Posted by: Audrey Erbes | January 4, 2015

Was 2014 Successful for Others than Investors? Plus Events and Jobs

It’s the first weekend of the New Year of 2015 with glowing reports of a successful 2014 for our industry but I’m not feeling totally trusting about the future based on these positive increasing indices, M&A and IPOs on their own. The biotech sector indices performed extremely well for the past three years. “The BioCentury 100 Index, NYSE Arca Biotech Index (BTK) and NASDAQ Biotechnology Index were up 28%, 48% and 34%, respectively, adding to gains of more than 50% in each index in 2013. Since the start of 2012, the BioCentury 100 is up almost 158%, the BTK is up more than 215% and the NBI is up almost 193% based on article in BioCentury, Jan. 5, 2015. I am pleased by the record number of FDA drug approvals in 2014 at 41 vs. 13 in 2013, at the highest level since 1996 with 53 NMEs approved that year. These positive results are the fruition of many years of hard work in our industry—not overnight successes.

But all is not rosy in our industry—yes, for investors and stockholders who have returned to our industry but not for all stakeholders, including patients, payers and professionals who staff our product companies. Just as is true across our economy, the top few percentage professionals get even richer relatively while the middle level is losing income. I’ve been frustrated by the changes in our industry, especially the loss of fairness and concern for the treatment of highly educated, caring professionals who are the “worker bees” creating needed products by the large corporations that seem for the most part so short-term in their thinking for the future. I haven’t seen any analyses on the sharing of the good fortune of the industry with its workers. I’m not worried about the minimum wage for our professionals but rather available positions for them to fill in the future. The destruction of formally fruitful organizations bodes poorly for the future.

We see other success indicators for pharma, biotech and medtech this past year as the window for IPOs widely opened in 2014, with hope for it remaining open into 2015.But I worry about the aftermath with future cutthroat strategies of large company management to increase the profits for their investors and shareholders without thought about their destroying the careers of many of the most needed contributors in the future. I see M&A taken to new level of non-recognition of damage to the industry as innovative companies are shut down, destroying the carefully build cultures and organizations from whence new product development flourished. The cold calculated ROI numbers don’t give importance to what keeps the “golden goose” alive and well. So many new companies appeared on the stage in 2014. Will they thrive and have lasting presence resulting from their learnings or just become a crop for more profit-taking as they are “harvested.”

The continuing low level of investments in early stage/startup companies across all sectors doesn’t bode well for building strong companies that invest in innovation and provide good training and employment opportunities for future industry professionals. Crowd funding is a great new source of capital but it’s not clear if biopharma can develop a drug beyond proof of concept with that source. We used to say that a biotech company never dies, it just reinvents itself to do something else in the field and changes its name. But now the planned obsolescence of companies is the standard operating policy. The “worker bees’ who loved their mission and associated work which contributed to moving science forward and bring great new products to market now see unemployment as the potential outcome of their dedicated, hard work. Can one purchase a house with an uncertain income flow

Gifted young people with whom I’ve spoken are choosing not to pursue advanced science degrees in our field but rather MD, Physician Assistant and/or joint science legal degrees as a result of observing the difficulty in finding long-term employment in our industry. Post docs have become a low paid cadre of workers without much future who are not developed sufficiently and cast aside after 5 years of contribution even if they are successful in moving to industry positons.

Thoughtful young people seek a more promising career and personal life and future of being able to use their skills and knowledge productively and meaningfully. They see the layoffs and shuttering of formerly viable companies to fuel narrowly focused short-term stock gains and ROIs as wasteful and not where they want to be. Our industry is looking more like the larger corporate economy with similarities to the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons of the past and their lack of ethics. Let’s not forget the need to rectify the inequalities for professionals while celebrating the indices and growing wealth of investors. I assure you that the upcoming investor conference presentations in San Francisco during the “JP Morgan Week” Jan. 12-15, 2015 won’t be mentioning strategies to building and maintaining the best R&D and operations staffing.

Highlights for Upcoming Events

I’ve provided highlights of the events for this coming week and included others through April 2015 for which I have information. I’ll be answering questions about the role of BD professionals at the upcoming investor conferences in my talk on Jan. 6.

  • BioCentury This Week, See three new program Webcasts Starting Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, and Dec. 28, 2014, Available anytime starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT; Started Dec. 14, Topic: “Red Flags: Scientific Reproducibility,” Speakers: Dr. Ivan Oransky, Co-Founder, Retraction Watch; Dr. Elizabeth Iorns, Co-Founder and CEO, Science Exchange; Dr. Andrew Marshall, Chief Editor, Nature Biotechnology; Started Dec. 28, 2014, Topic: “Profiles in Innovation: how gene therapy has finally hit its stride,” Speaker: Dr. Elias Zerhouni, president of global R&D at Sanofi
  • Bio2Device Group, Tuesday Morning, Jan. 6, 2015; Topic: Business Development in Life Science: What It Is and How It’s Done, Speaker: Audrey S. Erbes, Ph.D., Principal, Erbes and Associates and I’ll be talking about what BD professionals do at investor meetings like those during” JP Morgan Week” in San Francisco.
  • Medtech Frontiers, Thursday Evening, Jan. 8, 2015, Topic: “Snakebite Antidotes for the Developing World,” Speaker: Dr. Matthew Lewin

You can download Audreys Picks Jan. 4, 2015 with complete details on the above and other meetings and conferences through April 2015 by right clicking on the highlighted titles. Also see JobsThatCrossedMyDeskThrough Jan. 4, 2015 for your information. I list mostly jobs in California posted in the last three weeks but you can also find national listings at the websites mentioned.

Hope you return to the new year ready to enjoy making contributions to improving health care—the mission for which so many of us entered the profession.


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