Thursday, June 19, 2008

Deep Yogurt, Biotech and the Anguish of Big Pharma

SAN DIEGO -- Biotech investment guru Steve Burrill Wednesday took hundreds of BIO attendees on a warp speed overview of the state of the industry now and in 2020.

His flight was fast and furious, and he may have caught some sign of skepticism in the crowd. Undeterred he told them he may be off on the timing of his predictions, but they were coming -- probably sooner rather than later.

Some of his observations may have been unsettling to some. Babies will have chips inserted into them at birth to track their health. Walmart will be the model for the delivery of health care. Healthcare seekers will wear T-shirts embedded with technology that will touch their heart, among other things. Self-care will be the order of the day.

Say goodbye to those blockbuster, high-margin drugs. Hello to even more generics. Consumers will drive the market. Big Pharma, already suffering the anguish of expiring patents, will suffer more. Can you spell patent devaluation, he basically asked his audience. The biopharmaceutical industry will have to be re-invented. He said:

"Our friends in Pharma are in deep yogurt."

Research and development will migrate overseas. Pricing will be set on a global basis. Burrill declared,

"Every company is global from Day One."

The average age of death, now about 80, will climb to 100. No longer will health care providers wait for the disease and then try to ambush it with low chances of success. Instead, providers and consumers will be out front, moving to prevent those nasty germs and tumors from even getting a start.

As for financing biotech business, things will pick up later this year. And in 2009, industry will start to roll. "It will be a very good year, a year from now," he said.

Burrill's comments were based on one of his firm's latest studies: "Biotech 2008: a 20/20 Vision to 2020." The report can be purchased online for $295, or $430 if you want bound copy.

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