Is lack of investment the biggest concern for the biotech industry?
Tim Mitchell, CEO, Sareum, an AIM listed biotech, spoke to me about his fears for the UK biotech industry. What he had to say was quite revealing.
Understanding the investment challenge
Here’s an excerpt from the interview I conducted with Tim:
B&M: What about the biotech industry as a whole concerns you the most?
Tim: It’s got to be the lack of investment – certainly in the UK. It’s the number one headache. The demand from pharma is very healthy - larger proportions of their pipelines are taken from external sources and that’s great for biotech. There are plenty of big pharma buyouts of small companies and that’s also good, but it’s finding the money to get to the stage where pharma are really interested that’s the challenge.
Getting to this stage and crossing the ‘valley of death’ – the gap that usually appears in funding before pharma gets interested – has come up time and time again in my conversations with Biotech CEO’s and I believe it is going to be our ability to address this challenge that will ultimately prove if the biotech industry in the UK will thrive or just survive in the years to come.
So, how do we address the lack of investment?
I also posed this question to Tim, to see where he felt action could be taken:
B&M: Who needs to step up to solve the lack of investment issue?
Tim: The micro cap institutions or the venture arms of the pharmas. There is a perception from the pharma venture arms that there is nothing we can do that they can’t do in-house that can be a barrier there
Interestingly, when I asked him about the government’s role, he was very approving:
B&M: What about the government?
Tim: I don’t think it’s a bad environment from that point of view. Tax credits are great, TSB Biomedical Catalyst is a great scheme – I don’t think government is neglecting us, let’s put it that way.
In general, the government comes in for a lot of praise from every biotech CEO I’ve met in the UK – although there are obviously some reservations. However, that’s a topic for another day.