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Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Brian Burr has developed a specialty in helping small biotech concerns with the kinds of key transactions that typically lead to growth. Burr, who is based in Orrick’s Silicon Valley office, has represented big pharmaceutical companies in the past, but he said he prefers the small biotech companies. With a smaller startup, he says, he can delve into the company’s strategy and feel more like part of the team. “They have the attention of senior management,” Burr said. “And you can make a bigger difference.” His most recent deal, announced Jan. 21, was for Iconix Pharmaceuticals Inc. He’s represented the Mountain View-based biotech company in past deals but none that brought revenue into the company. In the recent transaction, Iconix licensed its genomics technology to two big drug makers for about $50 million over four years. The deal helps to validate the company’s strategy, Burr said. “This is the kind of deal that makes a young company take off because they generate revenue.” In an e-mail, Burr explained, “I refer to these as make-the-company deals because these are the deals that separate the winners from the also-rans in Silicon Valley. To me, the earliest and most interesting indicator of a startup’s success is when the company attracts paying customers in major deals.” Burr said the Iconix deal signals that good things may be on the horizon for similar companies that market technology used for further research. The transaction suggests that big pharmaceutical companies may be ready to spend money again on so-called platform technology, Burr said. “One the one hand, [the deals] are important to the company,” Burr said. “On the other hand, they might signal that pharmaceutical companies are willing to spend money on research technology.” Large drug makers are key financing sources for biotechnology companies because they license products still in development, effectively funding the research. Burr’s biotech work has been picking up over the last year. He’s spending about half his time with such clients even though biotech companies comprise about one-third of his client base. “We saw a lot of financings last year and that has enabled a lot of young companies to finalize a product and get their products ready for launch,” Burr said. “That will increase deal flow.”

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