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This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 24,
1999. All rights reserved.
Biotechs Explained: Gordon Ramseier
by Barbara Fox
How to evaluate a biotech before you invest in it: Find
out whether it has its own products in the pipeline or makes a tool
kit for others to find products.
"The reasonably smart wisdom is that the selling of services or
tools creates a less sustainable and less profitable volume business
than developing drugs," says Gordon Ramseier, a consultant
with the Sage Group in Bridgewater. "It is less risky to develop
a drug-finding tool, such as a genetically engineered mouse or a
library, but it will not take the lion’s share of the profit when
the drug goes on the market."
Ramseier joins Robert S. Esposito of KPMG for their annual
on the state of the biotech business given to the Biotechnology
of New Jersey. This year the meeting location will be an additional
incentive to attend, because it is set for Jasna Polana, the elegant
golf club that used to be the Johnson estate, on Wednesday, December
1, at 4:30 p.m. The title of the report is "The Rationale for
Strategic Consolidation Among Small and Microcap Biotech
Industry awards will also be presented as part of this holiday gala.
The entrance fee (this is too posh an event to call it a ticket price)
is $155. Call 609-890-3185.
Some companies, Ramseier says, are hybrids of the two types.
and maintains a library, but it is also doing its own drug discovery.
engineered mouse that can be considered a "tool kit" for
drugs, but it also has its own drugs in the pipeline. Ramseier
the value of Medarex will be largely generated by discovering drugs
because drugs that get through the pipeline and come on the market
are the real income producers.
sudden frenzy of excitement over Celgene, a Warren-based firm that
was selling at $9 last year and was over $50 at press time. "What
makes the difference? They launched products, and now they look like
a company with a pipeline of products," says Ramseier.
now has a product to treat hepatitis. "The market woke up. Of
all the public biotechs in New Jersey on our list, Enzon has the
market cap of any, over $1 billion," he says. (The market cap
is the value of the company based on the number of shares outstanding
times the stock price.)
and that any investment in a New Jersey biotech should be considered
a risky one. "Because of a single event, perhaps a delay from
the FDA, you can see their value change 40 percent in one day. We
don’t have any public biotechs of the size of Amgen or Biogen, which
can more easily absorb a single bad event."
Ramseier is one of the Sage Group’s six healthcare strategy
who work with companies directly and also with venture capitalists
and other investors (http://www.sagehealthcare.com). Each has
run a small or emerging biotech/biomedical company at least once.
A chemistry major at Washington & Lee, Class of 1966, with an MBA
from Dartmouth’s Tuck School, Ramseier had been CEO of two firms —
a California firm now known as Dura Pharmaceuticals, and a Minnesota
firm, OncoTherapeutics, which he moved to New Jersey and is now known
as Biomira and located on Eastpark Boulevard. He left Oncotherapeutics
"We consult to our clients based on our collective experience
of how to make companies succeed. We put them in contact with the
right people, introduce them to venture capitalists, and help small
companies put together deals with larger companies," says
Last summer he did a deal between a New Jersey-based Korean
company and OMP (Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals).
Three of the group’s consultants have backgrounds in
and drugs and the other three focus on medical devices and
"Each of us has certain contacts so in one company one of us is
going to be the best guy to call. Business developers in big companies
have desks piled high and a difficult time triaging everything. If
we call they tend to give some credence to what we are calling about,
that they should at least look at it."
Venture capitalists call the Sage Group when they perceive that one
of their portfolio companies has a problem — perhaps to get a
deal done or license a product quickly before the money runs out.
"We can add horsepower to an effort," says Ramseier. "In
some cases a company has rudimentary capabilities for business
and for doing deals with larger companies. In other cases they have
quite capable people and can do a lot themselves. Where we can be
helpful is broadening the contacts of the company. It is almost
that at whatever rate they are doing their business development, we
can accelerate it. We know the people at the other end of the
In order to retain credibility, consultants must be selective about
the clients they work with. "We couldn’t sell a pig in a
— Barbara Figge Fox
Valley National Bank is first and Fleet Bank in New
Jersey is second in the state in the number of Small Business
loan approvals made this year. Prizes were handed out at the
Hilton earlier this month.
