in sensory function, first seen at 6 months and persisting 12 months after transplantation. No safety issues have been seen.

To date, seven patients from Germany, Norway, Italy, Israel, Canada and the United States have been transplanted at Balgrist University Hospital in Zurich. StemCells is now focused on opening up trial sites in the United States. Information about the clinical trial is available at the website of the National Institutes of Health at

Russo Partners secured coverage of the announcement across industry publications, including Scrip, as well as regional publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Business Times. Read more about this announcement in the San Francisco Chronicle article below.

San Francisco Chronicle    

Sutro Biopharma Prepares for Data Presentation at the World ADC Summit

ambrxadcThis year the antibody drug conjugate (ADC) space has taken off like wildfire, with over 30 ADCs now in clinical trials, a number that only continues to grow. Demonstrating this surge of interest, the World ADC Summit will kick off in San Francisco on October 14, featuring leaders in ADC development from more than 40 organizations discussing best practices for designing and developing the optimal ADC.

Sutro BiopharmaTrevor Hallam, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of San Francisco-based Sutro Biopharma, will be presenting data at the conference involving an ADC developed using the company’s cell-free protein synthesis technology, at 11 am PT on Tuesday, October 15 in a presentation titled “Producing Homogeneous ADCs with Combination Warheads”.

Sutro’s technology enables hundreds of protein variants to be created and systematically screened, enabling a best-in-class ADC to be selected and significantly shortening development times. In 2012 Sutro formed a partnership with Celgene to develop ADCs and bispecific antibodies using this technology, worth up to $500 million if all milestones are met.

Russo Partners is handling media outreach surrounding the presentation, and secured coverage of Sutro ahead of the conference with Xconomy. Feel free to let us know if you are planning on attending the conference, and in the meantime you can learn more about Sutro’s technology in the article below.


Russo Partners to Attend the 12th Annual BIO Investor Forum

ImageThis week Russo Partners continued preparations for the 12th annual BIO Investor Forum, to be held October 8-9 in San Francisco. This conference explores new investment trends and opportunities, with a focus on early and mid-stage private as well as emerging public companies that are poised for growth in the coming year.

Several client companies will present at the event, including private firms Ambrx, S1 Biopharma, and public companies Ambit Biosciences, Sernova and ZIOPHARM Oncology.

Russo Partners will be present at the conference, focused on attending client presentations, connecting clients to key members of the biotech industry or investment community for networking purposes as well as other activities.

Feel free to drop us a line if you are also planning on attending the conference, and perhaps we can meet in person. To see the full list of attending companies, click on the list below.

BIO Investor Forum: Attending Companies

Sernova’s Cell Pouch (TM) and Sertolin (TM) Hold Promise for Treating Diabetes

A major advance for the treatment of Type 1 diabetes has been the development of a procedure for transplanting islet cells, which are responsible for producing insulin, called the Edmonton Protocol. However, while this procedure has had success in treating diabetics, it is limited by several factors.

During this procedure many of the islet cells die due to their placement into a harsh environment, which is not ideal as the only current source of these cells are deceased donors, and  their loss potentially results in the need for additional operations. The Edmonton Protocol is also very expensive (approximately $100,000), and patients must take immunosuppressant drugs indefinitely following the procedure.

To overcome these limitations, Sernova has developed a device that provides a natural environment for the islet cells, called a Cell PouchTM. Approximately the size of a matchbook, this device promotes the survival of the islet cells and is placed under the skin in a simple, inexpensive procedure.

In addition, Sernova is also developing a cell therapy that protects the islet cells from destruction by the immune system, called SertolinTM. This enables patients to either reduce or eliminate the use of immunosuppression drugs following their transplant. Combining the Cell Pouch with Sertolin overcomes many of the limitations of the Edmonton Protocol, improving treatment for diabetics.

 Russo Partners has worked to secure coverage of Sernova’s technology across international, national, industry and regional publications. Read more about the company’s approach in the article below from the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Three Tips for Successful Media Relations

We frequently engage with journalists and editors from a variety of publications to discuss best practices for pitching news coverage. While everybody has different likes and dislikes, we find certain strategies can be applied to media outreach in general. Below are three tips for successful media relations discussed that we find extremely effective.

1. Pitch a trend, not a company

One of the best ways to improve the strength of a pitch is to build it around a trend, in contrast to focusing solely on one company and its technology. For example, a hot topic in the biotechnology industry today is antibody drug conjugates, which have taken off like wildfire this year. A strong pitch would center on how the field has matured in the past year, with multiple FDA approvals and a surge of deal making occurring, and then lead into the companies involved.

This approach is in contrast to what is often the first instinct for pitching: discussing the advantages of one company’s product or technology. While this trend-based approach will absolutely take more time, the payoff is enormous, as providing context and background for a journalist is extremely helpful.

