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Amazon in Boston? Biotech leaders see a prime opportunity for collaboration

This piece was written by Max Stendahl and published by the Boston Business JournalClick here to read the full article.  

When Boston unveiled its pitch to land Inc.’s second quarters in October, the city’s 218-page proposal made only passing reference to what is perhaps the state’s most successful industry: biotech. Indeed, that word appears just four times in the entire document.

Local industry leaders nonetheless view the sector as a major draw for Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), potentially giving Boston a leg up in the “HQ2” sweepstakes. The company has already signaled its intentions to get into the pharmacy business, and its expertise in data analytics makes it an ideal partner for drug developers that are running clinical trials. Amazon’s voice-controlled Alexa technology also has potential as a personal healthcare aid, at a time when entrepreneurs are increasingly talking about smart devices and “digital therapeutics” that are blurring the line between life sciences and tech.

Amazon, which already has an office in the heart of Kendall Square, could easily broaden its biotech customer base by setting up a second headquarters in the state, according to Greg Dombal, chief operating officer of Boston-based Halloran Consulting Group, which advises life science firms on business strategies and trials. In particular, he views Amazon as an ideal partner for companies looking to aggregate and analyze large troves of clinical data, or to recruit and remotely monitor patients.

“There’s a tremendous value proposition for them,” Dombal said of Amazon. “It’s not uncommon to put out a $50 million (request for proposal) for data analytics in a Phase 3 clinical trial.”

Dombal also raised the possibility that Amazon, with its vast resources and change-the-world mentality, could launch its own drug development arm similar to Google’s Verily.

“We’re only getting older, we’re only getting fatter as a country, and we’re only getting sicker,” he said. “There’s obviously a giant appetite and a giant need, and they’ve got so much potential capability and cash to invest. It would seem like potentially fertile ground.”

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