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Finally able to see the forest
In early August, I had the fortune to attend the Drug Discovery Technology and Development (DDT) 2005 conference, the 10th such conference to grace Boston. This was my fourth DDT conference in the last six years and although I can't offer a detailed analysis of the show in this short space, I can say that there definitely seems to have been a significant shift in the marketplace—or more appropriately, the players—over the last few years.
This shift is perhaps best exemplified by the changes I witnessed on the show's exhibit floor. No longer simply a place for the big instrument powerhouses to strut their collective stuff, practically swamping the messages of their smaller neighbors in the 10-by-10 booths, DDT has become a platform for an ever-increasing diversity of companies with a litany of small-cap companies making their presence known in fields such as analytical software, contract research, and specialty therapeutics.
No longer content to hide in or be swallowed by the shadows of the instrumentation and discovery giants, the new growth in the drug discovery arena is stretching its foliage to reach the sunlight. Where once small-cap players were only viewed as niche participants in the field, they are now seen as vital sources of innovation, complementing and supplementing the offerings of the instrument and discovery redwoods that surround them.
Where once small upstarts would be acquired or crushed by their larger brethren, they are now being viewed as viable partners for the development of specialist products or services, expanding the market shares of both partners without dramatically increasing the risks associated with new ventures. The perfect example of this is the collaboration of Silicon Graphics Inc. and Nallatech to develop high-performance computing solutions based on FPGA technologies; a story featured on the front page of the August 2005 issue of DDN (and below).
In this way, DDT2005 was very much a bellwether of the re-invigoration of the small-cap community and was therefore very much a positive sign of the industry growth we can expect in the future.
Randall C Willis