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Will the Biopharma Leaders Please Take the Stage!

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-06-01-2020
Volume 40
Issue 6

Now is the time, the world is listening.

Barbara Ryan

Over the past month, and year to date, biotech stocks have massively outperformed the markets, financings are on a tear, money continues to pour into the space, and M&A is alive and well. The Nasdaq Biotech ETF is currently trading above its late 2019 and early

2020 highs. In theory, the group has more room to run.

All eyes are on biopharma for the therapeutics and vaccines key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives, and reopening our economy. 

According to a running tally by Fundstrat, there are currently 10 vaccines in clinical development and 114 in preclinical evaluation. In addition, there are likely 100 therapeutics in development as the industry rapidly pivots programs to redirect their efforts to fighting the coronavirus. All of this is great news and gives much hope to a world literally stopped in its tracks, riddled with fear and confusion.

News of progress across these efforts, including most recently Moderna’s vaccine, are literally driving the markets as they dictate the terms of the economy. The world is rooting for our progress with all it has. This is great news.

Over my 40-year career in this space, it has always saddened me that the reputation of an industry that does so much good through saving lives is so poor. The fact is, ours is a very complex industry, is not well understood, and our profitability is usually under attack. The innovations at Apple and the commensurate profits are heralded, yet the successes of biopharma are often viewed as shameful. It is well-accepted that successful athletes, actors, and companies should be handsomely rewarded. However, when a drug company is successful, its profits are often publicly shamed and the company, or industry, accused of mercenary greed. 

In all candor, our leaders have done a poor job telling our story; it is not easily condensed into a sound bite, the vernacular of the 24/7 news world we live in. The outrageous price of a pill is an easy campaign slogan sure to curry favor with voters.

Today, people the world over are confused, they are scared, our ecosystem was shamefully ill-prepared for the pandemic and even worse, people are getting conflicting messages and guidance and the entire crisis has spiraled into a political food fight.

DON’T wear a mask, DO wear a mask, stay indoors, go outside, the list goes on and on.

What we need now are informed leaders with deep knowledge and understanding of the science behind this pandemic; that would be the leaders of our very own biopharma industry.

We are all in this together, so I challenge our leaders to communicate, now, about important information that can save people’s lives, put their hearts and minds at ease, and be the voice of reason in the midst of this storm. Please initiate the dialogue on:

  • What we know.

  • What we don’t know.

  • What does it take to develop therapeutics and vaccines?

  • What are appropriate best practices people should be following?

The biopharma enterprise has never had a greater opportunity to put its best foot forward and show the world how hard it is to be successful in our industry-but how powerful it is when we are.

Let’s leave this pandemic with a much better reputation than when we went into it.

Take it upon yourselves to be the light to lead us out of the darkness.

In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”


Barbara Ryan is Founder, Barbara Ryan Advisors, and a member of Pharm Exec’s Editorial Advisory Board 

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