Biotech and Pharma

Responsibility to find cures, but they don't come cheap, pharma CEO says

Fmr. Onyx CEO: Responsibility to find and research cures doesn't come cheap

President Donald Trump is pushing drugmakers to lower prices and manufacture in the United States, but one CEO told CNBC on Tuesday the business is "complicated."

"Finding new cures and innovating for diseases that we've not been able to treat is hard business," Yumanity Therapeutics CEO Tony Coles said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

"We've got a commitment and responsibility to find these cures, but they don't come cheap and the research certainly doesn't come cheap," he added.

Trump met with leading pharmaceutical CEOs at the White House on Tuesday, telling them, "We have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation and I want you to move your companies back to the United States. I want you to manufacture in the United States."

He also told them he wants to make it easier for pharmaceutical companies to win regulatory approval for their products.

"You're going to get your prices either approved, or not approved," the president said. "But it's going to be a quick process. It's not going to take 15 years."

Coles, who is also the former CEO of Onyx, said while he has to see the details, he believes there are things Trump can do to make it easier for drugmakers to compete effectively in the U.S.

"One of the things we need is regulatory reform and a real focus on the corporate tax rate and the ability to repatriate dollars. Each one of these are important sources for investment for our businesses," he said.

'It's not all that bad'

Not all bad news with Trump pharma meeting?

Despite talk about lowering prices and moving manufacturing to the U.S., the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF ended almost 3 percent higher on Tuesday.

That's because the uncertainty about what could happen with Trump's new policies has already been priced into the sector, said Michael Yee, biotech analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Therefore, stocks rallied because "it's not all that bad today," he pointed out.

"We talked about innovation and we talked about speeding drugs to market and lower regulatory requirements and bureaucracy," he told "Closing Bell."

"Lowering taxes and lowering the regulations is going to speed innovation and improve profitability," he added.

When it comes to drug prices, Yee pointed out that there is a difference between companies that hike prices by 50 percent or 100 percent and those that increase the cost by single digits.

"There are situations where the innovative companies — pro-innovation companies — are responsible and that these prices do represent value," Yee said.

— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.