Valley National and Fleet Bank received Diamond and Gold awards
for approving 100 or more SBA loans. Commerce Bank — which
opened a branch on Route 33 — won a silver award for approving
93 loans. In the bronze category, for 40 to 74 loans approved, were
PNC Bank, First Union National Bank, and Summit Bank, among others.
Summit approved $13.8 million in loans.
Amboy National Bank (which has branches in Rocky Hill and Hopewell)
won a special award for what is known as the 504 Loan Program. Fleet,
Valley National, and PNC Bank were in the top 10 lenders to
Of the $32.3 million loaned by Valley National, $8 million went to
minorities in 40 loans. Of the $8.3 million that Fleet loaned overall,
$3 million went to minorities in 47 loans.
"These lenders are vital to SBA’s Guaranty Loan Program and the
growth of the New Jersey small business economy," says
A. Marrero, noting a record year of lending in 1999 — 1,572
loans for $395.5 million. To inquire about the possibility of an SBA
loan, call Harry Menta at 973-645-6064.
Women are philanthropists by nature, but just how
they are we are only beginning to find out. The National Foundation
of Women Business Owners recently released the findings of a Merrill
Lynch study that shows that today’s accomplished women entrepreneurs
and executives make their choices about charitable donations on their
own (without outside input from husbands, etc.) and nearly half of
them do it to the tune of $25,000 annually. All this is noteworthy
information for fundraisers and development people.
The Merrill Lynch study was based on a survey of the Committee of
200, an organization of business women who own companies that have
revenues in excess of $15 million, or manage divisions of U.S.
generating a minimum of $100 million each year.
Smart business women are looking for organizations that are also
savvy, the report says, although women want to support the issues
they care about. Education-related organizations were overwhelmingly
(51 percent) popular among women philanthropists, with women’s
(42 percent) and arts organizations (41 percent) closely following.
However, the women surveyed said that fundraisers need to alter their
approach to get the best results:
philanthropic organizations. Forty-two percent felt that the way they
were approached was a moderate to significant barrier to their giving.
but not women. One out of every four women interviewed said that they
do not believe they are taken as seriously by philanthropic
as their male counterparts.
fact, 40 percent surveyed said they don’t want to be recognized, and
19 percent said they would like to be recognized only with other
— no matter what the level of giving.
for their name on a building, generally speaking. Rather, they prefer
to know that they gave back to the community and can help make a
future for everyone.
Steve Forbes, Donald Trump
Perot — three icons of the American Dream — have each run
political campaigns on the premise that their business know-how would
prevail where political experience is lacking. But what if the rules
of government and the rules of business are different?
At the municipal level, the rules are very different, says Gregory
Fehrenbach, who oversees a budget of $32 million as the chief
for Piscataway Township. "In business, if the law doesn’t prohibit
it, it is permitted, but in municipal government, it’s just the
— if it’s not permitted in the law it is prohibited," he says.
"You have to know the rules of the game before you start playing
the game and it takes a long time to learn the rules — years and
With 30 years of government service under his belt in the "second
most regulated state in the nation," Fehrenbach feels he knows
those rules well — well enough to teach them to newly elected
officials as part of the municipal government certificate program
offered by the Rutgers Center for Government Service. Fehrenbach
the five-session primer course, "The Power and Duties of the
Government," beginning on Thursday, December 2, at Civic Square
(Livingston Avenue and New Street) from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Other
cover municipal finance, planning and zoning, labor relations, public
relations, ethics, budgeting, public purchasing, taxes, and meetings,
and they are offered in various counties in the state. Call
The courses are designed to show freshman politicians the ropes, but
they can also help experienced politicians (and concerned citizens)
do their jobs better. "People who have been in office two or three
years say I wish I took this class," he says.
