Biotechnology and the Global Financial Crisis

Emergent biotechnology companies are very reliant on capital, often having less than two years capital on hand. Like other businesses with strong needs for cash, one would expect biotechnology companies to be adversely effected by a dearth of capital.

The biotechnology financial crisis and request for pass-forward tax breaks have been covered elsewhere; I’ve been looking for stories of who can benefit from the credit crunch.

While at the Mid-Atlantic BIO a few weeks ago I met a banker who seemed buoyed by the credit crisis. He said that the current environment is the first time in over a decade that he’s been in a position to make substantial loans to developing biotechnology companies. He explained that the relative abundance of private equity had previously prevented banks from being able to make loans on profitable terms, but with private equity being far less available, and a substantial federal mandate to make loans in sectors other than real estate, made for a very favorable environment. It’s worth noting, however, that I have yet to see clear evidence that banks are moving en mass into biotech loans.

For a second perspective, I posted a query regarding the impact of the financial crisis on businesses to the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology LinkedIn Group. It is important to note that there’s a strong bias here: individuals who have been displaced and moved to other industries are unlikely to respond, and those still in the industry and facing significant challenges are likewise unlikely to share their troubles publicly. With those biases in mind, the messages on the forum suggested mild changes such as suppliers increasing their vigilence on invoice payment, and hesitation among small and medium firms feeling the pressure of the credit crunch.

A group which stands to benefit from the financial crisis is large companies with strong cash flows. The ethical drug market tends to deliver substantial profits, with many drugs grossing more than $1 billion annually. To support future revenues these companies invest double-digit percentages of revenues in R&D; but they don’t have to. So, these profitable companies may be able to attenuate their R&D expenditures to accomodate fundraising challenges, and likewise license/purchase products from cash-starved development-stage firms at bargain rates. This notion is reinforced in the article, “Still Afloat.”

I’d like to expand my informal survey. Use the comments to answer the question: How is the current financial climate affecting your business?

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