Monday, January 11, 2010

'Big Pharma' feed biotech startups record funds

The biotech industry raised a record $55.8 billion in 2009 despite hesitant stock and venture capital markets, as drug-company partnerships fed the cash-burning startups that develop new therapies.

That represents a jump of 85 percent over the $30.1 billion recorded in 2008, according to Steve Burrill, whose San Francisco firm Burrill & Co. is both an industry investor and analyst.

He said the 2009 results were driven by $37 billion in financial partnerships through which large drug companies license technologies or experimental remedies from biotech startups, a dynamic that enabled many small firms to survive a tough year. But it may ultimately limit their growth if they were forced to cede control over their most promising developments.

"You're not going to grow a lot more Genentechs or Amgens," Burrill said, painting a picture of a biotech industry that is increasingly the farm team that develops remedies that will ultimately be licensed and sold by the major league drug companies, also known as "Big Pharma."

That's the snapshot of the industry that emerges as 6,500 scientists, executives and financiers converge on San Francisco this week for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.


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