The first thing that most freshman politicians are shocked to learn
is that, no matter what size the budget, almost all of it is spent
before they even take office, says Fehrenbach, who holds a BA in
and economics from Kings College, Class of 1969, and a graduate degree
in public administration from the University of Wisconsin. "When
you look at a municipal budget for $20 million, you’re going to find
that the amount of that budget that is discretionary, that is not
committed to something already by the law, is only a couple of hundred
thousand, a small percent," he says. The money is largely
by state agencies that "that regulate almost everything that
do, whether it’s the conduct of meetings, police operations, or
Sound insidious? Only Massachusetts is more regulated than New Jersey,
Fehrenbach says. But he doesn’t want to scare away enthusiastic,
individuals who want to make a difference: "The purpose of this
class is not to throw a wet blanket on that desire to make things
better for their community," he says. "As things have become
more technical and more complicated, these courses can provide an
appropriate introduction. It’s a minor baptism before they go into
the actual job on January 1."
Asian Assets Direct is a new niche newsletter provided
by Straube Center-based VertiNews.com. Tim Shorrock, the
managing editor of the Internet-based newsletter, will concentrate
on what he terms Asia’s biggest economic story — the sale to
investors of billions of dollars in assets and non-performing loans
in South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan. Correspondents are
located in Bangkok, Seoul, Jakarta, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York.
"As the financial crisis eases, U.S. and European banks and
are working behind the scenes, making deals with government-run asset
management companies, and, for the first time, taking control of Asian
banks and corporations," says Shorrock. "Investors will find
materials here they will not find anywhere else."
Founded by Dow Jones expatriates, VertiNews.com aims to cover,
and deliver news and research information for professionals (U.S.
1, July 7). Its first vertical service was Commercial Real Estate
Both websites are structured so that the front page can cover as much
material as possible. Nearly two dozen headlines from other news
are clickable in one column, and several major stories written by
VertiNews reporters are in another column. The third column offers
a limited search engine (no search by key word is available), regional
reports, and day-by-day headline summaries.
For instance, recent offerings on the Commercial Real Estate site
range from an Associated Press story about a burned-out Philadelphia
skyscraper that is being demolished to a Boston-based fund that has
raised $195 million to invest in REITs and real estate operating
On the Asian page, correspondents discuss how a United States fund
is investing in a state-run bank in Korea, how a Thai group is
creditors over management control of a conglomerate, and how cell
phone companies in Korea are a big hit with foreign investors.
Would-be subscribers can get a free 30-day trial at
New this year is a winter session at Rutgers, a
intensive schedule offering 27 undergraduate and graduate courses.
Register without a late fee by December 3 and take class from December
23 to January 24.
Courses will include foreign language, American culture, an institute
on topics in special education — and a field study of coral reefs
and marine life in the Cayman Islands. Both traditional classroom
study and distance-learning activities via the Internet will be used.
Registration is available at
"If feedback from students and faculty is favorable, Winter
may become a permanent option at Rutgers," says Richard
executive director of continuous education and distance learning.
The Huntington’s Disease Society of America is
selling its "2000 Entertainment Book," a county-specific book
of coupons for everything from pizza to fine dining, laundry to
The books, which make good gifts for the holidays, cost $30. The
is also selling Amaryllis bulbs at $10 each. Proceeds support research
and services for people with Huntington’s, a heritages terminal
for which there is no cure. Call 609-448-3500.
The League of Women Voters in Princeton is collecting holiday
gifts for WomanSpace, the organization that helps protect women and
children from abuse, as it has done for the past 26 years. The wish
list includes children’s toys, women’s garments, and gift
New and unwrapped gifts should be delivered by Friday, December 17,
at Weichert Realtors on 350 Nassau Street. Call 609-921-1900.
The New Jersey Community Loan Fund is raising money by selling
tickets for the Friday, December 17, performance of "Play On!"
at Crossroads Theater. Tickets start at $250 (for two) and go to $600
(for six). Call 609-989-7766.
Nominations are being accepted by the American Institute
of Certified Public Accountants for the second annual Business &
Hall of Fame Awards. The award honors who have "insight and
and demonstrate leadership, commitment, and strategic management
necessary to meet the challenges of the new economy.
Nominations can be completed online at
and must be in before December 31. call 212-596-6157.
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This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.