CAMBRIDGE, England - The biotechnology industry in the UK "missed the fabulous window of opportunity" to raise money earlier this year, with US$19 billion of the $20 billion raised globally going to the United States, while the UK took just $424 million, or 2 percent.
As a consequence, U.S. biotechnology will surge ahead, with the gulf between the U.S. as the leading market and the UK as the second even greater than ever before, entrepreneur Chris Evans told attendees of the Eastern Region Biotechnology Conference here on Monday.
"After two years' misery, we had five months hysteria, but UK companies did not get out and do stuff when the window was open," Evans said.
As a result, he said, "European biotech is back where it was in the 1970s and 1980s; there is a relative shortage of cash, investors have been bitten again and U.S. companies will come sniffing around for our technologies."
Of the $424 million raised in the UK, most was raised by two companies - Cambridge Antibody Technology Group plc and Oxford GlycoSciences plc. In contrast, Incyte Genomics raised $422 million in one day.
Evans, who co-founded Chiroscience and the venture capital fund Merlin Biosciences, which he now runs, said with the market hitting rock bottom, it is now a good time to buy companies and to increase the strength of the sector through consolidation. "Small is no longer beautiful. Management talent is thin on the ground and companies need to come together to put good people and science into one company."
In May, XTL Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and Trigen Ltd. pulled planned IPOs from the London Stock Exchange, citing the state of the markets.
"I tried to help one of these get away, even though I have no shares, because I don't want the sector to nosedive again," Evans said.
He added that a lot of companies in the UK and Europe are running out of money. At the moment they will need to raise it from venture capitalists. However, he said Britain is losing confidence and companies are being undervalued.
But he said the situation should change, with UK biotech due to deliver eight products in the next year including:
¿ Chirocaine, Mylotarg, and Humicade from Celltech Chiroscience plc.
¿ Reminyl and Lambda from Shire Pharmaceuticals plc.
¿ Frovatriptan from Vanguard Medica plc.
¿ Foscan from Scotia Pharmaceuticals plc.
¿ Arilvax from Peptide Therapeutics plc.
"There has got to be some euphoria about this," said Evans. "We will see the [funding] window open again later this year, and again early next year because of these products coming through."