A Rise For Biopharma In The Fall?


'Tis the season for biopharma investor conferences.

Today is the 16th annual "Newsmakers in Biotech" event put on by Thomson Reuters and BioCentury.

Analysts and investors come to hear formal 30-minute presentations by biopharma execs and then pepper them with questions at 30-minute breakout sessions that follow.

I assumed that because it's been a pretty tough year for cash-starved baby biotechs that there would be fewer presenting companies this year. I was wrong. Organizers say there are three more companies here than last year and there would have been even more if a handful didn't pull out in the last couple weeks.

For example, Arena Pharmaceuticals canceled because it has key data coming out soon on its late-stage experimental diet drug. The other two biopharmas in the final phase of weightloss pill development, though, Orexigen and Vivus, are here.

Organizers also say attendance is comparable to last year.

This conference features smaller companies, but JPMorgan biotech analyst Geoffrey Meacham today turned bullish on big biotech, especially Amgen and Celgene. He cited stock prices, healthcare reform not being as onerous as some had feared and upcoming catalysts among his reasons for getting positive about a strong year-end finish.


As for the overall biopharma sector, Thomson Reuters told the crowd here that the stocks of the companies presenting today are collectively up 93 percent so far this year. And the median gain is 75 percent.

According to TR, the 39 companies have also raised $1.2 billion so far this year. For the full year 2008, the whole sector (not the 39 companies, but the whole sector) raised $1.9 billion.

There's even an $800 million biotech IPO on the docket.

Last year during the credit crisis everyone wanted to know how much cash each company had. How long could they survive? Today, with access to cash being much less of a concern, organizers say investors are returning their attention to product pipelines. In biopharma that's where the focus should be.

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