2.    Build relationships

A key component to successful pitching is building a relationship with the journalists with whom you are interacting. This includes face-to-face meetings when possible, but also knowing their beat inside and out. The most efficient way to do this is to read, read and then read some more. Before pitching, you should know their area of focus, what they have and have not covered before, the best news hook for coverage (Publication of data? Deal making? Regulatory actions?) and the background of their readers. A physician-read publication will not be interested in the same types of news as a financial publication, and knowing this difference will strengthen your relationship with the media.

This approach also takes time, but provides valuable insights that will enable you to create personalized, highly targeted pitches. And if you can provide a journalist with high-quality, well thought out stories, you are well on your way to building strong relationships with the media.

3. Get to the point

As a rule of thumb, any good pitch should be not more than three to four sentences in length. If you find yourself running over this amount, that may a sign that your pitch needs to be more focused, which will increase its effectiveness as well. In addition, the media landscape is changing, with journalists having more to cover and less time to do so than ever before, leaving less time to read through lengthy pitches. However, this also means that a good, to-the-point pitch will be even more appreciated.

These are many other media best practices that can be discussed beyond these three, but these are good places to start in order to improve your pitches and build a relationship with the media.

Syndax Pharmaceuticals Secures $26.6 Million Series B Financing to Advance Entinostat into Phase 3 Study

Last month, Syndax announced the securing of $26.6 million in Series B financing. Funds from this financing round will be used to advance the company’s lead drug, entinostat, into a pivotal Phase 3 study in patients with metastatic breast cancer, as well as continue development of entinostat in other indications, such as lung cancer.

DNA exists in the nucleus of a cell in compact structures called chromatin which includes the DNA itself and the histones around which the DNA is wrapped. The ability of a given gene to be expressed is partly dependent on whether the DNA is accessible or inaccessible to the gene expression machinery. The accessibility is determined by modifications to the DNA or the histones, i.e. epigenetic modifications which generate a closed, tightly wrapped structure or an open, loosely wrapped structure.

Syndax is developing therapies for treatment-resistant cancers based on epigenetics, which focuses on changing gene expression without affecting the underlying DNA sequence. Investors participating in the financing round included Domain Associates, MPM Capital, Forward Ventures and RusnanoMedInvest (RMI).

In a previous Phase 2 study, entinostat was shown to extend both progression-free survival and overall survival when added to exemestane in postmenopausal women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) metastatic breast cancer whose cancer had progressed after treatment with a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor. This patient population has a high level of unmet need, as few effective treatment options exist.

Russo Partners secured coverage of the news across newswire outlets, including Dow Jones VentureWire; industry publications, including Xconomy, BioWorld Today and The Pink Sheet; as well as regional outlets, including WBZ News Radio 1030 (CBS affiliate).  Read more about the financing in the article below from Xconomy.


The Avielle Foundation, a Non-Profit Focused on Brain Health Research Into the Causes of Violence, Phoenix 999 and a Survivors’ Group Known as The Rebels Project Host the First Annual Brainstorming 5K

Avielle Rose Richman

Avielle Rose Richman, one of twenty-six children and educators tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT

Last week, the Avielle Foundation, a non-profit focused on raising funds to support brain health research into the causes of violence, Phoenix 999 and a survivors’ group known as The Rebels Project hosted the first annual Brainstorming 5K in Littleton, Colo. The event drew close to 500 participants, and aimed to raise community awareness of the need for brain health research into the underpinnings of violent behavior, with prevention as the goal. Funds raised will be distributed to researchers through the Avielle Foundation’s grants program.

The Avielle Foundation | Reducing violence in our communities through brain health initiatives and community development to support and protect vulnerable populations.While we are all too familiar with the tragedies of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine, Aurora and others, we still know little about the underlying drivers of violent behavior. Only once scientists have a better understanding of the biological and environmental factors associated with these pathologies can we then educate healthcare providers, teachers and other community members about identifying and responsibly advocating for those at risk of violent behaviors. Policies that facilitate counseling, education and therapeutic interventions could then be put into practice, potentially preventing acts of violence before they begin.

Prior to the Brainstorming 5K, Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis, Phoenix 999 founder and member of the Columbine class of 1999 Heather Egeland, and Avielle Foundation CEO Jeremy Richman, Ph.D., a former Boulder resident who lost his only daughter, Avielle, in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., met for an informal meeting and tour of the Columbine Memorial. The importance of funding brain health research and potential solutions were discussed during this meeting.

Russo Partners secured coverage of the Avielle Foundation and the Brainstorming 5K, including a segment on the Denver CBS affiliate, KCNC, and radio interview on KOA 850. The Denver ABC affiliate, KMGH, also participated in the briefing at the Columbine Memorial.

Listen to Dr. Richman’s interview with KOA 850 discussing the Avielle Foundation and the Brainstorming 5K in more detail by clicking on the link below.

KOA 850