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Monday, Jul 15, 2024

Two New Magazines Want to Put Some Life Into Business of Bioscience

Two magazines launched in May are claiming to be The Economist of the life sciences industry.

Publishers, including San Diego’s David Gollaher, president and chief executive officer of the California Healthcare Institute, say the two publications fill what has become a gaping hole in journalism surrounding the 30-year-old industry. They say their magazines will put a three-dimensional perspective on bioscience as The Economist magazine has done for financial and political news coverage.

“You could read BioCentury or Nature or Science (magazines),” said Gollaher, who is co-publishing The Journal of Life Sciences with Steve Burrill of life sciences merchant bank Burrill & Co. in San Francisco. “Or The Pink Sheet or The Blue Sheet, but none bring it all together , policy, analysis and context.”

Both the journal and Biotech360, published by The Scientist magazine, distributed their inaugural issues at the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization, or BIO, global conference in Boston last month.

Although much of the print media industry is facing declining circulation, The Scientist Publisher Richard Gallagher said that didn’t have anything to do with The Scientist’s launch of Biotech360.

The Scientist’s print circulation of 65,000 is increasing slowly, Gallagher said. The daily e-newsletter has 70,000 subscribers per day. Based on his research, he expects Biotech360 will reach 30,000 readers to start.

“With every state and international government trying to build a biotechnology sector, there’s a huge, huge amount to be said,” said Gallagher, former publisher at Nature. “Nature Biotechnology is a fabulous magazine, but it’s very focused on the (industry) insider.”

The Journal of Life Sciences, which took a year from conceptualization to the first issue, has advisory boards made up of some local life sciences executives, including Ginger Graham, former CEO at Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Hank Nordoff, CEO at Gen-Probe Inc., Greg Lucier, CEO at Invitrogen Corp., and Peter Farrell, CEO at ResMed Corp.

Farrell said no regular meetings are scheduled for advisers, but said that he could be called upon on an “as-needed basis.”

Focusing On Business

Reading the magazine will be like “sharing information you wouldn’t normally get unless you sat next to someone at dinner and said, ‘Tell me about your business,’ but that’s not an efficient way to find out about others’ business,” Farrell said, adding that he doesn’t think the general public will read the journal since each issue will cost $10.

The journal declined to reveal circulation figures.

Biotech360’s Gallagher said his publication will be more objective than the journal because it doesn’t have to answer to an advisory board of life sciences executives. Meanwhile, the journal’s Gollaher said the intent is “more eclectic,” focused not just on biotech, but on life sciences as a whole , including medical devices.

“We saw an opportunity at the intersection of business and science that no one was covering in a holistic way for high-level readers,” Gollaher said, adding that he and Burrill expect the venture to be profitable, though he declined to say when.

Randall Osborne, West Coast editor for BioWorld, which publishes daily online and in print, said the magazines could be onto something. He said the winner in the niche will have good brand recognition and enough money to “hire someone who knows something about biotech.”

“People in this industry read every sentence,” said Osborne, who has been at BioWorld for 10 years. “There’s three places you could go wrong in every sentence. It’s a combination of understanding science and money.”

Admittedly, he said, a lot of biotech news “is dryly presented,” and that few biotech writers know how to “make it fun to read and informative at the same time.”

The Journal of Life Sciences has 12 full-time staff members and a dozen contract employees, Gollaher said. He projects the magazine will see a 30 percent increase in page count and quality by the second or third issue.

Biotech360 is sharing a staff with The Scientist, Gallagher said.

Notably, included on the Journal of Life Sciences’ advisory board is Brook Beyers, a partner in the well-known venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Beyers, which backed Google, among other high-profile startups in Silicon Valley.

Both of the new publications said they didn’t believe they had a direct competitor, but both compared their ideal image to that of The Economist.

“It’s clear that the life sciences industry has not only matured, but that people in industries once removed are seeing how important it is, and that it is a major driver more than just 12 years ago,” Gollaher said. “It’s hard to imagine stem cells being part of a U.S. presidential debate until now.”


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