Wednesday 9 March 2011

A view on: Life Sciences

We are about to welcome a new Abchap into the fold. He is a Life Science specialist and will be joining Abchurch as a Director. So why are we strengthening our Life Sciences team when the sector has struggled for so long? His viewpoint is that Life sciences is coming out of hibernation; “the London and European markets have seen an increase in life sciences financings over recent months and there is also strong and deep venture financing available for the correct companies.” It is certainly true that there has been an increase in interesting medical device companies and small biotechs coming through our doors. The gap that big Pharma is creating by dismantling non-essential internal R&D capabilities is ready to be filled by innovative, nimble companies with unique and interesting products. These are the types of companies that we like to work with.

According to a report in today's Times, the UK has a thriving life sciences industry, with four out of the top six universities in the sector in the UK. 10% of global pharmaceutical spend is in Britain and our academics are second only to the US in publishing research in the field. While we are one of the smallest nations in the EU, two fifths of European biotechs are based here. This success, Ian King notes, is down to close collaboration between industry, academia, the health service and the Government. There is a nod to the City, which has provided finance for industry and encouraged academia to understand the value in its IP and commercialise it. In the past ten years alone, more than 200 companies have been successfully spun out of bioscience departments in the UK, generating revenues of over a billion pounds.

Recently a journalist asked one of our clients – a spin out itself – “why wouldn’t a Pharma company just buy you? It would be cheaper for them in the long run than licensing your products.” And our client replied quite simply that they would be swallowed up; the innovation, the ability to quickly pursue interesting projects, the speed at which R&D can take place in a small, focussed company, would simply be lost and the big companies recognise this. It’s a view that more than one client has expressed and makes it increasingly attractive for the giants to partner with smaller companies to take advantage of their agility. It’s attractive to the small companies too, giving them sales clout and the financial ability to continue to develop their products and technologies, both of which can be extremely costly.
With so much promise, it seems to me a little unfair that Life Sciences has had such a hard time in recent years. Healthcare is – technically – a defensive industry and with advances in the field – from drug discovery and development, to devices and analytical technology – moving as fast as they are, it seems that good communications in the sector are just what the doctor ordered.


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