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Under the spotlight: International Life Sciences is the asset of choice

13 Sep 2021

The Covid-19 global pandemic has pushed health and transmissible disease into the public consciousness like this generation has never seen before. Governments around the world acted to impose stringent measures that ultimately restricted us in almost every way imaginable.

Our working life, commuting journeys, shopping, leisure activities, travel, cultural events and even meeting our family and loved ones were largely prohibited.

Globally, the public endured lockdowns and watched the number of infections and unfortunately mortality rates climb. It quickly became clear that the only guarantee of a safe and sustainable route out of the pandemic was a vaccine.

The global scientific community quickly formed international collectives to address this need. Not because of the opportunity that this could have presented for huge financial gain in monopolising a vaccine, but to bring the world back to some assemblance of safety and normality, even if it was to be a new normal.

Supply and demand for life sciences – reacting to increased consumer needs

There is a natural correlation between increased diagnosis of COVID-19, with the need to treat, or be vaccinated. As such, Biotech companies have been triggered into accelerating traditional timescales to accommodate these demands – albeit thanks in part to the advancements over the past ten years in core areas of R&D which are heavily relied upon to develop treatments.

This heightened demand and innovative development of vaccines has seen the re-focus, and subsequent refinement of the core science observed across the biotech industry – emphasised in the emergence of mRNA technology – a concept which has been around for decades, brought to the forefront of the pandemic resistance.

This is opening up its potential application across oncology, genetic disorders and infectious disease, making the investment opportunities grow exponentially.

Biotech deal activity: steep rises driven by COVID-19 response

Investors have already been quick to act: 


Prequin Pro - Bar chart

Source: Preqin Pro

In total, biopharma companies signed over 1,000 alliances in 2020, with one in five related to COVID-19 assets. $130bn was exchanged in M&A activities in the sector, while overall financing for the year steadily increased quarter-on-quarter for a total of over $140bn.

Note: Deals involving more than one asset or therapy area may be counted multiple times; cumulative percentages will therefore exceed 100%

*Includes allergy, dermatology, ENT/dental, gastroenterology, hematology, obstetrics/gynecology, orthopedics, renal, rheumatology and urology.

Source: Biomedtracker, February 2021 cited in Pharma Intelligence, Informa, 2020 Deal-Making Roundup (2021)

Source: Biomedtracker, February 2021 cited in Pharma Intelligence, Informa, 2020 Deal-Making Roundup (2021)

The future of Biotech investment – what can be expected?

One noticeable observation from the past eighteen months is the increased investment attention the sector has received from non-healthcare investors looking to make initial steps into Life Sciences. Globally, Life Sciences accounts for less than 4% AUM for private equity funds, but this is expected to increase though investment in the Biotech space.

Some commentators have commented that the pandemic has shone a light on MedTech and other Digital Healthcare solutions as organisations look at alternative strategies away from the over-saturated solution space – COVID vaccines; rapid diagnostic tests or similar – to focus on the healthcare systems.

This includes rectifying delayed elective surgeries and procedures; as well as the role of the “digital GP” – telemedicine will play a big role. Babylon Health’s £2.9bn merger with Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp., announced in June 2021 is an early indicator of the investment appetite for digital health.

Between January 2020 and January 2021, the average share price for European and US biotechs increased at more than twice the rate of the S&P 500. Overall, biotech is outperforming its sister industry, pharmaceuticals, as well as many household-name consumer-goods and technology companies.

The number of assets transitioning to clinical phases is still rising, and further waves of innovation are on the horizon, driven by the convergence of biological and technological advances. In further data supplied by McKinsey, Phase I and Phase II assets have transitioned 50 percent faster since 2018 than between 2013 and 2018, whereas Phase III assets have maintained much the same pace.

Staffing observations

The demand for talent in the Medical Device, Pharma and Biotech industries has returned to pre-Pandemic levels. At the same time, it has become even more difficult to entice away qualified candidates from their current positions. Considering the overall climate of uncertainty, including massive job losses and economic volatility, employees are extremely cautious about making a move.

Attracting top talent has never been as challenging as it is now. Not only do Life Sciences businesses want the highly specialised skills and experience required before the Pandemic, but they are also looking for the additional skills that have been identified for success in the post-Covid workplace: strong communication, ease with technology and a flexible, adaptable approach to their work.

Employers resorting to using job boards are overwhelmed by the volume of applications, yet the quality and suitability is much lower. Those few ‘top’ candidates are being missed in the sheer time-sapping review process.

As a result, it has never been more important to have a trusted, well-networked search partner on hand to ensure key leadership talent is secured at your respective business.

To find out more, or to enquire about the Life Sciences Practice expertise, please contact Scott Springall on [email protected]

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