Industry collects billions Record sums for biotech companies
Status: 15.06.2021 10:46 a.m.
The successes of biotech companies such as BioNTech attract investors: The industry has a new financial record in Germany. But the exuberance could be followed by disillusionment. By Thomas Spinnler, tagesschau.de The entire biotech industry is currently benefiting greatly from the attention generated by the rapid and successful development of corona vaccines. The pandemic has given a boost to a sector that is already in the focus of many investors due to technological and medical advances in recent years. As the “Financial Times” (FT) reports, the venture capitalist Flagship Pioneering – one of the major investors in the Vaccine manufacturer Moderna – around $ 3.5 billion for a new fund. Its aim is to promote the next generation of biotech companies.
Fund tries a new model
When investing in the biotech industry, investors must calculate with particular risks. Many of the companies to invest in do not yet have a product on the market. It is uncertain whether this will ever be the case, as the path from research to a marketable product is very long and often fails.
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Flagship Pioneering is now trying a different way. What is special, according to “FT”, is that the fund’s goal is not the usual search for newly founded companies in which to invest. Rather, modern biotechnologies are to be developed in-house in certain segments under the umbrella of the fund. Only then are plans to set up companies as offshoots.
The profits are gushing
Unsurprisingly, financiers are on the lookout for business ideas; they smell a gigantic business. Just a look at the rapidly rising share prices of many companies in the past few months shows how convinced the market players are of a lucrative future for the sector. In fact, profits are gushing – at least for the best-known representatives who have successfully launched products. BioNTech generated a net profit of 1.1 billion euros in the first quarter of 2021. In the first quarter of 2020, the Mainz-based company had to accept a net loss of 53 million euros due to high research and development costs.
Sales multiplied Billions in profit for BioNTech The biotech company benefited greatly from its Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty in the first quarter.
The US vaccine manufacturer Moderna made in the first quarter profit – equal to a billion dollars. In the previous year, Moderna had to cope with a loss of 124 million. The turnover multiplied from eight million to 1.9 billion dollars. $ 1.7 billion of this comes from corona vaccine revenue. While Moderna shares rose by more than 200 percent in the past twelve months, BioNTech shares gained over 340 percent in the same period.
Lighthouse companies in particular benefit
In Germany, the biotech industry set a new financial record last year. As the experts from the testing and consulting company EY calculated in their Biotech Report 2021, financing in Germany reached a peak of 3.1 billion euros in 2020. A comparison with the USA shows the order of magnitude. According to EY, around $ 100 billion went into biotech financing for venture capitalists.
Biotechnology in Germany Lots of ideas, little money With the success of BioNTech and CureVac at the latest, biotechnology from Germany is on everyone’s lips worldwide.
“Covid-19 is a huge catalyst for the entire biotechnology industry,” said Alexander W. Nuyken, Head of the Life Sciences Sector in Strategy and Transactions at EY and co-author of the study. In their report, the experts at EY point out that the investments essentially relate to the flagship company BioNTech, which alone accounted for 51 percent of the financing volume in 2020. According to Nuyken, biotechnology is part of the solution to a problem that is a matter of fate for humanity. “That has come to mind.”
More help from the state?
This year it’s going on at a high pace: The “Handelsblatt” quotes from preliminary figures from the Bio Deutschland Association. Accordingly, the industry received a total of 870 million euros in capital from January to May. That is around three and a half times as much as in the same period last year. Nuyken campaigns for the state to help even more: “I hope that politicians show more will to improve framework conditions.” There is now an opportunity for the biotech scene to play a major role in this country in the long term or to play an even greater role in the future.
Hope for new products
In fact, taxpayers have already made a major contribution to making the industry so successful: Since the beginning of the pandemic, governments have allocated tens of billions to research and development on vaccines, which are now generating sales and profits for companies. However, it is uncertain whether, thanks to the many fresh billions, the supply of innovative medical products will make a leap. Nuyken warns of disappointing expectations: “If investors with no biotech experience think they can make a quick buck here, they’re wrong.” After the boom, the expert warns, disillusionment could quickly set in.
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