Friday, May 18, 2012

Intrexon In-trouble?

Ever used Google Alerts? They're a great way to keep tabs on interesting companies without the press appeal of, say, Apple or Pfizer. One such company that I follow is Intrexon - a company that aims to be to synthetic biology what Microsoft or Google are to software or the internet - broad, dominant, and in certain regards the 800-pound gorilla of the sector.

Usually my Intrexon alerts are full of Halozyme and Ziopharm references - they're small-cap partners of Intrexon and never shy about touting their connection to Intrexon and RJ Kirk. This weeks' alert, though, linked to a message board post from an Intrexon employee who's position was being eliminated in a bad way. Not a huge deal, but it did prompt me to check the Intrexon management page and some LinkedIn connections. Turns out  there's been leadership turnover and layoffs at the extremely well funded company. At least two long-term leaders at the company have been booted (COO who was formerly CEO, and the head of the AgBio division), and the number of open positions on their career page has been reduced to a trickle.

Intrexon is highly secretive, so what has happened will probably never reach the press. I'll guess, though, that somebody realized that a time-out was necessary since 1) the company probably has/had a seven-digit monthly burn rate, while intentionally foregoing revenues, and that 2) the company's core technology is over a decade old. Other guesses might be that an expected partnership didn't materialize, or, possibly the Prometheus, Myriad, and other legal cases prompted doubt over whether Intrexon's synthetic biology IP strategy was defensible.

One other possibility: the realization has taken hold that synthetic biology is just a new name for cool(er) genetic engineering, and that a category-killer company in this segment just isn't in demand.

1 comment:

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