Momentum in the biotechnology industry that started late in 1999 carried the sector to its best year ever in 2000, as companies raised more money than they had the five previous years combined. Together with scientific breakthroughs led by the sequencing of the human genome, the year will go down as the industry’s most significant.

In fact, the $23.2 billion raised through initial and follow-on public offerings by biotech companies in 2000 was nearly the total amount raised publicly from 1990 through 1999. Those public companies raised another $10.1 billion through other methods, such as private placements and debt financings. Fifty-eight initial public offerings were completed on U.S. markets by biotech companies, compared to 12 in 1999. And another $3.9 billion was brought in by private biotech companies.

The down side of that money-raising fever was the losses suffered by many investors who purchased stock in follow-on offerings before biotechnology companies, along with the rest of the technology sector, lost favor on Wall Street. And the stocks did not regain their higher valuations.

The year ended and 2001 began with financing windows nearly closed.

What was still open, however, was the race to capitalize on discoveries in biology and genomics to push drug discovery and development programs forward. This has led to more effort in the areas of functional genomics and proteomics, and more advanced computer and bioinformatics technologies to sift through the data.

The year was one to remember for the scientific progress and the money raised, a combination that ensures industry progress in the coming years.

BioWorld's recap of biotechnology news in 2000 required 437 pages to detail the deals, financings and other news in the industry, about 30 percent more pages than needed for the reports covering 1999 and 1998. The BioWorld State of the Industry Report 2001 provides a means to look back at that remarkable year and ahead to this and the coming years.

Jim Shrine