Biogen – an uncertain future

It’s not easy being a pharma. Biogen knows this well. Founded in 1978 in Geneva by a group of prominent scientists which include Nobel prize winners, Walter Gilbert and Philip Sharp, Biogen’s history has been filled with various ups and downs.

Currently, it’s not doing so hot for the following reasons:

  • Sales of its oral multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Tecfidera that used to draw in large revenues in 2014 have plateaued. Up to 4 cases of PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), a rare and serious brain infection caused by a virus, have been reported with its use which probably explains why patients are not snapping it up.
  • Its other MS drugs (Avonex and Tysabri) have declining sales as other safer and better treatments are available.
  • It’s new drug opicinumab for multiple sclerosis (MS) failed a Phase 2 study in June, though they are not quite giving up on it yet.
  • It’s sold off its hemophilia drug business which used to provide pretty decent revenues.
  • It’s banking on a risky Alzheimer’s drug, currently in clinical trials, whose results have been mixed.
  • It’s closed down a manufacturing plant in Cambridge, and is reducing its workforce by 11% or possibly more.

And now its CEO, George Scangos will be stepping down. Investors are keen to see what’s next for Biogen which will likely involve some M&A.



How important is your Start-up’s website?

We have reached the age where internet trumps TV (proof: I do not even own a TV) and as such, having a website is essential for any business. For those who would seek to disagree, let’s look at the statistics. A study carried out by Adobe in 2015 on an n number of 2, 008 consumers aged 18 and above in the US reported that consumers use an average of 6 devices and consume 12 sources of content. The most popular source of content by Millennials (1983-2000) and Gen X (1960-1984) is online search engines, with only the Baby Boomers (1946-1964) relying on TV as their primary source.

Being faced with massive amounts of information in all its forms, many of us often lead rather distracted lives (though only 40% admitted to this in the survey). Just think about how long you spent on a single website before moving on to something else or returning to browsing your endlessly exciting Facebook feed. Not suprisingly, to cut through the noise, things that capture our attention tend to be of high entertainment/aesthetic value. Accuracy, on the other hand, is losing its importance (just look at the Brexit voting campaign for further convincing evidence), with 58% of Millennials spreading content without fact-checking. Across all ages, majority crave content that is beautifully designed as opposed to plain when given only 15 minutes to consume said media. That said, what key things should your website have that would not chase your potential customers away?

Makings of a good website:

  • Fast load time: Up to 40% of consumers will stop engaging if a page takes too long to load or if images do not load.
  • Short, listed content: Up to 40% of consumers stop engaging if content is too long. Furthermore, 70% of people look at lists with bullet points while only 55% look at lists without (add them bullets!)
  • Attractive design: Up to 40% of consumers stop engaging if the page is too ugly! Sites with dark colour schemes, using green/blue tend to show better growth. Interestingly, sites that use red report negative growth! Good website design also leads to better trust. More trust is garnered when using links to media coverage, logos of well-reputed clients and showcasing social media followers while avoiding stock photography and pre-made templates. See here for infographic.
  • Compatibility on all devices: 25% of consumers stop engaging if the page does not display well on chosen device. And note that for Millennials, their smartphone is the top device used on a daily basis. Having smartphone compatibility also boosts your search ratings on Google.
  • Clear contact information: 44% of consumers will stop engaging if contact information is absent or not clearly visible on the website. Source.
  • Clear calls-to-action: The website exists for several purposes. To let the consumer learn more about your product/service, to allow for them to easily purchase it, and to let them know how to contact you. Make sure these actions can be easily found and not hidden on your website.
  • Incorporating video: 66% of consumers rather watch videos on breaking news as opposed to reading an article.

What if you do not have the money to employ an amazing graphic/web designer? I highly recommend using 99designs:

It’s a nifty platform that allows you to hold a contest (with contest types ranging widely from webdesign, graphic illustration, logos etc.) where designers from all over the world submit their designs to compete for a cash reward. You would basically have to choose the package you want – bronze, silver, gold, platinum – which corresponds to number of designs you would receive and quality of designers involved. For web designs, a bronze package requires 549 Euros.

The quality of web design can still be good with a bronze package, it really depends on your brief (i.e. how you describe your project), and how much effort you want to put in to advertise your contest. With a clear, inspiring brief, consistent and positive feedback and motivation, and extra efforts to invite good designers to join your contest, I was able to get many excellent designs for a contest I created. It may take a bit of time to give the feedback so hold the contest when you have sufficient time. The more feedback you give (and make sure its consistent feedback), the better the designers understand what you want and oftentimes they are very keen to create many designs for you. It’s great design on a budget and also lets you get to know many good graphic designers. Furthermore, there’s a money-back guarantee if you are not happy with the designs. But I found that guaranteeing the prize money often increased the number of entries, but only do this when you’re confident you’re likely going to be using them.

Of course, even with the perfect website, there are still many things that influence traffic to your site. Things like search engine optimization, social media, advertising, etc. But I shall cover these topics on a separate post. To receive updates once a new entry is written, click Follow on the right! 😉


Letter to the readers

To those who read this and to those who have actually given me feedback on this blog, I just wanted to say thank you. Although I started this blog primarily for myself, I’ve gotten great satisfaction knowing some articles were enjoyed and found useful by you. I want to focus more on this – bringing value to the readers. I know I have been slipping on my posting frequency quite a bit due to work being rather hectic but its time to buckle down and be more “German” (i.e. punctual) in my updating schedule. As such, some posts may not be as long as before, but you may find frequency of posting to be higher (hopefully).

I strongly urge you to subscribe to this blog so you can follow the latest updates. I will be sectioning posts into Research, Industry, Career, and Start-up. These four topics cover the range of my interest and hopefully yours – namely new/interesting research findings, latest industry trends/news, guidance/tips for planning a career in science, and now more posts on start-ups (what’s involved – from start to finish) since I am working in one and loving every minute!

If you have any particular topic you would like me to write about, I would love to hear about it. Simply post it in the comments section or drop me an email. We now live in a super-connected, highly-interactive, rapidly-responsive world and things will only get better with feedback, so fire away. Thanks and stay tuned for more posts.